The Variety of a child’s mind

September 28, 2009 at 21:31 (1)

More packing — I finally packed my last book away — hurrah!!! Just got some CDs and bits and pieces lying around my office to pack away now, and then I’m good to go once I get back from my tour — though I’m not looking forward to moving my PC and all its bits and pieces across!!!

Some reviews of the movie have been coming through since it previewed on Saturday in Austin, Texas. You can access them on my Message Board by CLICKING HERE, and I’ll add links to more reviews as and when they come in. Out of the 6 I’ve read so far, 3 are postive, 2 are average, and 1 is a real stinker!!! The stinker actually came from a reviewer from Variety, so it’s been getting more attention across the web than the others, since many sites link in to Variety. I’m sure some people will read the Variety piece and fear the worst, but if the film folk can maintain the average from those first 6 reviews, of just 1 out of 6 reviewers actively not liking it, I think the film will do good business!!!

Generally speaking, I don’t respond to reviews. Good ones are nice, bad ones can be irritating, but ultimately the fans will decide whether they like a work or not, and that doesn’t always tie in with what the critics feel — some critically acclaimed films are abhorred by the public (Woody Allen has suffered more than many in that regard), while sometimes critically drubbed films can be massive successes (step forward Dirty Dancing). But one of the criticisms levelled by the Variety critic, and by a couple of the other reviewers too, was that the film was weak because it didn’t exist in a vacuum, but tried to set up the potential for future films.

I’m not having that!!!!

It’s a criticism that I’ve sometimes had to deal with from book reviewers too. Some critics don’t like when a book is part of a larger series, when it is more interested in serving the needs of the series than its own individual needs. They insist that each book or film should stand on its own merits, tell its own story, and not be reliant on sequels to draw all of its story strands together. Now, that might sound like very good advice, and in general I suppose it’s not altogether flawed thinking. But tell me this — does that mean that the first two Lord of The Rings films are misfires? What about The Empire Strikes Back? Or a TV series like The Sopranos, which spreads a massive story across several seasons, rather than have a series of stand-alone, one-off episodes like all TV shows had in the past????

I like to think big. I think we should aim for the moon and not be ashamed of it. Especially in the world of children’s books and films. I think children and teenagers are more imaginative, adventurous and open to big ideas than your average adult. As an adult, I’m not overly keen on long series of books — I like individual stories, which I can put behind me once I close the cover. In that way I’m very like the Variety reviewer — but I see that as a personal failing, not something to be proud of!! When I was a teenager, I was far more involved with what I read and watched. I ploughed through long fantasy series, wanting more of the writers, loving it when they challenged me by spreading their stories across several books. I had time and energy and enthusiasm, and I poured all of that into the world of entertainment. The more writers and film-makers asked of me, the happier I was.

Now I’m older and wiser and calmer… and more boring than I was!!! But I can recall the boy that I was, the way I relished the challenges of the world, and as I writer I try to serve the wishes of my more demanding self, not the whims of my more easy-going current-day self. When I wrote Cirque Du Freak, I wasn’t the least bit worried about tying all of the story threads together in the first book, of laying the roots of plot lines which would stretch through the next 11 volumes of the series, because I knew that the people I was aiming the story at — children and teenagers — would willingly go with me on that journey, assuming they liked what I gave them first time round. More than that — if they were like I used to be, they would be delighted to go on a long, meandering journey with me. Because kids can see the Big Picture. They’re not limited like most adults are. Their minds can go places that ours tend to shy away from.

The one thing I hoped, more than anything else, when Universal came to make a movie of my books, was that the writer and director would be people of vision, that they’d aim high and try to service the needs of the series as a whole, not just worry about cramming the first 3 books into one movie and pleasing people who want neat, self-contained parcels of entertainment. I’m not saying The Vampire’s Assistant is a flawless film — it’s not. But then neither are my books. I’ve had to accept justified criticism over the years, when my shortcomings have been pointed out to me, and I’m sure Paul Weitz and co will have to do likewise. But the one thing I’ve NEVER seen as a shortcoming is my desire to paint on a big canvas, to tell a story that requires multiple volumes to be properly told. And I don’t see that as a flaw in the movie either. In my view, The Vampire’s Assistant doesn’t leave viewers hanging at the end — it takes the story to a logical point and stops there, as I did in the books, bringing the characters and plot to a nicely rounded pause. If no further movies get made, fans need not feel cheated — it doesn’t stop mid-flow as the first version of Lord of the Rings (the 1970s version) did, or as The Golden Compass did more recently. But at the same time, it does hint at a wider picture, a more varied landscape, encouraging viewers to invest in the world that it has created, to ask questions of the plot, to wonder about the characters and what might happen to them next. And I think that’s a good thing. In fact, I think that’s the best thing for a child or teenager that a movie or book can do. And at the end of the day, let’s not forget that, even though we hope that the movie will appeal to older viewers too, as my books appeal to some older readers, most of its target audience will be children or teens.

Some people say that we shouldn’t always give children or teenagers what they want.

But I say that those people are boring old adults who have forgotten how to dream.


  1. Robbie said,

    Really happy with this blog Darren Shan. Looking forward to the movie now still. Keep up the good work by writing more soon please!!!

  2. Alex said,

    Just started reading the Shanville Monthly, very good so far. Except one bit.

    “…and maybe it will win you round to our way of thinking!!!”

    Not a chance, I can’t stand football!

  3. Zoe said,

    I cant wait until the movie. I have seen the trailer for it, it looks good! 🙂 Keep on writing darren shan!

  4. Alexandra said,

    I can’t wait for the movie to come out. I’m counting down the days!

  5. Celia said,

    I agree, stretching things out is just more engaging, and is great for including more of what you want to include, plus it’s just more fun for the reader (and writer I’ll bet)!

    I’ve just started reading the Darren Shan series, and I notice that you make comparisons of kids/teens and adults in it as well, and they’re accurate as well. Thank you for them, and looking forward to the movie. 🙂

  6. Shante said,

    I am sorry but the movie is nothing like what i pictured in my head..its just not as great as the book..I mean i know the movies never are but the movie couldve been at least a bit more scarier then comedic you knw? well still love your books darren!!

  7. preephege said,

    It looks like you are a true expert. Did ya study about the topic? haha

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