Around the World in 80 Days: 1956 v. 1989, Part III

The 1956 movie is a love song to travel. It is beautifully made (if incredibly long) with many scenic pauses. The 1989 miniseries is a romp.

The 1989 miniseries is less accurate to the book; however, BOTH the 1956 and 1989 productions expand the Europe section with added twists and turns . . .

Including the balloon.

Yep, that's right, the balloon isn't in the book.

In the 1956 movie, the balloon gets Fogg and Passpartout from France to the Spanish coastline. It is completely gratuitous but does allow for the beautiful scenery mentioned above. (Watching the 1956 movie is rather like watching an adventure tale plus three National Geographic episodes all at the same time.) 

In the 1989 miniseries, the balloon is an early Hindenburg creation, which at least satisfies the Verne-Steampunk aficionados. Still, one is left with the impression that the balloon is there because a balloon was in the 1956 movie; it is certainly not in the book.

In the book, the "modern" part of the modern world is glided over with little to no comment. Fogg and Passpartout make it from England to the Mediterranean with no extraneous adventures. Why would they? Getting from England to the Suez is about as boring, in Verne's eyes, as describing a commuter flight from New York to Buffalo.

But the handling of Europe in the various versions does bring up an interesting problem that I mention in connection to Lord of the Rings. A book can dispose of scenes and places in a few well-chosen paragraphs. Okay, so everybody got from here to there; let's move on the main adventure.

But in a MOVIE about going around the world, appearing to skip the first part of the journey would look like cheating. Even Michael Palin, in his own trip around the world, spent time exploring Europe. To do anything else gives the appearance--gasp!--that one simply flew to the Mediterranean.

Michael Palin sets forth.
Interesting enough, it is now so easy to get around the world (even without flying) that Palin's crew scheduled breaks and interviews and sight-seeing. Palin is filmed being more of a Passpartout than a Fogg. This does cause complications and Palin has to get creative to stay on schedule. Still, this is NOT Fogg jumping quickly from train to steamer to elephant to rickshaw with no time to stop and peruse the scenery. This is a crew realizing that it over-scheduled its star (granted, an interesting problem in its own right: missing a boat becomes a huge deal; people just don't travel--actually travel, not cruise--by ship anymore).

In any case, the result of needing to add in Europe means that both the movie and the miniseries spend WAY more time on Europe than is all that necessary. But then both the movie and the miniseries were aimed at American audiences who presumably didn't mind more Europe despite this entailing, later on, less America.

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