Remake Wars #1: Lolita (1962) VS Lolita (1997)

For my first Remake Wars segment I thought I would choose films that are already controversial. Even though both are based on the steamy Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name, the two Lolita films tackle the subject in a very different way.

Novel to Movie/Writing

When making a film about pedophile and a nymphet you are going to offend someone. The key is to not offend the whole audience and both films accomplish this very well considering the source material. The two films change the age of the girl from 12 to 14.  Kubrick changed the age to get it passed the strict censorship of the MPPDA, Adrian Lyne changed it in hopes of getting a major theatrical release (he didn’t). The films differ on the novel adaption when it comes to genre. Kubrick’s film cuts out a fair amount of the back story to turn the movie into dark comedy, where as Lyne’s  film stays true to the story, making the movie much more dramatic.

In the end the inclusion of the back story is something I really enjoyed. It really expanded the character of Humbert, making the film much more human. However, the back story was not capitalized on as the film replaces much of the cruelty in the novel with sappy romance. Kubrick’s film was adapted by Vladimir Nabokov himself and it shows as the dark humor from the novel and cold soul of Lolita really shine.

Winner: Lolita (1962)

Directing/Aesthetics

Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors to ever live, Adrian Lyne is not. Kubrick realized that the story was too dark to be taken seriously. He thus crafted it into a witty, relentless satire on a confused man and a heartless little girl. Kubrick’s shot composition and Oswald Morris‘ cinematography combine to make a beautiful film.  Lyne’s directing on the other hand is inconstant. Over stylized shots to display the youthfulness of Lolita, paranoia of Humbert, and mysteriousness of Quilty are distracting and don’t fit in with the flow of the film. Not to mention that Kubrick’s iconic image of Lolita lounging on the lawn peering over her stylish glasses is replaced with Lyne’s seemingly shameless image of Lolita being ejaculated onto by a sprinkler (see images here, and in trailers below). These moments unfortunately overshadow an otherwise well made movie.

This wasn’t much of a contest as all. Kubrick’s amazing satire shines and fully illustrates the absurdity of the story.

Winner: Lolita (1962)

Acting

Both films have brilliant acting. In Kubrick’s film James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, and Peter Sellers all shine and help carry the film through any slow points. Lyne’s film has some great acting as well. Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain have great chemistry as the forbidden couple. Melanie Griffith‘s awful performance however, ruins every second of the film she’s in.

Winner: Lolita (1962)

Final Verdict

The results look pretty one-sided, not to say that Lolita (1997) is bad. It’s a very interesting take on the story and could be great if it was better executed. Its extreme shots show its lack of commitment to the drama genre and are what ultimately bring down this film. Lolita (1962) is a truly beautiful and original film. It is clearly the better of the two films.

Winner: Kubrick’s Lolita (1962)

Loser: Lyne’s Lolita (1997)

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Categories: Features

10 Comments on “Remake Wars #1: Lolita (1962) VS Lolita (1997)”

  1. June 28, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    Hey this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs
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  2. Darius
    October 31, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    WINNER: 1997

  3. Leo
    March 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    You’re a poser man, you said that the versión of Kubrick is better because is a Kubrick movie. The 1997 versión is better than the Kubrick version, which was mutilated and self censored by Nabokov Himself. The 1997 Lolita is more erotic and true to the novel of Nabokov than the Kubrick version. You may prefer the Kubrick version and that’s fine, but movies don’t start with Kubrick and certainly they didn’t die with him.

  4. Rosa
    June 2, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    So let me get this straight..your choosing the 1962 version because of Kubrick?
    You got to go more than that otherwise your not a very good critic.
    I just saw the 1997 version and its already my favorite. I saw the 1962 version and I liked it but I felt like some of the characters weren’t exactly “playing” the characters with a whole heart like in the 1997 version.
    You can’t be just biased . You got to look at all angles. I prefer the 1997 version because its more true, great actors, great acting, very dramatic and it’s just well..beautiful in a way. Really captures you.
    My opinion? Winner: 1997

  5. Giulia
    July 14, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I read the book, watched Kubrick’s version and then Lyne’s version; obviously I’m not an art critique but in my opinion your judges are a bit – euphemism – influenced by Kubrick’s figure and fame: what Kubrick does to the novel can be considered a rape in some ways (the addition of many scenes that aren’t in the book), while in Lyne’s version even the minutest detail is represented and emphasised as well as in the novel, what I didn’t liked of this newer version is the emphasis on the “slutty aspects” of Lolita, who – in the novel – has much more mystic and mythic features. I’m not discussing the greatness of Kubrick, but you should’ve give much more value to the adherence of Lyne’s version.

    sorry for the eventual grammatical/orthographical mistakes.

  6. July 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    The fact that the great Kubrick has directed 1962 film doesn’t make it instantly better, you have to feel it running through you veins, remember it and feel trapped by it (Like you feel about the book, at least in my case). Although 1962s is a really good movie even rated as better it doesn’t get into your head and thoughts, even emotions, as Lyne’s one. It’s a matter of “likes” I guess…But, I really think that 1997s version is way better, more Lolita itself.

  7. AVRIL jones
    September 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    you said it yourself, kubrick felt the subject was too dark so he sort of mocked it…and thus didn´t stay true to the real drama of the story…in that regard, the 1997 vision is more true to the book. And wasn´t that the point?

  8. Dolores Haze
    December 26, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    oh you little shit, original always be better eh? oh please, i like the 1997 ver :p
    don’t get me wrong but the 1962 ver is kinda ok to me, i don’t get it, why the ratings for that movie is 18+ back in the 1962 -_- that movie is so pg to me :p

  9. April 29, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    I am actually thankful to the owner of this web page who has shared this wonderful post at at this time.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Remake Wars: The Blob (1958) vs. The Blob (1988) | Filmbalaya.com - March 30, 2014

    […] by fellow Filmbalaya writer Nick Petrick’s battle between two versions of Lolita, I’ve decided to do a Remake War of my own, and it’s one that sci-fi and horror fans […]

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