A Brief Review of The Spiderwick Chronicles

I saw The Spiderwick Chronicles this week, and I was really impressed. I haven’t read the source material and can’t say how the film stacks up against the books, but on its own  Spiderwick Chronicles has a great deal of awesome.

First of all, it’s a fun fantasy story with coherent internal logic, sympathetic characters and some excellent special effects. But more importantly (for me, anyway), the teenage girl in the movie is not a helpless damsel! She’s a sword-wielding fencer who reacts capably – and physically – to the startling events that unfold around her family. The main character is a young boy, of course, but the female members of his family are all interesting characters with at least as much depth as the secondary male characters in the film.

It’s not a perfect movie. It kind’ve makes sense that the cast is all white, since they’re all related, but still… And it bothered me a little that all of the “pretty” – and, incidentally, totally boring – fairies were female/feminine while the dangerous and ugly ones were male (or at least had male voices). But all in all, The Spiderwick Chronicles does very well indeed on the gender front, particularly for a children’s film. Awesome.


  1. says

    There are quite a few changes from the books, but they more have to do with condensing timelines than changing personalities. Mallory is very much the same capable , sword-wielding, older sister in the books that she is in the movie. Although, in the books, there is also a bit more of an explanation as to why she knows how to fight with a sword. They hint that she fences in competitions in the movie, but in the books she actually has one at school that they all tag along to.

    If anything, I’d say she comes across as more sympathetic in the movie than in the books. Only because the “absent fathers” theme is clearer in the movie than in the book, so in the movie we understand better why she gets so annoyed at Jared’s behavior and takes the mom’s side rather than sticking up for her sibling.

    FYI, Holly Black’s female characters are always kick-ass, in one way or another. I can’t freakin’ wait until MTV films finally does Valiant. As far as I know, there isn’t a whole lot going on with it at the moment, but with Spiderwick doing ok (but not great) at the box office, and Twilight, the movie poised to surprise the hell out of everyone that hasn’t bothered to talk to a teen girl anytime during the last year or so, I ‘m hoping it will get moving along soon.

    Oh! And the main character in the second Spiderwick series is a girl. I think. I haven’t read the one book that’s out yet. But I know it’s about a girl in Florida that has read The Spiderwick Chronicles and so knows that fairies are real, her friend (a boy) who doesn’t believe her, and then of course the magical creatures they find in their own backyard. Since the first book was focused on the character that has to convince everyone else that this stuff is real, I’m assuming she’s more the focus than he is.

  2. says

    I keep meaning to pick up some of Holly Black’s work to read. I’ve heard some good things, and I really enjoyed what she had to say when I saw her on a panel at WisCon last year.


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