Inkheart (film)

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Inkheart
Inkheartposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Iain Softley
Produced by Cornelia Funke
Ileen Maisel
Dylan Cuva
Sarah Wang
Iain Softley
Ute Leonhardt
Toby Emmerich
Mark Ordesky
Ileen Maisel
Andrew Licht
Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire
Story by David Lindsay-Abaire
Gary David Goldberg[1]
Based on Inkheart 
by Cornelia Funke
Starring Brendan Fraser
Eliza Bennett
Paul Bettany
Helen Mirren
Rafi Gavron
Andy Serkis
Jim Broadbent
Sienna Guillory
Music by Javier Navarrete
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Martin Walsh
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • December 11, 2008 (2008-12-11) (Germany)
  • December 12, 2008 (2008-12-12) (United Kingdom)
  • January 23, 2009 (2009-01-23) (United States)
Running time 106 minutes[2]
Country Germany
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[3]
Box office $62,450,361[3][4]

Inkheart is a 2008 adventure fantasy film directed by Iain Softley and starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent, and Sienna Guillory. It is based on Cornelia Funke's novel with the same name. The film was released on 12 December 2008 in the UK and 23 January 2009 in the US.

Plot[edit]

The story begins with Mortimer "Mo" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Teresa "Resa" Folchart (Sienna Guillory) reading the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" to their baby daughter Meggie. As Mo reads the story, a red velvet hood appears as a narrator (Roger Allam) explains that people known as "Silver Tongues" are born with the gift that whenever they read a story out loud, the story becomes real.

12 years later, Mo and Meggie (Eliza Bennett) are in the European countrysides looking for a book. Mo has learned of his gifts, and nine years prior, Resa had vanished, much to the distress of her extended family. Hearing the calling of books from a bookstore one day, Mo ventures inside. He finds the book Inkheart and is overwhelmed with a mixture of fear and joy.

At the same time, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a character from Inkheart, appears and attempts to persuade Mo to read him back into the book. Mo refuses to do so and hastily escapes with Meggie and travels to Italy to pay a visit to Meggie's great aunt Elinor Loredan (Helen Mirren). Elinor accuses Resa of running off, which upsets Meggie, but the two make amends when expressing their mutual passion for valuable books and Elinor lets Meggie stay in her library to read in exchange that nothing is put out of place. Dustfinger appears again, but this time having informed the book's villain Capricorn and bringing his minion Basta (Jamie Foreman) to capture Mo and his family and take back the book, in the meantime destroying Elinor's valuable collection of books by book burning.

The trio are taken to Capricorn's castle and imprisoned in the stables, which house various creatures from storybooks, such as the ticking Crocodile from Peter Pan, winged monkeys from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the title hound from The Hound of the Baskervilles, as well as the minotaur (from the story of Theseus) and a unicorn. Mo explains his gift to Meggie and Elinor, stating that when he reads a person out of a book, someone from the real world is sent into it, hence the disappearance of his wife. They are abruptly taken to meet with Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and meet his current reader Darius (John Thomson) whose perpetual stutter had caused those he had read out of the book to only come halfway out of the story, with various deformities and the words of the stories written on their faces. Capricorn breaks his promise to Dustfinger to have him read back into the book, and throws it onto the fire, burning it. In his despair, Dustfinger leaves the group and runs to the kitchen, where he learns that one of the servant girls (a trusted friend of his who is constantly attempting to escape) is in fact Mo's lost wife Resa whose halfway transition from the book she was trapped in has left her without a voice. He gives her the access to escape and departs.

After reading the Ali Baba story from The Arabian Nights and giving Capricorn a stash of treasure, one of 40 Thieves named Farid (Rafi Gavron) is summoned from the story and joins the storyteller and his family in imprisonment. Dustfinger opts not to tell Mo that his wife is in the village and prompts a quick escape using the famous tornado from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. After they escape, Meggie offers the idea that only the author of Inkheart, Fenoglio (a fictional character, unrelated to the Italian writer Beppe Fenoglio) may have access to a copy of the rare-to-find book.

After learning of the author's location and traveling to his town, Elinor decides to leave to recover what is left of her book collection. Dustfinger stays behind with Farid partly in order to teach him how to juggle fire, but also due to the fact he is afraid of learning his fate at the end of the book. Upon meeting Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), he cannot resist approaching his creation and inadvertently blurts out that Dustfinger dies in the novel while saving his marten Gwin. This devastates the fire juggler, who states that the writer is not his god, and he can deem whatever fate he chooses. While Mo attempts to find a way of reading Resa out of the book, Dustfinger has no choice but to confess that she was at Capricorn's village, prompting him and Mo to take Fenoglio's car and leave Meggie behind with Fenoglio. They discover that Farid had stowed away in the car's trunk, and take him along at his insistence. Elsewhere, Elinor has a change of heart and does not take the train back to Italy.

Meanwhile, Meggie learns that she has inherited her father's gift when she accidentally summons Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Basta comes and takes Meggie and Fenoglio back to Capricorn's village. Capricorn intends to use Meggie to read the Shadow, Inkheart's supernatural and most deadly villain, out of the book and into the real world, using a copy of the book he had secretly kept to himself. After a brief reunion with her mother, Meggie is coerced into cooperating or risk Capricorn killing Resa. Elinor in the meantime discovers Fenoglio's ransacked apartment and rents a motorbike to save her family. As Mo, Farid, and Dustfinger work on a plan of burning down Capricorn's castle, Dustfinger is captured. After escaping his cell, he attempts to free Meggie and Fenoglio who is working on a way to rewrite the ending of the Shadow for her to read. He is unable to free them upon not lighting a large fire to help him and flees only to return at his conscience (or perhaps Meggie's) beckoning.

Meggie is escorted out to read the Shadow out of the book, and Fenoglio and Resa are caged to be his first meal. Fenoglio manages to use Toto to give her a page that he had written, and she manages to redirect the Shadow. In the scuffle, she loses the rewrite and Shadow attempts again to kill Resa, Fenoglio, and Mo, who had intervened in the fight. Elinor convinces Darius to help her by releasing all the creatures from the stables. Mo gives Meggie a pen to write her own ending, and using her arm, Meggie manages to send all the book characters back to their own stories. At Fenoglio's request to free him, Meggie sends him into the Inkheart world as well. Dustfinger misses his chance to return, and departs when Elinor, Resa, Mo and Meggie embrace, where Meggie discovers that Inkheart had been taken.

Farid catches up with Dustfinger, insisting on traveling with him to find another reader to send Dustfinger back into the copy of Inkheart that Farid had stolen before the castle collapsed. After a moment's hesitation, Dustfinger agrees and the two start off together only to have Mo come up to fulfill his promise to return Dustfinger to his book. Dustfinger is transported safely back into Inkheart, where he reunites with his wife Roxane. Farid reveals to the family that Dustfinger's fate has been changed as he pulls Gwin out of a travel pack he is carrying. Without the marten to sacrifice himself for, Dustfinger is again in control of his destiny. Meggie and Resa invite Farid to live with them, and Meggie agrees to teach him how to read and Farid agrees to teach her how to use the dragon breath.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Shortly after the novel was published, author Cornelia Funke sent a copy of Inkheart along with a note to Brendan Fraser, explaining that he was her inspiration for the character of Mo.[5]

"So I get this book. It shows up in the mail. 'Dear Brendan,' it's inscribed, 'Thank you for inspiring this character.' I can feel my leg getting pulled already. 'What? Where’s Ashton Kutcher?' 'I hope that you get a chance to read this aloud to your kids one day. Best wishes, Cornelia Funke.' I had no idea from a bar of soap who she was, so I Googled her. Wow, so much work, she’s prolific. I think part of the story is that a little girl who was bilingual, I think she was a Brit but she spoke German fluently, had discovered a copy of Tintenherz which she loved and read, and wrote to either it was Cornelia or the publisher and asked why isn't this published in English? And I think Cornelia probably wanted to know the answer to that question too. So once it was, it just became a snowballing thing and then that really got her out there and led to the acclaim and popularity of her work."

It was this that motivated director Iain Softley and the casting department to consider Fraser first for the role in the film. Fraser told Softley that if it was determined that he was not right for the role, not to feel obligated to use him on the project. Softley was ultimately impressed with Fraser's performance and contracted him for the film.

Public auditions were held for the role of Meggie Folchart [6] with the intention of casting an unknown actress, however the role eventually went to Eliza Bennett who had already worked extensively on television and film at the time.

Funke, was quoted as saying that "we had our second screening (summer 2007), which went well, and I really loved the movie, but they are still changing things, especially at the end."[citation needed]

Inkheart was filmed at Shepperton Studios near London, England and on location in Balestrino, Albenga, Entracque and Laigueglia, Italy, in 2006 and 2007.

[A] lot of the things that we tried to do are more to do with optical illusion, the sleight of hand....It feels very organic and very real, and I actually think it makes the magic more effective. I think that there is a sort of discounting that goes on in the minds of an audience when they know that it's sort of a computer world or a digital world. It's like, 'Oh, they can do anything. They can press a button for however many weeks they need at a machine.' Whereas if you actually get the sense that it's something more like the craft of illusion, I think that it's more magical, actually.

—Iain Softley, interviewed on the set[7]

The production also visited Hever Castle in Kent to shoot the exterior for Elinor's Tuscan villa setting.[8]

Visual effects[edit]

Double Negative created the menacing animated character, The Shadow, along with other creatures and visual effects for the film.

The finale of the film takes place within a ruined amphitheater nestled in the Italian mountains; this is the lair of Capricorn, one of the villains Mo has accidentally "read" into the real world. The visual effects work included the digital augmentation of the bluescreen set, the billowing, pyroclastic monster, The Shadow, the surreal winged monkeys with their raven black feathers and Capricorn's final transition.[9]

Release[edit]

As with the production of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,[citation needed] the production progressed very slowly. The American release was originally slated for Christmas 2007, but then was changed to 19 March 2008.[citation needed] Due to the writer's strike, the film was further pushed back and opened 12 December 2008 in the UK and 23 January 2009 in the US.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Inkheart has received generally mixed reviews from critics. It has a 39% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 132 reviews, with 52 reviews "Fresh" and 80 reviews "Rotten". It received an average score of 5 out of 10.[10] Their consensus is "Heavy on clichés and light on charm, this kid-lit fantasy-adventure doesn't quite get off the ground." In addition, Metacritic has given the film a 47 out of 100, indicating "Mixed or Average Reviews".[11]

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter disliked the film, saying: "Whatever made the German novel Inkheart by Cornelia Funke so popular that it got translated into 37 languages is nowhere in evidence in its film version", and "The main problem is the central concept itself."[12] On the other hand, Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic enjoyed the film, saying: "Inkheart is entertaining enough, if not always easy to follow. And if it does nothing else, at least it may inspire kids to read, if for no other reason than to help make sense of it all."[13] A. O. Scott said the film "aims for a blend of whimsy and tingly suspense but botches nearly every spell it tries to cast. Its opening scenes are more confusing than intriguing, and the acceleration of the plot leads to a sense of busyness rather than suspense. A movie that can produce the image of Helen Mirren astride a unicorn has some claim on the audience’s interest, and a movie that can make that image seem perfectly uninteresting is in some serious trouble."[14]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $2,110,000 during its opening day in 2,655 theaters. It opened at #7 at the domestic box office with $7,725,000, with a worldwide gross of close to $13 million. It yielded just $1 million from its opening in the U.K, ranking fourth in that country, while coming in third at $1.8 million in Germany. It later came to make $5,781,992 in the UK, $10,112,691 in Germany, $1,222,364 in Australia, $1,484,027 in France, $3,289,477 in Italy, $1,815,500 in Taiwan, $2,951,290 in Spain, $2,665,476 in South Korea, $1,681,477 in Russia, $2,378,200 in Mexico, and $1,080,825 in Malaysia, plus $4,187,389 from smaller countries.[3]

Inkheart made $17,303,424 domestically, and $45,146,937 foreign, making the final worldwide gross of the film to be $62,450,361.[3] It made $8.3 million in US DVD sales during its first week.[4]

Home release[edit]

Inkheart was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on 13 April 2009.[15] It was released in the United States on 23 June 2009.

Video game[edit]

On January 12, 2009, a video game based on the film was released for the Nintendo DS.[16]

References[edit]

External links[edit]