The Road – phenomenon – WHY?


The Road – phenomenon – WHY?

OK, what the hell is the point of the Road?

A man and boy walk through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, headed for the Southern Coast where it’s possible they might live a few years longer. In theory this is a decent story, but this tale seems seriously overrated.

It’s immensely pretentious, it’s depressing, it’s impersonal, it’s everything an apocalypse actually probably IS, which is why people tend to write vampires, insane bikers or zombies somewhere into the mix instead. Because, let’s face it, the truth really is that the end of the world WOULD SUCK. So, my reactions to the various versions of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road go like this:

SPOILERS

Book – Argh. Learn to punctuate. Give characters actual names. Beautiful desolation and endless despair is only interesting the first thirty times. We want a story, not a prize-winning whine fest! I have the distinct impression that this is loved by people who only read ‘literature’ and have therefore never even sniffed the cover of ‘I am Legend’. Every time there’s an interesting bit, it’s swallowed up by the ‘and then we walked some more and it was grey and we are hungry’ monotony. Yes, it’s prettily written but you only get to learn the tiniest of details about the unnamed characters, and nothing about the cause of apocalypse. The best sorts of apocalypse stories seem to have protagonists who actually seize the reins of their disasters and get on with solving, or improving their lot. There’s none of that here. Yes, I prefer zombies, but this is just deathly dull self-pity. Oh, and learn to bloody punctuate. Can’t stress that enough here.

Film – Yay! Viggo Mortenson’s naked butt! Yay! Cannibals and a chase scene! Boo, cop-out ending where nothing actually makes sense, and the kid doesn’t die, but Viggo does. At least that guy from Memento has turned up with a ready-made family, for some reason that seems distinctly unlikely. I liked Viggio being awesome and constantly threatening to shoot a small child in the head to spare him the misery of cannibal death. Sniffle. The world appears far more alive than it does in the book, and it looks beautiful. It’s shame that there’s not much background more built upon, especially why Charlize Theron offs herself despite them being quite comfy where they were, (there’s a threat of imminent death and rape that doesn’t seem immediately likely given how long they must have been hiding in their place). Why go on the Road at all? So sad. The end.

And yet, despite being appalled by the book, I watched the film, willingly – now why is that? I think I’m trying to compensate for the lack of anything actually happening, it’s a good stimulus to the imagination which then fills in the gaps. If you want to feel better about your lot, I suppose this is the one to watch (although Day of the Dead beats that, too)! A hopeless survival thriller is not particularly interesting, despite some excellent acting.

The ending still feels tacked on, though, and why on earth would they leave the food bunker of life (sic)? Dawn of the Dead (1970s) dealt with that idea a lot more effectively. I don’t want OTT upbeat, but I do want a storyline that goes somewhere, not down-down-unlikely-upbeat-ending-stop. Where’s the shock, the knife in your heart at its climax? Is the boy hallucinating the final family? Conjecture only gets you so far.

So, it leaves me irritated. That can’t be good but it does provide a talking point. The film is a great improvement on the book, but only just, and I think the film loses some of the ambiguity that made the novel a triumph of reader imagination over content. This can’t be the only post-apocalyptic novel out there worthy of note, and at the very least it has annoyed me enough to go and look for something better. Faint praise suitably applied, there. The film is worth a look at least, and thankfully the book’s an extremely short, easy read.

Mitchell and Webb pinpoint the real experience of living in a post-apocalyptic future!

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