Fahrenheit 451 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

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 While you understand the point Fahrenheit 451’s tries to make, it seems in the pursuit of making a point it was forgotten to make the film entertaining.

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Director(s) Ramin Bahrani
Screenplay By Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Date Released 5/19/2018
Genre(s) Book Adaptation, Action, Drama
Noted Actors
Guy Montag Michael B. Jordan
Beatty Michael Shannon
Yuxie (Voice) Cindy Katz
Clarisse Sofia Boutella

Summary

In an undisclosed year, generations after a 2nd American civil war, books have largely been banned to appear all sides. No more books to offend Black people, feminist, and even those who are white who don’t like being portrayed a certain way. Now the government controls everything you can read and puts it on the Dark 9. A new internet which tracks everything you do or read. Which was formed with the help of tech companies who added their assistance in the form of the watchdog known as “The Ministry.” Thus allowing them all the data they could want, with a great amount of help from the almost standard Yuxie system that seems to be in nearly everyone’s home or office.

Leading us to the focus of the film, Guy Montag. Since he was a child he has been raised by a man last named Beatty. Someone who trained him to be a fireman. Not of the kind most of us know today, but someone who starts fires. Mostly to destroy material which pushes you to think or feel. So no Harry Potter books, art, Mozart, or anything like that. Kids think its evil, some adults have a warped view of history, and those who know better are handled appropriately.

However, there comes a point where Guy is allowed to flirt with a book, thanks to Beatty, as well as a young woman named Clarisse who is what is known as an Eel: People who value old media, such as books, and try to make the information widely available once more. They are branded as terrorists and hunted. Not killed, but with fingerprints the main source of identification, the punishment is their prints getting burned and making it so, for years, their mobility and lives are limited.

But, thanks to a fire leading Guy to find and read a book, combined with Clarisse’s guidance, Beatty’s loyal “dog” begins to stray. In fact, he may be a key to the revolution known as Omnis. That’s if he can survive.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Did the transponder tip-off Yuxie to where Guy was and where he was going?
  2. Did Beatty kill Montag’s father or have him arrested? In other words, was he the one who snitched and turned him in?

Collected Quote(s) or .Gifs

I’ve been burned so many times I don’t know where my scars end and my body begins.

Highlights

The Tech Visuals Were Interesting

Perhaps the sole thing which was noteworthy, in a positive way, was when it came to the tech of the film, while not on the level of a theatrical release, it was interesting. Especially taking note of how the media was used for the sake of propaganda.

On The Fence

The Whole Film Felt Very Barebones

Clarisse resting her chin on Guy's shoulder.
Sofia Boutella as Clarisse and Michael B. Jordan as Guy

Taking note I didn’t read the book, I just watched the Thug Notes overview and saw Michael B. Jordan and thought, why not? I came in knowledgeable but far from an expert. So, with that said, while I got the point of the film dealing with censorship and how technology plays a role in that, setting that aside, this was a boring movie to get through.

First and foremost, Guy, even with Jordan’s talent, barely evolves past being a generic soldier who learns the truth. Same goes for Beatty who, while clearly there is an author in him screaming to get out, there is a certain lack of complexity in both which seems strange given the subject matter. In fact, a lot of the time I found myself wanting to compare this to The Handmaid’s Tale and question why Beatty didn’t have an almost Aunt Lydia or Serena Joy nuance? Why is it that, despite him seemingly interested in the old ways of life, maybe enjoying sneaking a book on the rare occasion, that aspect isn’t pushed more? The conflict of living in a world where he can’t enjoy what he loves but also recognizing the chaos is what led to a family members death.

What also doesn’t help this movie is that the film squarely relies on these two to carry it. Which, to me, was a bit of a mistake for I don’t see Shannon nor Jordan as the type who play off each other well. Also, while Jordan has proved himself as a leading man in Fruitvale Station and Creed, he strangely seems dependent on a charismatic co-star to really shine. The same goes for Shannon who, like Jordan, can be known to be a bit of a scene-stealer, but with neither actor challenging the other nor having the chemistry needed to push this father/son, mentor/mentee vibe, it all falls flat.

That is, alongside its attempts to shine a light on how this future could happen. Oh, and the weak romantic subplot that makes you want to roll your eyes. Especially since, from what it seems, it was made for the movie and doesn’t play out as we see in the book.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive)

Guy as he stares down Beatty.

With the birth and explosion of Netflix as a platform, they have taken a lot of HBO’s thunder. They now have a lot of the series you’d expect on HBO before its birth. The comedy specials that HBO surely would have had if Netflix didn’t exist no longer appear under their banner, and arguably HBO has tried to compete. Which, in the case of Big Little Lies, amongst specials like Notes From The Field, they have shown they are not down and out.

However, with Fahrenheit 451, it seems the glory days of HBO original movies being acclaimed and conversation starters could possibly be behind us. And while they won’t become the next Blockbuster, one does have to wonder if the best days of the network is behind them and like many other networks, they cannot compete with new media as much as be even more calculated in its risks and try to survive on a few tentpole projects vs. being the maverick it once was.

Leading to why the Mixed label. Fahrenheit 451 seems like the type of production which was more about broad strokes of the point and establishing visuals than being entertaining or insightful. If not, the film tried so much to dumb down the content of the book, it eventually found itself being a representation of what perhaps would be allowed on the Dark 9. Just before The Ministry did some minor editing to show how terrible and ludicrous the media of yesteryear were.


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Review Summary

Amari Allahhttps://wherever-i-look.com
I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. From what I read when looking into this movie, his wife was in fact cast and seemingly filmed but then was cut for some reason. The reasoning I got from Shadow & Act:

    “The character definitely has a big part in the book, but because of the length of the film, (director Ramin Bahrani) decided they needed to change the storyline and the structure of the film,” she (Laura Harrier who was to play Millie) said. “And unfortunately my character didn’t fit with the storyline. It’s something you always hope doesn’t happen, but I’m not the first it’s happened to, and I definitely won’t be the last.”

    Which honestly sounds like BS since, as you said, and as noted in the video above, her role seems to be essential yet they found a way to carve her out. Perhaps leaving this story on life support after all was said and done. Alive, with a beating heart, but barely functional.

  2. As a fan of both the novel and the 1960s film version, I was very sceptical of this production and it seems this blog post has confirmed some of my worst fears.

    Your summary makes it clear that the makers of this production tried to force relationship dynamics that didn’t exist in the novel… Beatty is merely Montag’s superior in the fire department, not an adoptive father figure. Also, the relationship between Montag and Clarisse is platonic in the novel…. Montag’s friendship with both is guarded and very complex, his character arc in the book is as much focused on how he learns to relate to other people emotionally as it is on Montag’s political awakening. Both Clarisse and Beatty serve as catalysts for Montag to come out of his shell, although they are also independent characters with interests of their own… it’s a pity if, as you say, this has been “dumbed down” in favour of a simplified, more conventional relationship dynamic…. Montag’s wife also played a large role in the book, with her attempts at suicide followed by materialistic displays of denial being a prominent part of the drama too. The fact this isn’t mentioned makes me wonder if they’ve botched that too.

    I understand why it’d be a good idea to update the tech aspects of the story (the vision of the future in the 1960s film looks very quaint nowadays) but the core fundamentals of the plot and characterisation in Bradbury’s novel are still very compelling today, and if you’re going to depart radically from that template then it should at least be in a manner that’s interesting.

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