Tomorrow, When the War Began
Perhaps because modern, post-1788 Australia has never suffered invasion and occupation, it is a topic that has exercised few creative minds in this country, when it comes to books, TV and movies. A major, and thoroughly absorbing, exception to this are the "Tomorrow" young-adult novels by Australian writer John Marsden, published during the 1990s. Starting with "Tomorrow, When the War Began", a series of seven novels charted the adventures of a group of teenagers, still in high school, who launch a guerrilla war in bush Australia after the country is invaded and partially occupied by an unnamed foreign power.
I stopped being a "young adult" years ago, but I devoured all seven books in the series with enormous interest. Probably because of my lifelong interest in military history. I found them exciting, mostly (if not always) believable, excellently written, and an absorbing "what if" treatment of a scary scenario.
Then, in 2010, an Australian movie came out, written and directed by Stuart Beattie, largely based on the first book in the series. I still have a DVD of the film. I liked it, thought it captured the essence of the first book well, and found it an exciting movie. The young cast, headed by (now well-known) Caitlin Stasey and Lincoln Lewis, did a pretty good job. I wasn't writing movie reviews back then, but if I had been, I probably would have given it 3 3/4 stars out of five. The film did pretty well in Australia, but still failed to recoup its budget, so I am told. Great pity – I was hoping the moviemakers might move on to the second, and perhaps subsequent, books in the series. But so far, this hasn't happened.
Now, ABC television has sought to re-visit the "Tomorrow" franchise. A six-part series, covering, so we are told, the first book (the one the movie was based on), has started airing on ABC 3 early on Saturday nights. At time of writing, only one episode has been shown. I presume ABC 3 was chosen because the story is characterised as "young adult", and ABC 3 is primarily designed for younger viewers. Bit of a pity perhaps; based on only one episode, I think the series might capture the attention of an older audience.
An attractive and competent young cast (although I know none of them) has been assembled and, so far, they are doing the story proud. Again, based on one episode only, the TV series is sticking pretty much to the story of the original book. It appears none of the cast from the 2010 movie is reprising their role in this new TV version.
I am enjoying the TV series, on the strength of one episode. It's been filmed in some really pretty areas of country Victoria, in contrast to the movie which was filmed in some really pretty areas of country New South Wales.
I have only two criticisms to make.
Firstly, it seems like the TV series is going to concentrate rather more on the parents' stories, than did the movie. That's fine, and I applaud that, but one or two of the actors they've chosen to play the parents seem too young to have teenage kids! I think several more slightly older actors in the role of the parents would have given the TV show a bit more gravitas.
Secondly, it's a bit of a shame that the ABC's already-stretched budget has been expended on a story that was filmed for the big screen only six years ago. Could they not have built on the movie and started the TV series with the second book in the franchise? I suppose this may have led to some logistical problems in terms of continuity and which actors to use, and a host of other practical issues, but the whole "Tomorrow" series of books is so good, in my opinion, that I would really love to see movie and/or TV producers film more of them. I suppose one advantage of doing it this way is that six hours is spent on the first book, rather than a feature film's just two. Time for more depth, more detail, more nuance, more character development, more plot lines.
Oh well, as a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Ellie Linton (John Marsden's heroine in the series) and her intrepid band of Aussie teenage guerrilla fighters, I can dare to hope that this new TV series of the "Tomorrow" story is so well received, that ABC TV will spend some money on making more series covering subsequent books in John Marsden's timely adventure story.
Check it out and see what you think. Perhaps go back and look at the original 2010 movie, too. Best of all, read the books that started it all!