The film-makers took the Pride and Prejudice 2005 approach: dumbing down and modernizing the story for the non-literature reading public 😛 How could I have thought the other film over-dramatized? I should not have been surprised, this is the Downton Abbey generation after all. Great Expectations is too understated, so lets ramp up the drama so the sensitive people feel like the drama is punching them in the face: “FEEL THIS” “THIS IS SAD,” and etc.
How could I have thought the other film too changed? These film-makers took liberties with the story line from the very beginning. I am allergic to book/original to movie changes, so this movie put me in anaphylactic shock. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SMARTER/KNOW BETTER THAN DICKENS?!
The “small” and/or early changes that had great overall effects on the tone and interpretation of the film:
This film showed Pip give the pie as a gift (Magwitch mainly requested food in the book). No, this is not a slight change; this change makes it appear as if Magwitch was a logical thinking person, and that he had to have a “reason” for doing what he did for Pip (how calculating our society is). Joe wasn’t stupid. Mrs. Joe wasn’t mean enough. Where was Biddy? Her nonexistence made Joe’s situation more pitiable . . . and in consequence Pip’s behavior worse. Little Pip was better in this film (smaller, paler), but the pale young gentleman much worse than in the 1999 version (he was not the pale young gentleman at all, but rather a bully-clown).
This film’s Satis House was too light for a house without electricity, with the windows regularly closed, and with little light used as the book implied and described. Miss Havisham herself was too young and creepy (WAAAY overdone)–she wasn’t believable. And the hand sores–what on earth was that about?! Orlick had them too, but with how this film portrayed him, they made sense for him. I think that Satis House was faaaar too grand in both movies; modern people in Western cultures do not want to acknowledge how wealthy we are. Many people in the even lover middle class in Western cultures have as much or more as some of the wealthy did then. There is more wealth in existence now and more people have it, and the rich are far and above more rich than they were then. In the same wealth exaggeration vein, Pip rode in a hired coach not the public coach as in the book (I think maybe when he traveled with Estella in the book he did have a hired coach because Miss Havisham paid). I liked the 1999 portrayal of London better, Victorian London was filthy for anyone who was NOT filthy rich. Good grief, the city was what, 500 or more years old by that point. We have no comparison in the germ theory era U.S.
Compeyson was a convict and had never been wealthy much less a real gentleman–he could never have been in those circles as the film portrayed him especially after being a convict. Magwitch’s wife DID murder someone. Yes, the poor are criminals and she WAS NOT Jaggers’ mistress (nor were his home and office the same in the book). Pip was yet again made to look like a fool in that scene with Jaggers and his mistress in the film.
Orlick was changed . . . to be made pitiable. I hurt for him. What is it with blackening heroes and uplifiting villains? Also, Orlick looked like a zombie. I could be wrong, but I do not think that Orlick would have had easy access to opium, and he sure seemed like he was on something. I cannot remember how much he to do with Magwitch’s capture in the book, but I think he was not as involved as the movie portrayed him to be. Of course they could not have the book’s dramatic Orlick scene (how ironic, considering the drama of the film) because it would not have fit in with this weaker Orlick.
Bigger issues by character by character:
The film makers made sure so much of the action reflected badly on poor Pip. They made the story that of a prodigal rather than an erring and misled (funny how that was not emphasized, but rather only Pip’s stupidity and vanity which the book did not display that he had so much more than anyone else) young man. Herbert in the book was better than Pip but as a gentleman (in character) is to another gentleman. Miss Havisham implies Pip is not truly a gentleman, but I do not know if she meant birth/education or character. He was a gentleman in character and always had been despite his mistakes. Pip made mistakes (our culture is too self-righteous–bring down the “proud” i.e. conscientious, and raise the “victims”–if they are poor). I do not like being told I should like Herbert, especially not at the extreme injury to Pip–what suBtlty!
There was NOTHING wrong with Pip leaving Joe–he does again in the book when he joins Herbert in Cairo (which fact neither films portrayed). He was a grown man, hello. What Pip repented of in the book was his neglect and coldness (coldness, not bratty-teenager-unbelievable-rudeness).
I do not understand why he was portrayed as disliked and friendless except for Herbert. He did not bribe people in the book like the film portrayed him as doing. In the book he belonged to a club, but I do not think the club of the book was remotely similar to the posh one of the movie (back to the wealth exaggeration issue). In the book Mr. Pocket was his friend and Startop was his friend. In the book some “mundane” actions/relationships etc. were assumed in order to focus on the more dramatic action (again, irony). Wemmick was Pip’s friend not Herbert’s like the film portrayed. I am not sure Herbert was even acquainted with Wemmick personally. I do not think his family had any more to do with Jaggers than as Pip’s tutor. Wemmick knew Pip because he, Wemmick, invited him to his house. Apparently the film makers decided that not being a gentleman in blood+having lots of money=unliked. Pip was not so rude in the book except to those who deserved it.
Why did they have to change Herbert’s story? More melodrama. Were they trying to make him more honorable–oh, he left his rich, horrible relations for love while you, evil Pip, left your poor-which-equals-good relations for wealth to egotistically chase after love)? What was the point in his getting married? It just made his coming back ludicrous. I also seemed whacked on the head about him wanting a family (oh, of course he is better than Pip, he wants a family . . . so does Pip, he is not a rake!). In the book I do not think that Jaggers warned Pip about getting into debt (I do not think that would have been considered by him as his business), and Herbert was in debt too in the book nor was this circumstance unusual for such young men. Herbert himself seemed rather affected, and the dancing scene was stupid and awkward.
The film makers made Estella’s role wrong and the actresses acted it wrongly. The young Estella was better than the old but still was too nice which in the film was the reason Pip could not come again. The book Estella was a cruel child, even “good” children can be cruel, and she certainly was not good. Pip and Estella were more equally matched in looks (but I did not think he fit as a rural Englishman of the time as Douglas Booth looks somehow Asian and/or Grecian); he was not as handsome as in the 1999 version, and she prettier, but still not stunningy like the book describes, and she also looked too modern with her hair and make-up. Estella acted as if she could not help but show she liked Pip (even as a little girl when she definitely did not like him in the book). She was fickle, not cold and cruel as in book; she did not seem to have fully imbibed the heartlessness and calculation of her education. Therefore, in the film portrayal the fact that this Estella married Drummle did not make complete sense.
Regarding Drummle. Another strike at Pip. Pip was good friends with Herbert in the book and would never have befriended someone of whom Herbert so obviously disapproved (and Herbert’s rushing away was odd and not truly explained). Besides that fact, in the book they both knew Drummle, Pip more so I think, and knew he was a wretch. He would have been so without the scandalous propensities the film makers felt it necessary to add. Pip’s background was not a profound secret like this film implied and nothing was odd about Estella who had been raised as a lady so was a lady.
About the scandalous stuff. The Drummle of the book could have visited such places although that is not implied, but the real Pip would not have been so stupid as to allow himself to be led to such a place. I was, at how the movie was going, amazed he left in the film. Relieved definitely, but I do not really understand the purpose of the scene for Pip unless it was supposed to make Pip look like a fool for allowing Drummle to lead him there. In what seemed like the very next scene (after Drummle’s disgusting scene), Estella pulled her skirts almost completely up, waded into the river and allowed Pip to kiss her. Immodesty and freedom are not one and the same and what about Pip’s earlier morals just the scene before? Film makers need to be consistent on morals or none of it, morality or immorality makes sense. Pip also grabbed her at a later scene; any attempt on the part of a gentleman to restrain a lady would have been hand to hand or mind to mind or he would be no gentleman.
So obviously I prefer the 1999 version, and I should have known that would have been the case as more recent adaptations take more liberties; it is as if the 90’s were the golden period of accuracy for period dramas or something.