Even though I kind of knew it wasn’t a great idea, ever since I finished The Warriors for The Curing of a Bibliomaniac project a week ago I just couldn’t get the urge to watch the movie out of my mind.
I knew it was different to the novel, and I knew I hadn’t found it that memorable maybe five or six years ago, and I knew Sol Yurick, the author of the book, hadn’t liked it, calling it “trashy”.
But I love watching movie adaptations, even when they’re not perfect. I also thought, maybe its grungy 70s80s-ish-ness would be just as awesome as all those other 80s movies I love, and maybe the confronting plot points of the book being dialled back a little would make for a really enjoyable movie – frankly, a more enjoyable movie than the book was, despite the book’s unquestionable quality.
In a way, I was right. It was beautifully shot and had a great synth-y soundtrack. It was colourful and creative, especially in its use of costume and its use of graphic novel-style inserts as a narrative device – although without having read the book and knowing that youngest gang member Junior’s head is half-buried in a comic book that parallels his own adventures for much of the journey, I don’t know how the movie viewer could be expected to understand the significance of the graphic novel storytelling at all.
But this movie doesn’t seem much interested in the significance of anything in the book, so I shouldn’t be surprised. As a movie, it’s fun enough, I suppose (though I think its 7.7 IMDB rating overly generous) but as a book adaptation it fails miserably. I’m all for modifying plots and so on to fit the movie format, but this is ridiculous.
If they have maintained anything about the characters at all, I fail to recognise it. They haven’t just changed the names – they’ve changed the people. Pretty much all of them. They’ve made them a mixed-race gang instead of all black, which is frankly unrealistic and beside the whole point of the gangs the story was supposed to be about. Instead of a leader called Hector there’s a leader called something or other else. Lunkface appears to be maintained, albeit called something else, but Junior has just vanished, or been melded with the character of gang artist Hinton, who was essentially the book’s main character, by virtue of being handed a spray can at the start of the film and told to tag a thing or two. Hinton appears to have vanished as well and any hint of a personal journey for any characters has been erased and given to New Main Leader Guy whose personal journey appears to consist of… well, essentially nothing but a few hokey scenes of bonding with a girl whose role has been so entirely changed it’s making me angry to talk about. I can’t tell you how it’s been changed without giving spoilers. But essentially the soul of the book has been stripped and with it the two pivotal scenes in Hinton’s journey – the part where he’s in a train tunnel and the part when he beats a cowboy game at quick-draw. Instead, there’s no Hinton, no tunnel scene – for anyone – and a sort of weird reference to the cowboy, in that a statue of a cowboy just stands unnoticed in the background of one of the scenes.
Essentially, apart from the opening scene, the entire, and I mean entire, plot was made up from scratch. And they didn’t even do a decent job of the opening scene. The leader of the city’s major gang wasn’t called Cyrus, I gotta tell you. And look, changing names is not a big deal, I know that, but they made him ridiculous. His clothes were ridiculous. His speech was ridiculous. His manner was ridiculous. If you are a fan of The Warriors do yourself a favour and go read the book and find out what that scene was really supposed to be like. It will make the back of your neck prickle. By comparison, this scene made me cringe.
They had some nice touches, like the character of the female DJ who talks to the warriors on the radio station throughout the movie, but it just didn’t mean anything. None of it meant anything. This movie prettified everything, but it didn’t end up more fun, it just ended up bland. Despite the boys’ flick knives and their mad fighting skills I didn’t believe for one second that these were really violent people. It was all make believe and style. There was no suspense. There was no tension. The ending was completely vacuous and predictable, even down to Guy Whose Name I Can’t be Bothered to Remember giving that Girl who Wasn’t even Supposed to Be There Today another girl’s discarded prom flowers, and then how they make that ridiculous reference to “getting out of there one day”, which is the polar opposite of the book’s ending.
I feel insulted on Yurick’s behalf. No wonder when he was asked by interviewers about this movie, all he could come up with was “interesting.”
His book made me feel conflicted, and a bit disgusted, but at least it made me think and feel real things. I felt like I had witnessed something. By comparison, all this movie made me feel was bored and disappointed.
As an impartial observer, I hasten to add, the Ministry was also bored. It was me who forced us to finish it. But I shan’t bother again.
It just didn’t mean anything. None of it meant anything. And sometimes you sit down to watch a movie wanting entertainment, and sometimes you sit down wanting meaning, and sometimes you dare to demand both. But you sure as hell don’t sit down wanting neither.