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From Book to Film: Is Wonder a Wonder?

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On Friday, November 17, the 2012 New York Times Best-selling novel Wonder by author RJ Palacio found its way to the big screen.

The film was directed by Stephen Chbosky, known for his past projects Beauty and the Beast(2017), The Perks of being a Wallflower (2012), and the Divergent series: Allegiant (2016).

Produced by Lionsgate Studios, it tells Palacio’s story of Auggie Pullman–a young boy with a facial deformity–as he transitions from the shelter of homeschool to the turbulent social setting of fifth grade.

Auggie is learning to find kindness hidden amid judgment, and is navigating the dark world known as “middle school.”

With the taglines, “You can’t try to blend in when you were born to stand out” and “Choose kind,” this heartwarming story advocates kindness and tolerance.

The film features eleven-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who won Breakthrough Artist for Room in 2015.  Other noteworthy cast members are Oscar winner Julia Roberts (best known for Pretty Woman), Oscar nominee Owen Wilson, Golden Globe nominee Mandy Patinkin, and seventeen-year-old Izabella Vidovic from the film Homefront.  

The film grossed a total of $27 million the opening weekend. On the first day alone, the movie made $9.6 million dollars.

The movie has a review of 8/10 on IMDB and a 67 score on Metacritic. 86% of viewers recommend it on the Rotten Tomatometer, and 91% of the audience liked it.

Critics and movie reviewers called this movie wonderful (pun intended). Critic Andrea Mandell from USA Today says, “This could have been a schmaltzy tale. Instead, it’s a much-needed reminder that kindness exists in this fractured world.”

Richard Roeper, critic from Chicago Sun-Times calls the make-up done on Jacob Tremblay “amazing” and praised the young actor, saying, “Unrecognizable under the prosthetics and the makeup, Jacob Tremblay is indeed wondrous as Auggie.”

Betsy Bozdech from Common Sense Media expressed “R. J. Palacio’s hugely popular, award-winning novel is earnest and sweet, with great messages about kindness, friendship, and acceptance for its tween target audience.”

The feature has mostly positive reviews with critics commenting on the heart-tugging nature of the story and the director’s approach to bullying in American schools. One critic, named Peter Travers, stated that “Wonder is an emotional wipeout, that’s for sure, but Chbosky handles it with such tenderness and delicacy, you won’t hate yourself (too much) for giving in.”

The star-studded cast of the motion picture also received many great reviews for their performance in the flick. According to the New York Times, “The movie has a cast that’s wonderful from top to bottom.”

The Real-Life Wonder Boy

The same evening the film opened, ABC’s 20/20 aired a special feature on Nathaniel Newman, a thirteen-year-old boy who was born with the same condition as the fictional Auggie. Reporter Elizabeth Vargas spent three years following the Newman family, and they told her about the traumatic and memorable day of Nathaniel’s birth, his more than sixty surgeries, and the daily obstacles he faces as a result of Treacher Collins syndrome.

Treacher Collins syndrome, according to MedicineNet.com, is a genetic condition that affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 people. It “alters the bones and other tissues in the face.” People with TCS often have “eyes that slant downward, sparse eyelashes, and a notch in the lower eyelids…It also characterized by absent, small, or unusually formed ears.”

As a result of the bone and tissue abnormalities, vision, hearing, and breathing can be impacted, but intelligence and social functioning are not affected.

The Newman family said of the novel Wonder that it was so true-to-life that they joked the author must have spied on them. Nathan’s parents said that the book has made their child’s life easier by raising awareness about Treacher Collins and consciousness about kindess.

Nathaniel Newman with actor Jacob Tremblay, who portrays Auggie in the film

Staff Reviews

Dani Musi

“Worthwhile Tear-Jerker”

The movie as a whole is a beautifully made. The direction and acting gave the movie a “real life” feel. With some tear-jerking moments and some bittersweet ones, it is a perfect combination, adding to the overall feel the viewers get while watching.

Along with the acting, directing, and visuals, the soundtrack of the movie made the movie over-the-top.  The film included some fan-favorite classics including “Monster Mash”and “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” along with some original songs, orchestrated to fit perfectly in the movie such as the song “Wonder.”

The movie portrayed the book well, keeping all the happiest and saddest moments intact at their very finest. Jacob Tremblay’s amazing acting, along with makeup and the supporting roles, added to the overall beauty of the film.

The movie also stays true to the book by switching between multiple characters’ points of view. From the view of Auggie, his friend Jack, Via (Auggie’s sister) and a few other supporting characters, the viewers experiences each and every struggle the characters face throughout the story.

Vaishnavi Nayak

“Uplifting New Movie that Touches the Hearts of Many”

The movie deals with the issues that not only children but also teenagers face without pushing them into the audience’s faces. It instead goes for a heart-warming approach to these topics. The characters are brilliantly acted out and have contributing traits that make them relatable to a person of any, age, shape or size.

The movie has many number of empathetic characters, with Auggie being the favorite of many viewers. Auggie is shown to be a gifted and smart kid who likes things that every other middle schooler does,  like Minecraft or Star Wars. He has a  sense of humor that is quick-witted and captures the hearts of the audience. He is established to be kind, modest and very mature for his age.

The film as a whole gives the viewers many moments to remember and will make you cry, laugh and smile in its 1 hour and 53 minute runtime.

The visuals in the movie are also incredibly pleasing. Rather than going for vigorous blend of colors that other movies display, the movie consists of cozy, vibrant and inviting colors that are pleasing to look at. This style cinematography is kept throughout the movie, even if the subjects being discussed are rather dark. This expression is not only shown through the colors but also the setting of the film. The Pullman household, where most of the movie takes place, gives off the same snug vibes. This shows the innocence that Auggie held, and it displayed it in a very soft yet noticeable way.

Even though the movie has many positive role models and many great themes, parental guidance is recommended for those who are under 10. This is because of the few scenes of violence that are showcased in the movie, words such as buttface, jerk and a few scenes depicting drinking.

The movie is amazingly directed, acted and set up. It is definitely something to add on your list and  is a family classic that is a must see, whether you have read the book or not.

Jenny Fu

“Relatable Characters and Worthy of Praise”

Wonder has not yet received any nominations or awards, though viewers can expect some in the next few months. It’s worth the time and money and is guaranteed to capture hearts around the world with its theme of acceptance and kindness.

There were many great characters in the story, but Olivia “Via” Pullman’s persona was something kids younger than her could look up to. She was caring and understanding, loving her brother no matter and always supporting him. Despite this, Via is also troubled by Auggie.

Author Palacio writes about her situation, “I think Via is torn between her own version of returning to Earth, which is the world Auggie inhabits (and sometimes inhibits), and choosing the freedom of space, which is the world beyond Auggie and everything he represents.” 

Via in shown in the movie to have believable flaws, and characteristics that make her seem more human to the rest of us.  It is because of its relatable characters that Wonder will impact viewers.

 

Meg Linsky

“Wonder Stays Faithful to Book In All the Ways that Matter”

One of the quotes that came straight from the book was one of the the very last lines in the movie: “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

This book has shown so many that people with Treacher Collins syndrome (or anyone who might be different) are bullied every day. The film may help some people realize that they should be kind to everyone, whatever they may look like on the outside.

Having read the book and watched the movie, the movie has done an amazing job of presenting the story, and it’s perfect for those who like movies that can make you cry, laugh, and smile all at the same time. The movie was enjoyable to watch, and anyone with freetime should go and watch Wonder.

Leo Weissman

“Worth the Seven Bucks”

Mainly the movie was great and had a lot of moments from the book that I liked a lot.

One thing that I wished they emphasized more was the involvement of Via’s boyfriend Justin played by Nadji Jeter. Throughout the movie different characters had different points of view split up (in the book this happened as chapters.) The book featured a whole chapter about Justin but the film didn’t really involve him more with Auggie as I would have liked.

The casting was spot on and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way the actors communicated and relied on each other was amazing. From a readers’ standpoint it is always fun to see faces to the imagined characters.

A reason to watch Wonder is because it is a great movie that will brighten up your day and is definitely worth your while. Wonder brought a great story to life. Not only did the movie portray a good story but it also taught everyone a lesson: No matter what is on the outside, what’s on the inside is what counts.

 

James Calipetro

“Read the Book First

Although Wonder is a fantastic book, the movie leaves out many key details. Many flashbacks and several references would not make sense had someone not read the book. The book provides a bigger and better interpretation of the story.

The struggles of the characters are oversimplified in the movie. Many parts in the movie that would have taken chapters in the book would sometimes take just a few seconds in the film, and some key places in the book are not even present.

The overall review is not bad, although it is not as good of a movie if you had not read the book, and some parts would not make sense or have the desired impact.

 

Avery Fish

“Touching Film

The acting was amazing and touched the hearts of many in the audience. Auggie’s struggles really got through and the actors did a fantastic of expressing the characters’ feelings into real life.

Treacher Collins syndrome is a syndrome with crucial facial deformities; I think the movie could have done a better job of depicting the condition. In the movie Auggie appeared to just have a few scars on his face, easily mistaken for something that could have happened earlier in his life, such as a car accident or a fire. In the movie, the antagonist Jullian even asked if he was in a fire and not about his syndrome.

In conclusion, Wonder is a movie for all ages. The touching concept of the story line reaches out to others. Don’t judge a book by its cover is a commonly known saying, but Wonder really gets the point through. Stephen Chbosky’s moving piece touches people’s hearts everywhere across the nation.

 

Abhi Siri

Product Promotions in Wonder? Nope.

Have you ever noticed that the hero of a movie is flaunting a pair of Beats headphones or some other product? Movie studios can be paid money by companies to use their products in scenes in the movie. For example, in the movie Jurassic Park, Mercedes-Benz paid the film studio to use their cars in a scene. In the movie Wonder, only three noticable paid promotions caught the eyes of viewers, one for Google, one for Acer, and one for the popular game Minecraft.

Wonder does an exceptionally good job of keeping promotions out of the plot. The promotions occur in a scene where Auggie is playing the popular game Minecraft, and the next few minutes depict Auggie meeting Jack-Will, his once-best friend, online. In this time, the screen is divided, showing each child typing their responses to the other child’s question online. The shots constituting both sides of the screen were made so that the logos on each computer came into view. On Auggie’s laptop, the Chrome logo comes into view, and judging by how the laptop looks and the color, it is a Chrome Pixelbook, Google’s newest Chromebook device. On Jack-Will’s side, the Acer logo is visible on his computer. Based on the release date of the movie in relation to the release date of the laptop featured, is the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro (something intriguing is the fact that Acer laptops are pummeling Chromebooks when it comes to product sales). The third promotion is more crucial to the plot. While Auggie is moving through a Minecraft “world,” he meets Jack-Will’s Minecraft character, and they both exchange apologies through the game. By doing this, the producers make them encountering each other on the game important to the plot, since they wouldn’t have made up to each other had they not met, therefore changing the course of the story.

Another thing that the producers of Wonder did well on was concealing the operating systems, brands, and models of other technology-related props. In multiple scenes, characters are on their phones, and the brands are quite well-concealed. Key features of the operating systems the company’s use are hidden, excluded by the camera, or blocked out by strategic glare.

All in all, Wonder does a good job keeping promotions to a minimum, and concealing brands of other items. By concealing promotions, the movie is able to focus its efforts on the plot, and as a result, Wonder was a great movie.

 

Nakyla Kelly

Wonder will stick with you”

Wonder is a sweet film that will melt your heart. The movie is directed towards elementary children or young teens experiencing the adolescence stage of life. It displays how important it is to always be kind and never judge anyone because of their appearances.

The 2012 novel touched my heart in many different ways. The movie makes you want to cry so many times during the movie. The acting was very strong; they really got the message directly across to the audience no matter how old the audience was.

You felt Auggie’s pain while watching the movie. Everything he felt, you felt. The theme is always look deeper than what you see; it’s about who we are on the inside and not the outside.

Editing for the movie was strong. They did a very good job with the makeup on Jacob Tremblay.  Marcelo Zarvos composed the soundtrack. Some songs that were used consisted of The Stars And The Moon by Marcelo Zarvos, Saints Among Us by Theodore Shapiro, and Come Bother Me by Marcelo Zarvos.

The movie is very similar to the book. When it comes to the different chapters in the book the movie does a decent job of putting them into the movie even though, some parts are left out for time. There are some funny scenes during the film, too, which is good. Viewers need a mixture of emotions during a movie to really grab your attention.

At the end of the movie, you have many mixed emotions running through you. The author would be proud of the movie; it does the book justice. It makes you start to think: what you would do if you were in Auggie’s situation or if you were the student seeing a boy that looked different from others for the first time?

*Note: The journalism class viewed Wonder on its release date, researched the film, and composed this collaborative piece.

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From Book to Film: Is Wonder a Wonder?