Classic Novel Modernized on Film
This review is a tricky one. It’s tricky because this is a movie based on a very classic novel. For this, I have to review the movie based on itself, but I can’t not compare it to its source material.
Okay, let’s get into it.
This review is for “Fahrenheit 451”, based on the dystopian novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury. The movie and the novel take place in a future where books are outlawed and the fire department is tasked with burning them because of the “trouble” they’ve caused society. The settings are the same but the plot differs between the two.
In the novel, Firemen Guy Montag does what any fireman does - burns books. Walking home from work, he meets a young girl named Clarisse that lives nearby. They start talking and Clarisse begins to question why Montag does what he does. This leads Montag to question why he does what he does.
Montag steals a book during a raid and burning, and he’s eventually caught. He escapes and discovers an underground of people who memorize any and all books to keep them alive.
That’s a very broad summary of the book. I encourage you to read it for yourself. A lot more happens and it’s a book that I’ve come to read annually. Once you read it, you’ll understand why.
The movie does things a bit differently. In the movie, Montag is a fireman under the leader of Capt. Beatty. Beatty raised Montag since the death of Montag’s father, who was also a fireman. After the Second American Civil War, the country outlawed books and everyone is connected by the 9, a social media integrated internet that is literally everywhere. “Natives”, average citizens, are to “Stay Vivid” and watch out for “Eels”, the resistance, and record them to have their illegal books burned.
Captain Beatty has an underground informant named Clarisse, who trades information for time off of her sentence. See, once you’re marked an Eel, you have your identity erased via the burning of your fingerprints, which is your access to everything.
Beatty gets a tip from Clarisse and as he, Montag, and their crew investigate, they encounter a woman with a VAST library. As they lead her out of the house, she stops and says, “OMNIS” before lighting herself on fire. Montag, having made eye contact with this woman willing to die for books, begins to question everything he’s been taught. Dreams about his father’s death haunt him as well.
Montag seeks out Clarisse with questions, brandishing a book he stole from the home of the woman with the library. He leads him to an underground where he learns that “OMNIS” is a project geared to bring knowledge back to people. See, after the Second Civil War, the people wanted simpler lives. Thinking led to division so they no longer wanted to think. This is why everyone connects to the 9 where they communicate in the simplest of terms, using emojis almost exclusively. OMNIS is encoded DNA that once injected into a person endows them with all the knowledge of our history, the truth, and the Ministry, the government basically, can’t have that.
Seeing the light, Montag is in bed with the Eels and is caught trying to help the Resistance. Montag fights back and manages to free the OMNIS, in the form of a bird, before assumably meeting his end.
The movie doesn’t follow the same path as the novel, but tells essentially the same message - Knowledge is Power. I could go into a huge tirade about society’s comfort with ignorance but I’ll spare you.
The world created here highlights how close we are to that point today, more so now than even in 2018. The blind acceptance of false information, mindless connection to social media, and aggressively shortened attention spans are just a few of the similarities. The tale, just like “1984”, acts as a warning as to how life will be if we don’t remember what it’s like to think critically and independently.
I gave this movie a 9, only losing a point in the character category. Montag said that he was raised by a.k.a. indoctrinated by Beatty for 16 years. It’s hard to believe that he’d turn quite as he did. One meeting with the Resistance and he was willing to murder a man he knew who was allegedly captive in the attic for them?! That seems a bit much. Also, Montag is trusting Clarisse WAY too much for someone who is playing both sides. Remember, Clarisse IS helping people out low-key, but more so she’s giving people up for her own personal benefit. Maybe I missed something, but that seems odd that everyone would have so much trust in Clarisse.
Other than that, the movie is a great updated adaptation of the novel and is worth your time to watch.