One of the reasons that the books of Charles Dickens have endured (other than that he was the Stephen King-style mega-bestseller of his day) is that their relatively simple premises give way to labyrinthine stories with surprisingly heavy themes. Take Great Expectations, for example: Initially the tale of an orphan who inherits a fortune and becomes a respected gentleman, Great Expectations eschews a simple rags-to-riches story by intertwining Pip’s rise from poverty with a disturbing mystery, a painful romance, and themes of social injustice, heartbreak, childhood abandonment, and abuse.
Just as the popularity of Dickens’ novels endures, so too do they remain rich material for film adaptation. The latest movie version of Great Expectations has been long in development, having released a trailer last year and – after a Toronto International Film Festival debut – disappeared from public consciousness. Now, the adaptation has released another preview and set date for a limited theatrical release: November 8th of this year.
Great Expectations is directed by Mike Newell (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and stars Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) and Holliday Grainger (Anna Karenina). Helena Bonham Carter (The Lone Ranger), Robbie Coltane (the Harry Potter series), and Ralph Fiennes (Skyfall) round out the cast.
Despite the rich costuming and customarily wild-eyed performance by Helena Bonham Carter, there’s something oddly bland about this newest preview for Great Expectations. The drab shot-work and almost tossed-off accompanying music for the trailer don’t do it any favors.
Part of the sensation may simply be adaptation fatigue – along with almost every other Dickens novel, Great Expectations has seen a great many film and television conversions. Why return to such a heavily used well once again?
Of course, this shouldn’t necessarily preclude filmmakers from trying their hand at adapting classic literature. Any new version could, theoretically, become the definitive one. On November 8th, audiences will have to decide whether Mike Newell’s Great Expectations is just that.
Great Expectations will enter a limited theatrical run on November 8th, 2013.