Very few films are as good as the book, but that still doesn't excuse an absolute travesty of a book-to-film adaptation. The unfortunate thing is Twelve had such unbelievable on screen potential. Not only is the subject matter widely appealing -- pretty people doing bad things -- but it has a stellar cast to go with it. All director Joel Schumacher had to do was follow the story, trim a little fat and he would have ended up with a solid production. But he and screenwriter Jordan Melamed just went about it all wrong, making Twelve an extended episode of Gossip Girl rather than a dark and foreboding tale.
The film stars Chace Crawford as White Mike, a smart kid who resorts to a life of seclusion and drug dealing after losing his mother to cancer. His clients include just about anyone who hangs out at Chris' (Rory Culkin) house, where all the best parties are held. In fact, this weekend, the most popular girl at school, Sara Ludlow (Esti Ginzburg), wants to have her birthday party at Chris', and considering Chris and every other guy at school -- or in the entire city for that matter -- would do just about anything to be with Sara, he agrees to play host. The newest number to appear on White Mike's phone is that of Jessica (Emily Meade), a promising student who winds up getting hooked on the newest drug on the market, Twelve. White Mike doesn't deal Twelve, but she'll do just about anything for it, even if it means going to White Mike's supplier, Lionel (50 Cent).
There's so much more to it than that, but I implore you to get the information from Nick McDonell's book rather than the film, or at least read the book before seeing the movie. Twelve is by far one of the most compelling pieces I've ever read and it pains me to say that the film is just the opposite. I walked out of the theater so utterly disappointed I felt as though I could almost pull a Claude (Billy Magnussen). Okay, that's extreme, but I was pretty angry. Unlike Claude, I've opted to channel my anger into a Cinematical Seven, so enjoy and thank you for tolerating my need to vent.
Kiefer Sutherland Narration
Sutherland's got a pretty deep and gritty voice, but he really takes it to an extreme here. His voiceovers kick in right when the movie begins, don't stop until the closing credits and do absolutely nothing to enhance the film. Could Melamed just not figure out how to adapt a book to film? Did he think it was necessary to have someone practically read the story to moviegoers? That's what it feels like. It's one thing to have a narrator provide a little background information, but this one goes as far as to tell the audience how each character is feeling. It's demeaning, distracting and downright annoying.
Characterization of the Characters
Yes, even in McDonell's book all of the players are extreme. Sara really is the manipulative high school hotty, Lionel is a vicious drug dealer and Molly (Emma Roberts) is a super sweet girl, but can't Schumacher just let us figure that out for ourselves? There's no need to put Roberts in a yard littered with pink flowers and make her so damn naive. Perhaps the excessive emphasis on certain characteristics are necessary when it's up to the author of a book to get an entire readership to picture the same circumstance, but this is a movie; we can blatantly see who's who; no further explanation necessary.
The aforementioned issue is devastating when it comes to Claude. It's quite obvious from the start of the book that something's severely off with Claude, but throughout the entire thing you never get a sense of how off he is until the end. In the movie, it's entirely different. Claude is declared a violent wacko from the moment we meet him. He's an exercise nut with a weapon collection that punches walls. He does the same things in the novel, but Schumacher completely strips Claude of his more ominous persona, destroying the story's buildup, which completely relies on this character. Plus, I'm no gun nut, but that certainly isn't an Uzi Claude purchases in the movie, which again, completely ruins what I was picturing when it comes to the book's climax. (See more below.)
Casting Chase Crawford
In the book it says White Mike is thin, pale, has blond hair that's cropped tight around his head, wears jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and dark blue overcoat, but nowhere does it say White Mike is drop dead gorgeous. As hard as the makeup folks try, there is just no way to make Crawford look dirty or disheveled enough to pass as a drug dealer in turmoil. For anyone who's seen Crawford in Gossip Girl, it's nearly impossible to separate him from that character, particularly because he's playing a New York City rich kid in both (somewhat). Even beyond the looks, Crawford really plays the part the same way. Except for the fact that White Mike's a drug dealer, White Mike is Nate Archibald.
White Mike's Otherworldly Moments
Schumacher attempts to show the audience what White Mike's all about beyond dealing through flashback-esque scenes. It's basically Crawford on an all white set doing emotional things like looking over his mother's casket. It's not that they're poorly shot or are lacking value, it's just that they take away from the main scenario. We already know White Mike is hung up on his mother's passing, we don't need to wallow in it especially when Twelve has so many other elements that are in serious need of attention. It seems the main purpose of including these moments is so that White Mike can reach a certain reconciliation at the film's conclusion. It's sweet, but not only does it strip the film of the disturbing feeling the book's abrupt ending leaves you with, again, it just takes away from more important things. Plus, it does teeter on the line of self-indulgency on Schumacher's part.
Treatment of the Supporting Characters
White Mike, Claude, Jessica and Sara are guaranteed to be major factors in the film version of Twelve, but one of the books best assets is that you get to know a slew of other characters and they all come together in the end. It can take days or weeks to read a book, but a movie is just a two-hour experience. It's simply impossible to give adequate screen time to every character, but Schumacher and Melamed try and fail miserably. The whole Sara Ludlow love triangle with her boyfriend Sean (Ethan Peck) and Andrew (Maxx Brawer) is just pointless in the film. More time should have been devoted to developing Sara as a character rather than wasting it on her love interests. Perhaps if the filmmakers weren't scrambling to throw in every single element of the book, we at least would have ended up with a smaller handful of better developed characters.
This is the killer. For anyone who's read the book, the ending is all that matters. It's not that the entire thing isn't an enjoyable read, but you're really just working towards the climax. You spend the majority of the piece getting to know the players and preparing for the party and when the party finally arrives, you realize why the whole book up until that point is fairly tranquil, to make the grand finale phenomenally intense. McDonell's build up is perfect whereas Melamed's is sadly far from it. Even with all the mistakes Schumacher makes along the way, I hoped that the party scene would just blow me out of the water and I'd forget about all of those bumps in the road along the way, but no. In fact, it only made me even more disappointed in this adaptation.
The party scene is just flat out weak. First off, as I mentioned before, Claude is Uzi-less and, as sick as it sounds, him shooting up the scene with an average handgun is just far less outrageous. To top it all off, unlike the book, we get a somewhat happy ending to the story and the wrong people survive. How can Molly not die? White Mike has already lost his mother and now he loses the only other woman in his life, which makes the moment overwhelmingly powerful. Having a post-massacre scene with White Mike and Molly in the hospital? Not worth it. And the way Claude stomps around the house annihilating everyone in his path is so much more hate-infused in the book. In the film, it's almost as if he's just got nothing to do, so decides to fill his time by taking out a few teens. It completely changes and ruins the atmosphere.