Movie News

Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' Can't Possibly Become a Movie

Plus news on a coming adaptation of 'Cities of the Plain'

The Los Angeles Times is that latest outlet to have a feature article on The Road, the feature film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post apocalyptic novel and before I get to that I would like to address a paragraph within the article that still has me a bit baffled:

"No Country's" Academy Award-winning producer Scott Rudin and "Little Children" filmmaker Todd Field have been developing a "Blood Meridian" movie, and Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik wants to film "Cities of the Plain," the last book in McCarthy's border trilogy. Said Field in explaining McCarthy's appeal: "His work examines our core, the two faces of violence that co-exist in every savage act -- brutal strength of purpose holding hands with a desperate and cowering weakness."

When last we heard about a possible "Blood Meridian" adaptation it was Ridley Scott telling Eclipse Magazine, "We got it down as a screenplay and the problem is that it is so savage." Savage is an understatement.

I just finished reading "Blood Meridian" a week ago and there is no chance this book can be brought to the big screen and possibly keep its tone, not in the slightest. In simple terms, the story is set in the early west as a group of men set out on a mission to collect Indian scalps for a profit. Sure, we have seen a bit of scalping on screen (Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans comes to mind), but nothing like what is told in "Blood Meridian".

How about a couple of select passages:

The judge sat with the Apache boy before the fire and it watched everything with dark berry eyes and some of the men played with it and made it laugh and they gave it jerky and it sat chewing and watching gravely the figures that passed above it... Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it.

After purchasing some dogs from a young dogvender...

At the farther end the bridge gave onto a small street that ran along the river. Here the Vandiemenlander stood urinating from a stone wall into the water. When he saw the judge commit the dogs from the bridge he drew his pistol and called out.

The dogs disappeared in the foam... The Vandiemenlander raised and cocked the pistol... The pistol bucked in his hand and one of the dogs leaped in the water and he cocked it again and fired again and a pink stain diffused. He cocked and fired the pistol a third time and the other dog also blossomed and sank.

Another line reads, "The way narrowed through rocks and by and by they came to a bush that was hung with dead babies."

Those are actually very tame examples, but the violence of the story is only a means to an end. I won't ruin the revelation for those of you that choose to read it, but it is truly an amazing story and it is based on historical events of the 1850s. The violence, in all its brutality, is necessary and it is the reason Scott says the savage nature of the screenplay is the problem. It's a problem because it can't be removed and still maintain the integrity of the story.

To my knowledge this is the first time Todd Field has been mentioned in conjunction with the adaptation and it is also the first time I have heard of Andrew Dominik being interested in bringing "Cities of the Plain" to the bigscreen. I am currently taking a break from serious novels and finishing up Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series with the insanely long seventh book, but I have McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses" laying in wait.

"All the Pretty Horses" is the first book in McCarthy's Border Trilogy, which is capped off with "Cities of the Plain". The big reason to be interested in this project is due to Dominik's involvement. For those that don't remember, Dominik wrote and directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford last year and even though I have not yet read "Cities of the Plain", Dominik's style makes the idea of him adapting a McCarthy story for the screen is far too interesting to ignore.

As for the rest of the "LA Times" article involving The Road, the most interesting piece is where it talks about the film's departure from the book.

The film's most obvious departure from the book -- outside of the elimination of the novel's vaguely nuclear "long shear of light" that stopped clocks at 1:17 -- is its redoubling of the book's fleeting flashbacks of the Man and his final days with his desperate and suicidal wife (Charlize Theron). Throughout the movie, the filmmakers also have amplified McCarthy's already vast peril.

The rest of the piece gives more information, but I only skimmed it not wanting to ruin the experience entirely. Sure, I have read the book, and recommend everyone else does as well before seeing the movie, but I would like a little bit of surprise when it comes to seeing it on the big screen. you can check out the complete article for yourself right here.

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  • ravidlaz

    I'm so fucking excited for The Road. I can't wait until that film comes out this fall. Blood Meridian is the next book I want to read. I don't know much about it, only that its good. I chose not to read those passages you posted.

    Also Brad, I fucking love The Dark Tower. Its my favorite book series ever. Yea the last book is pretty damn long, but its worth it. I hope J.J. doesn't fuck up those movies or tv shows or whatever the hell he is doing with them.

    I have a question for you: Is All The Pretty Horses the same story that Billy Bob Thornton adapted into that movie?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com bradbrevet

    ravidlaz said: I have a question for you: Is All The Pretty Horses the same story that Billy Bob Thornton adapted into that movie?

    Yes, I never saw it though. You?

  • ravidlaz

    [QUOTE]Yes, I never saw it though. You?

    Yes I saw it when it came out in theaters. I remember liking it, but I can't remember too many details. It was during a phase when I was really into actors directing films. When I found out Billy Bob was directing it, I immediately wanted to see it. I didn't know anything about it at the time.

    It has been a while now. I would like to read the book and then see it again.

  • adu

    Hey, can you briefly tell me the story for Dark Tower, so I can decide whether to read it or not?

    Thanks

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com bradbrevet

    adu said: Hey, can you briefly tell me the story for Dark Tower, so I can decide whether to read it or not?

    Wow, that is not an easy request. Maybe ravidlaz can do a better job describing it, but I would describe it as Stephen King's attempt a Lord of the Rings size fantasy/western/epic. Simply put it is about one man's desire to reach the Dark Tower which stands at the center of the universe and it is about to fall. It bounces around between universes and it is a lot of reading.

    I am only 130+ pages into the seventh (and thankfully final) book and I will say I think Wastelands and Wizard and Glass were my two favorite books in the series so far.

    If you are interested though you should definitely give Book One (The Gunslinger) a chance. It is short and a quick read and gives you a good idea of what you are in for.

  • ravidlaz

    Yea, that's pretty much it Brad. On his way to the Tower he meets some friends. Now they are all on a mission to reach the Dark Tower. A lot of shit happens along the way, obviously since it takes 7 books to get there. Its a great adventure though. The books are awesome but really long. So I suggest you get other shorter books you want to read out of the way before you start reading these.

    If you want an idea of what these books are like, you can read the graphic novel Gunslinger Born published by Marvel. The graphic novel is pretty much an adaptation of the fourth book in the series, Wizard and Glass. Its a good and short read, and I think a good way to get into the whole Dark Tower universe.

  • adu

    Ok, thanks guys.

    I read the Los Angeles Times article about the changes they made in the The Road movie from the book. I gotta say, this was expected, but from what I read it doesnt sound bad at all. Looking forward to it!

  • Rich

    Blood Meridian could be made into a movie only if they fully animate it or use Sin City or 300 style effects. The viewer would need that extra bit of psychic distance for what is probably the most violent piece of art ever.

    • JonB

      "The viewer would need that extra bit of psychic distance" I think that is exactly right. It's one thing to read it, it's another to watch it. Of course, that distance would also undermine McCarthy's entire point, so I say don't even make it.

  • Ken

    In the hands of a visionary director, Blood Meridian could be developed into a film that holds to the fevered-dream tenor of McCarthy's novel. Leaving aside the acts of cruelty & barbarism, McCarthy's descriptions of towns, landscapes & the overall appearance of the riders are like a Bruegel painting come to life. I think most problematic would be casting the character of Judge Holden. I mean the guy is described as being every bit of 7 feet tall & 336 lbs. Aside from maybe Michael Clarke Duncan (a fine actor, but of the wrong ethnicity to play the judge) I can think of no one of that size who could convincingly portray the erudite, enigmatic, amoral judge. It would be great to see it done well.

  • hanta

    Hey, spoiler. The argument about whether or not this can be made into a film aside. You quote one of the most intense moments in the novel right off the bat! (Passage #1)
    This is unacceptable.

  • punkdolphin21

    Blood Meridian is in my top five books. It mythologizes the west into something unknowable by Hollywood, how things really might have been; completely lawless, instantaneously violent, remorseless men with no room for humanity. The narrative of this violence is what makes the book so beautiful, perhaps one of the most beautifully worded novels ever. It breaks many of the rules of fiction, only because it has to. I always thought there was no way to put this on the screen.

  • Chris

    If Ridley Scott can film something as gruesome, grisly and bloody as Hannibal, he can do Blood Meridian. Todd Field on the other hand, I'm not so sure. This is the guy who did In the Bedroom and Little Children. The farthest Field has come to depicting violence is a man shooting his wife's young lover and Jackie Earle Haley cutting off his nutsack.

    Blood Meridian deserves an aestheticism and romanticism of violence. Very few people can do that and not make it some gory bloodbath. Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and even Joe Carnahan can do that. But it will be interesting to see how Field can adapt such a dense and difficult novel.

  • pete

    Hi I have just finished reading blood meridian,And sure i find it brutal and somewhat disturbing in parts but the overall story running through the novel dipics a subtle approach to godness,i.e the kid not leaving the expriest to die,the judge saving the imbecile even though his wicked through and through, and other moments.
    To discribe the novel as a viscious blood bath told in fine detail i find is a bit unfair.Theres more to blood meridian then violence.

  • JonB

    I will not watch any Cormac McCarthy adaption that is not done by the Coen Brothers. The Road was ok, but missed the mark, its not a story about the post-apocalypse, its a story about fatherhood. I just saw on IMDB that the Blood Meridian adaptation was pushed back to 2015, ie. it's never going to happen, for all the reasons mentioned above. I also find it amusing that they skip The Crossing and go right into making Cities of the Plain. The Crossing is the most depressing book I've ever read, that's not to say I didn't like the book though. Similar to Blood Meridian, it is too complex and too graphic to be made into a mainstream Hollywood feature of any worth.