Deniz Akdeniz Tomorrow When The War Began Essay

Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey)

At first glance the film adaptation of author John Marsden’s hugely popular Australian teen fiction novel Tomorrow, When The War Began resembles a cross between Red Dawn and The Breakfast Club. A group of teenagers – including a princess, a bad boy, a jock and a studious kid – go camping and when they return to their country-town homes they discover Australia has been invaded by an unidentified Asian army. However, this film is more than the sum of its parts and scriptwriter Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Pirates of the Caribbean, Australia) in his directorial début has delivered a thrilling character-driven action/adventure film.

Beattie handles the action magnificently throughout the film with Ben Nott’s (Daybreakers, Accidents Happen) expert cinematography and the incredibly effective sound design facilitating several thrilling moments. The sheer exhilaration of several key scenes considerably compensates for some of the less plausible elements of the film concerning the remarkable speed in which some of the characters adapt to the situation. The Australian teenage characters display an incredible degree of resourcefulness, clarity and perceptiveness; not to mention aptitude for driving heavy vehicles and handling automatic weapons – even for kids who’ve grown up on a farm.

Kevin Holmes (Lincoln Lewis), Homer Yannos (Deniz Akdeniz) and Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey)

The emotional journey that the characters go on is completely genuine and engaging, and that level of ‘reality’ is far more interesting. The group dynamics are convincing and the young cast do an excellent job fleshing out their characters.  In particular, the main character Ellie Linton is a fantastic action hero, acted with charismatic conviction by former Neighbours regular Caitlin Stasey. It’s just a pity that these naturally attractive actors have unnecessarily good hair and model-like make-up throughout the entire film so that when they start getting dishevelled and roughed-up, they look more like they’ve adopted Derek Zoolander’s ‘Derelicte’ look.

The major issue with Tomorrow, When the War Began is the representation of the Asian invaders. There is a scene where one character states that it doesn’t matter who the invaders are or what country they have come from – the point is that they have invaded Australia and that’s all the characters and the audience need to know. (There is even an acknowledgement that Australia has been invaded once before.) But if the invaders are merely plot devices without political implications then why represent them as being so specifically one particular race? Why not make them completely nondescript? In the extremely unlikely scenario that Australia is ever invaded then those invaders would probably be from a nearby country (most of which are Asian) but this is not a realistic film so maintaining that ‘authenticity’ is not necessary. Evoking Australian cultural anxieties over the fear of a specifically Asian invasion without addressing the issues that it raises is problematic and a little bit careless.

Nagging concerns about the questionable subtext aside, Tomorrow, When the War Began is an intelligent blockbuster that holds its own with most of Hollywood’s recent output. Hopefully it will be popular enough to generate a franchise based on the rest of the books in Marsden’s series but with the future films showing perhaps a little more grittiness and definitely a little less naivety in how it represents the invaders.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

Read more reviews at MRQE


This entry was posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010 at 1:06 am and is filed under Film review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

On Wednesday I finally went to see it (!!!) I was kinda nervous - for all you non-Aussies (or non-New Zealanders) the Tomorrow series is bigger than The Hunger Games - my generation devoured them - teens and adults. The first book came out in 1993 - so it's been a long wait for it to arrive on the Big Screen. I posted the trailer here.

It's opening night was the third biggest for an Australian film (coming behind Australia (Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackson) and Happy Feet. It debuted at #1 and made $3.86 million during its first weekend in Australia and grossed $358,653 with a #1 debut in New Zealand

First of all: the books are brilliant and I swear, the characters are real - out there...somewhere. Reading them, I felt like I was with Ellie and Homer and the gang and fought alongside them. Each new book that was released caused a Mockingjay-like fever. Especially #7 The Other Side of Dawn.

My mother in law is a high school art teacher at a Private Boys School in Sydney and she said that John Marsden and The Tomorrow Series were responsible for getting a whole generation of boys reading. 

Okay, I can feel an essay coming on, haha, so I'll just move right along to the movie.

The Movie:

I absolutely loved it, hey.

It was faithful to the book (minus the hermit's hut) and as soon as it started I was back there - feeling nostalgic to be with the gang. I was caught up in it and it felt so similar to the movie that happened in my head when I read the books :)

The sound track is seriously rocking too. Can I hear an amen?

I knew what was coming but that didn't stop me from feeling the suspense. And, I cried. Okay, so I don't normally cry in movies (really) but it was like watching my mates (not just characters I was meeting for the first time - but mates from my teen life) and the ending hit me hard. No spoilers but those who've read the book can imagine the scene that just killed me. It was really powerful, hey.

Robyn and Lee in Hell
Ellie and Homer in Hell
The setting: filmed in the Hunter Region and the Blue Mountains (the book is set in Victoria though). It felt like home to me, having grown up in the Blue Mountains. It definitely had an Aussie vibe. Really stunning.

The characters

  • Ellie (Caitlin Stasey): Just brilliant. I loved her as Ellie. Ellie is my literary hero and I didnt expect I'd love Caitlin being Ellie as much as I did.
  • Homer (Deniz Akdeniz): How awesome was he? Homer is one of my fave YA boys ever and I just loved Deniz acting him. He was funny and tough and so Greek Australian. You know you love him.
  • Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood): It took me a while to warm up to Corrie, but then I was into her. 
  • Kevin (Lincoln Lewis): He had a great character arc and really matched the book. Loved it - loved how he showed the fear and how unashamed he was of his own wuss-like tendencies.
  • Lee (Chris Pang): I think he came across better in the book- although his dialogue wasn't the best to showcase his intensity, IMO. He is a bit ambiguous as a character in book one. I loved the snake moment. And him and Ellie on the couch. sigh...
  • Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin): I already liked Phoebe from H2O Just Add Water (I like watching Aussie MG shows, okay? :)  At first she bugged me and her lines felt more like a US movie than Aussie - but she came really good. So more love from me. She was pretty beautiful and I never imagined Fi was the hot in the book (?)
  • Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings): At first, she felt timid to me. And I wanted her to be more tough. But one of my fave moments was Robyn at the bridge, I teared up then. It really hit me. I was so proud of her and completely conflicted in my pride considering the scenario.
  • Chris (Andy Ryan): Okay, how funny was he? In that perfect Aussie stoner way. My husband and I were killing ourselves in his scenes. He was so deadbeat - it was awesome. I dont remember him being that funny in the book? 

Sometimes the girls sounded POME*. I know Caitlin Stasey is a POM so I was wondering what was going on with the others. My husband reminded me (we're original Westies) that some Aussies do talk that way - kinda posh - you know, from the North Shore, etc. And, yeah, I get that :)

* Prisoner Of Mother England. Aussie term for our UK mates :)
Homer and Fi
Kevin and Corrie

Bonus Section. (Haha) 

After the Movie:

I wanted to stop in @ the shops and buy a new copy of the book (some of you may remember my husband left my first edition copy on a plane somewhere in Uganda in July. Hardcover first edition just sold for $756 on ebay (!) but husband hates the shops - so we skipped that.

Figured I'd do it later. But then when I got home, I had an email from Pan MacMillan saying I'd won an exclusive movie edition of the book! Wahoo!

I was kinda pumped after that so I went for a bushwalk (to soak up the Hell/Taylor Stitch vibe) and a huge red belly black snake slithered right across the track in front of me. Which was really cool as I was thinking about the gang in the bush at the time and the story, etc. And there's the whole red belly black scene in the movie. Which, how cool was it? :)

Such a cool ending to the TWTWB day. I'm still kind of buzzing thinking about it and the series and how profound and brilliant and impacting a book can be.

movie tie-in edition
available at book shops
Edition I won from Pan Macmillan
Here's the boys signing John Marsden's Book  - which is kinda weird

(seeing as they are not the author) but also cool by me :)

So who's seen the movie?

Read the books? 

Read the books and seen the movie?

Planning on it?


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