On the weekend, my cousin J invited me to see the film of John Marsden’s “Tomorrow, when the war began.” I hadn’t read any of the Tomorrow series for young adults, (the first book was originally published in 1993) but I quickly read the book over three days, because I wanted to experience the original story first. Not surprisingly, my local library’s copy was reserved for probably the next six months, so I ended up by buying a copy. Not surprisingly, the only copy of the book had a scene from the movie on the cover. I am probably just being a purist, but I would prefer a book that is just about the book, rather than being used to market a particular film.
I finished the book about three hours before I saw the movie, became immersed in the movie, then listened to a panel discussion about the merits of book versus film. I think this is the “engaging with text” my English teachers used to talk about!
The story focuses on a group of seventeen-year-old teenagers from a small Australian country town and its rural surroundings. Their parents agree they can go camping in a remote area for a few days, and it’s only when they arrive back, that they realise something is wrong. Australia has been invaded by a foreign army, their parents, families and most of the town have been imprisoned in the Showgrounds during the annual show day, the town has been looted, burned, and people have been killed.
Ellie and her friends face a different world, where they must look out for each other, think strategically, act like guerillas, learn new survival skills and find courage within themselves.
After the movie, there was a panel discussion on the book and film, with contributions from the audience. There was a general consensus that the movie was good and reasonably faithful to the book.
I can understand that movies need to change the events in order to keep the pace flowing. I don’t mind when circumstances change slightly, when tiny parts are left out or the order rearranged slightly. But I don’t like it when they change the characters! One of the panellists didn’t like the way one of the teenagers had been typecast, and made weaker. Another panellist commented on a movie scene where a character had almost destroyed a defensive attack – this didn’t happen in the book.
Audience members noted that the film had been given a reasonably large budget for an Australian film, and that there were great hopes for its success in the international market. Hence the characters’ use of “second grade” instead of Grade 2, and “vacation” instead of “holiday.”
There are plans for another two movies, and I certainly have plans to read the remaining six books in the series. Here's hoping they aren't on the library reserve list!