‘Odd Thomas’ (2013) is an adaptation of the first novel in a series from Dean Koontz. For those unfamiliar with the film or the source material, the character’s name is actually Odd; it’s explained briefly in the novel and in the movie that it is his legal name, with one parent telling him that it was a mistake on his birth certificate, while the other tells him that it was intentional. This particular story (and the stories that follow in novel form) are all told with a quirk and from Odd’s perspective.
The film centers on Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin), a small-town fry cook with a paranormal gift that allows him to see ghosts, and as he proudly states: “and by god, I do something about it”. The story begins with Odd seeing the ghost of a young girl who was murdered, and then he takes action and confronts her murderer, chasing him down and apprehending him. Here it’s established that Odd has a special relationship with local police chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe), who is well aware of Odd’s gifts and covers for him on the law side. Later at night, Odd has a dream involving a crowd of faceless people wearing bowling uniforms fleeing, and crying for help while gun shots go off. This dream kicks off a mystery as the following day he learns that a co-worker had a similar dream in which she saw herself face-on as she dies, and a large group of Bodachs – an other-worldly species that emerges only when major tragedies happen, feeding on and relishing in bloodshed – makes their presence through-out the town of Pico Mundo. With the assistance of Chief Porter, and his girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn (Addison Timlin), Odd races against time to solve the mystery and stop the pending tragedy that will befall his home-town.
It’s not very often that a feature film adaptation of a novel is as faithful to the source, in terms of story and tone, as this one is. Considering the length and amount of material in the novel in comparison to the run-time of a genre film, it is understandable that not everything makes the cut. One character who is frequent through-out the novels is reduced to a cameo, while others are cut out completely, and some of the situations that Odd encounters are condensed or glossed over – but these minor changes and liberties taken for the script have no major effect on the over-all story, as everything plays out as accurately as possible. This movie captures the novel perfectly, and as a fan, I appreciate Stephen Sommers’ respectful approach to the material.
Anton Yelchin was a terrific actor, and in my opinion is the perfect person for the role. To me, he IS Odd Thomas. In fact, I think his casting was so inspiring that I will always envision him anytime I read the novels or listen to the audio-books, and its such a shame that we’ll never get to see him expand on this role for any adaptation of the sequels.
Of course, while not as tragic as the untimely death of Yelchin, it’s also unfortunate that we’ll never get to see the complete story on film. This film was shot in 2011, but due to a lack of marketing and a lawsuit in regards to the lack of marketing, this movie never got its due and instead had been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years before getting a very limited release, and it never got a chance to find its audience. Upon its eventual small-scale release, it was also met with some negative critical reviews, which doesn’t help. I can’t comment on how this movie holds up to people who haven’t read the novels, as I’ve read and was a fan of the first two by the time I got to see this movie. I suppose my enjoyment of this movie stems from my love of Dean Koontz’s book series, and less about the merits of the film itself. I’d like to think that I’m objective and that the movie holds up just fine as is, but I won’t deny the possibility of bias.
Stephen Sommers is a writer/director that’s a hit or miss for me. I love ‘Deep Rising’ (1998) and ‘The Mummy’ (1999), but ‘The Mummy Returns’ (2001), ‘Van Helsing’ (2004) and ‘G.I. Joe’ (2009) are a little “Meh” to me. I do think this movie is in the category of one of his better films, and captures the fun spirit of the book.
The score from composer John Swihart is solid in some sequences and captures the quirkiness of the character. It’s nothing memorable, but works fine.
Overall, while some of the acting and dialogue is a little cringe-worthy, this is a fun movie and a very faithful adaptation of the novel. If you’ve seen and liked the movie but haven’t read the novels, I recommend that you seek them out.