Slaughterhouse-Five - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Slaughterhouse-Five Reviews

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½ March 12, 2016
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Slaughterhouse-Five:
Comparison Between the Book and the Movie


Watching a movie adapted from a well-written book can make to be a very interesting experience. Being born in a world where excellently written books are adapted into mediocre films that cannot compare to the original material, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie stays faithful book in its plot and its conveying of the message. However, since movies tend to be 2 hours or shorter, they are usually compressed to meet this standard. As such, the book and the movie are different in some regards, even if it does stay true to the original.
Faithfully following the book, the book and the movie are similar in plot and the message they are both trying to convey. They both focus on the story of Billy Pilgrim, and his occasional jumps through time. Billy Pilgrim is captured by German forces during the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg in 1944. He is then transported to Dresden as a Prisoner of War (POW) to perform labor for the Germans. Both the movie and the book switch back and forth between Dresden and his post-war life, from his marriage, back to Tralfamadore, his death, Dresden, and back to his life after the war, leaving a jumbled mess of a story, as "there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre" (Vonnegut 10). The book and the film also touch up on the Tralfamadorian concept of the Illusion of Free Will. It is shown in both that the Tralfamadorians believe that time is happening all at once, at the same time. For example, I am writing this essay in this instance of time, and in a different instance in time, I am getting a High School Diploma. This is happening at the same time, and time is structured that I will always do those things at that time, "trapped in the amber of [that] moment..." (Vonnegut 76)
With a change of medium, a change of narrative point of view is also necessary for the film to transition nicely into something to watch. The first and last chapter of the book in which Kurt Vonnegut talks to the reader as himself is completely excluded. In addition to the need to compress, the first-person narrative of the first and last chapters of the book would have no place in a medium of a story mainly told through dialogue and visual action. Vonnegut does not mention anything about his old war buddy, Bernard O'Hare or their visit to Dresden after the city was rebuilt after the horrific fire-bombing. The saying "So it goes," is not present once inside the movie even though it is mentioned 106 times inside the book, emotionlessly dismissing death.
The ending for the both of them are also different. In the movie, the story ends with a generic cheering and fireworks show on Tralfamadore to celebrate Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack (a famous movie star with whom Billy Pilgrim mates with) having a baby boy. In the book however, the book switches back to Vonnegut as he describes what he and his other comrades did after the Bombing of Dresden. Birds were singing and one asked, "Poo-tee-weet," symbolizing the lack of anything intelligent about what had just happened.
Overall, both the film and the movie are well written works of art that everyone should have a chance to read and/or watch should they have the chance. I personally enjoy the book more than I did the movie, as the Vonnegut's blunt descriptions and deep symbolism intrigues me more than the movie, mainly due to the time constraints that restricted the movie from reaching the greatness of the original book.
Super Reviewer
November 27, 2012
An interesting sci-fi that sadly fails by only hinting at its philosophical ideas and not going deeper into them. The narrative is always fluid, with elegant scene transitions and visual rhymes, but also vague about whether it wants to be a satirical piece or not.
Robert B.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2015
Slaughterhouse Five is a decent enough movie, though that is mainly on the strength of the original story. There are some interesting transitions for the time jumps but overall the film's style feels dated (and certainly not eternal). The lead actor tries to convey the vibe of book and it comes off OK but the overpowering vibe is that of the 1970s. Still, it is a competent adaptation and fans of the book should give it a view, albeit with moderate expectations.
July 2, 2015
A bold, ambitious sci-fi drama that is a spectacle to behold as it unfolds before your eyes, Slaughterhouse-Five is an unsung gem of seventies science fiction and cinema in general. The acting is well done from the entire cast, and you feel like you know all of them by the end of the film. The music and the cinematography are just as beautiful as one is to expect from a film with these many interesting ideas running around. But what really makes the film is the complexity of the structure, and how the editing makes it seem so natural, telling the life of a man out of sync yet somehow always connecting the moments almost flawlessly. If you are looking for an unconventional sci-fi drama that also happens to be a legitimately great film, look no further.
½ April 6, 2015
It is said that "the book is always better than the movie." The movie, Slaughterhouse Five, directed by George Roy Hill, was made in 1972 based off the book "Slaughterhouse Five." The movie had a good way of showing the events that occurred within the book. If you haven't read the book I urge you to go out and buy it, borrow it or maybe steal it to read. Both the movie and the book is not about Billy's wife, Valencia, nor the famous movie star, Montana Wildhack; but about Billy himself and how he time travels through his childhood, marriages, and future. The movie and book also goes through flashbacks about war, death, and nervous breakdowns. It basically follows the adventures of Billy, who was an American POW during World War II that survived the bombing of Dresden. "Dresden will perhaps go down as the biggest case of aerial bombardment in history: some historians estimate that more people probably died in Dresden than when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima," said in a small movie review on the scifimoviepage website. The book and movie intertwine together the past and the future. Later on, Billy Pilgrim is trapped to the intergalactic world with a movie star by aliens called Tralfamadorian's. The aliens are unseen creatures who live in a fourth dimensional world and experience all the events simultaneously. When Billy questions why won't they let him leave the Tralfamadorians responded " that Earth is the only planet where the concept of free will exist," mentioned in The Film Yap article written by Christopher Lloyd. The film captured the essence of the book while straying from it.

The actors in this movie were very well played even without much experience done in previous years. Billy's actor was Michael Sacks, "who looks like a cartoon fall-guy copied in flesh" said by Vincent Canby in his movie review, reenacted the character very well. We see the difference in character from book to movie by viewing the actor, Michael Sack's, lack of expressions of his own outrage or inside thoughts. On the other hand, in the book, as readers, we can imagine and assume what Billy is possibly thinking. In the book Billy, had many dialogues and monologues where as in the movie that isn't presented as much. According to Vincent Canby, "The problem with the film, as it was with the novel, is that it's really not outraged or outrageous enough, much like its time-tripping gimmick." Nearly every time Billy falls asleep he begins to time hop through time. This may explain why Billy has been having bad dreams or in certain situations he would be wide awake and begins to have nervous breakdowns. Soon after his time travels he would come back to the present by being woken up by someone. Another thing that is hard to tell in the movie is when Billy is actually in the "present." The scenes in the movie about Billy were mixed up from being in the past to ending up somewhere else in a different year. Those time trips were also seen as visions.

What you see in the movie is pretty much what you read in the book with a few minor differences. an example in the beginning of the book is the prologue where Vonnegut meets an old war buddy and discusses about the book he wants to write later on named as "The Children's Crusade." Another missing part to the film was the characters Kilgore Trout and the author Kurt Vonnegut. And lastly another example in the book is when Edgar Derby is executed for stealing a teapot that he found in the firebomb ruins in Dresden; in the movie he is stealing a small figurine that reminds him of home. Other than those small indications, there are so many things missing in the movie that is from the book. The Tralfamadorian's respond to the "So it goes" saying to death and mortality various times and this small but influential part of the book isn't mentioned in film. Then we also see scenes in the movie that were never mentioned in the book. In the film, Derby mentions about the figurine to his wife in a letter which never happened in the book. Something else that doesn't happen in the book but was shown in the movie was when Billy helps his friends collect grandfather clocks and he hides under one of them when the Russians arrive.

The main issue I had with liking the film completely just as much as I read the book was one of the main missing key components. First, the movie only focuses on Billy Pilgrim's part of the story and does not address the idea of the book that he plans to write about. We also see that there is no mention of the author of the book, "Slaughterhouse Five," which is Kurt Vonnegut and his little inputs of experiences. This is what I missed most of all from the movie.Secondly, one thing in particular that I missed from the movie is the narrator's observational phrase of "so it goes." The small but simple phrase would have fit perfectly in between scenes but since the narrator was not part of the film at all there is no sense to why it should be included. A big scene that was not shown in the movie was when Billy Pilgrim is watching an old war movie and is watching it backwards. The is a visual that you grasp from the book of how the movie is playing backwards with the experience of bombs, smoke and flames that appear.

Aside from the book and film connections the little music that was included in the film was an elegant collection of piano pieces by Gleen Gould. The music fit in perfectly into scenes and matched to them. The music help compliment the movie and made it a success as well.


The scriptwriters way of ending the movie was not so bad at all, although it was different. According to a movie review done by Sam Sattler on a blog, "Slaughterhouse-Five, the movie, is another example of how, against all odds, the written word is indeed more powerful than cinematic images. This is true even for a relatively slim book like Slaughterhouse-Five. While I did enjoy both the book and the movie, I doubt I would have enjoyed the movie nearly as much without first having read the book; the opposite cannot be said." I do strongly agree with this movie review overall statement. I thought the movie reflected the book great and communicated the main parts of the story well, but we could not see the authors connection visually as we did with the book. If I were to overall rate this movie it would be a 7/10. The overall main message was communicated through film and wasn't a failure of turning a book to a film like many others I have seen. It is hard to incorporate the author, Kurt Vonnegut, into the film as a character that briefly comes and goes within scenes so as much as I would have liked to have seen him included in it I thought it was best the director didn't force it in awkwardly. Most people that saw the film only and never read the book enjoyed the movie and liked it a lot. I strongly suggest reading the book no matter what before or after the movie because nothing will compare to the original story,words, and the authors connections written in the book.
April 5, 2015
Slaughterhouse-five, a 1972 film directed by George Roy Hill (who also directed the Sundance Kid in 1969) is based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut. In my opinion, I think the film follows the novel well by how it is a first person narrative from the main character, Billy Pilgrim who is played by Michael Sacks. It shows how he time travels from past, present and future. While watching the film, we experience Billy getting unstuck in time and going through events in his life in a weird order. Some main events that Billy Pilgrim goes through are in his past is when he is in World War II as a soldier and experience time in a prison with Edgar Derby and Pail Lazzaro. In the present time, he is a middle age man married to his wife Valencia Merble Pilgrim and also a father to Barbara and Robert. In the future, he gets abducted by aliens and gets trapped in a planet called Tralfamadore with the Hollywood star Montana Wildhack.
Contrasting the film to the novel, I have to dislike that the film did not show any signs of Kurt Vonnegut present as the novel did. But George Roy Hill created visual scenes by using sound and color that the novel could not do. In addition, by reading the novel first, then watching the movie I realize that George Roy Hill cut out the first and last chapters of the novel out of the film. In the beginning it jumped to when Billy's daughter is banging on the front of his door. In the film there were no scenes of Kurt Vonnegut, which I really disliked.
I feel like for first time viewers of the movie that did not read the book, it might have been hard to follow. To understand the film, in my opinion, you have to follow very closely to every detail. Also, I feel like the director did a moderate job of developing the character throughout him time traveling. The acting was not bad, but I would not say that it was great either. But in all, George Roy Hill did a wonderful job with the film compared to the novel and kept the viewers interested in the story and the characters as well.
October 4, 2014
A decent war movie, although, as always, no where near as good as the novel. Sure, Billy's supposed to jump to different times/places, but it happens more effectively in the book. And I felt like ~90% of this film was sent during WWII, whereas only ~65% of the book was. No real humour showed through, but the horrors of war certainly did. Without Billy's internal narration, a lot is certainly lost in translation. Oh well - "And so it goes"!
½ March 23, 2014
a fun, campy, 70s take on time travel. Haven't read the original Kurt Vonnegut novel (gasp...sorry bookworms!) to tell if it lives up to the original source material but, definitely a fun Sunday couch-day flick.
February 4, 2014
How do you follow the massive hit of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid?
Well if your director George Roy Hill you go all tricky and adapt Kurt Vonneguts time jumping novel.
Having not read the book i was drawn to the interweaving plotlines and the jumping from one time to the next.
Pauline Kael often called Roy Hill a workmanlike director ,but i have to say there is nothing workmanlike going on here.

His visual eye is top grade as Michael Sacks gives and outstanding performance as Billy Pilgrim an everyman with a gift which delights and frustrates him in equal measure.
The film is also bolstered by fine perfomances from Ron Liebman as Pilgrim crazed enemy and Sharon Gans as Billys annoying wife.
The film is packed with memeorable moments from the horrible attack on Dresden to a very funny scene involving the destruction of a Cadillac.
so my fianl word would be although the jumpy narrative takes some getting used to,Roy Hill has created a cracking early 70s timepiece.
½ January 10, 2014
Aside from the odd moment throughout, only the last 15 minutes were worth anything. Perrine never looked so good -- nice.
December 12, 2013
It may be philosophically significant, but that doesn't make it engaging. Like the life it is trying to dissect, the movie is little more than a series of random moments.
October 16, 2013
This movie (and book) had a life-changing effect on my young and encouragable mind. It forever changed the way I think about life in general, as well as my view of the world and the people in it. Thank you Kurt Vonnegut!
½ September 23, 2013
Weird and a bit boring
August 23, 2013
Interesting adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel which perhaps suffers a little with pacing and tone, but this mirrors Billy Pilgrim's time jumps from 1970s to 1945 Dresden to the strange planet of Tralfamadore. At times moving, funny and preposterous, but always intriguing.
July 16, 2013
"Life is just a collection of moments all strung together in beautiful random order, and if we're going to survive it is up to us to concentrate on the good moments and ignore the bad."
-Billy Pilgrim (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

This is my favorite philosophy of life. Thank God for Tralfamadorians.
The book was so masterfully adapted in this film, I cried. It requires full attention because the movie itself pays the most attention to minute details. The transitions from one time-trip to the next was so perfect I felt like clapping my hands each time. And I did. And I always will. Too bad they left out my favorite character, Which is: Kilgore Trout. But I felt nothing of substance was lost. It still gets every message across perfectly and maybe even accessibly, I feel, to those who have not read the novel. Though I could be wrong.

In my minds eye, the goof Billy Pilgrim looked something about Ewen Bremner (Spud from Trainspotting) but I knew it was invalid because that guy was Scottish. Then comes Michael Sacks. The perfect American to play as Billy Pilgrim. Goofy and comical as a Kid-Billy, and respectable and commanding as an adult one. The man and the part met. Excellently well played!

I will always, love this film to death. So it goes.
Perfection
10/10
June 18, 2013
A very good sci-fi flick from the early 70s
May 2, 2013
Without using Vonnegut's signature phrase of the book "So it goes" even once, the film adaption successfully demonstrates all the helplessness, resignation and even hope summed up in those three words. It's divergent enough from the source material to still be interesting, but also faithful enough to deepen appreciation of the author's haunting message.
½ April 30, 2013
96%

If your mind can take it, make a day of it and watch with CATCH 22.
July 29, 2010
Based on a classic anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut, of which I am a huge fan, this movie actually does justice to a book I thought would struggle to make the page-screen transition.
The plot might be difficult to follow if you've not read the book, as it's a philosophical insight into timelines not existing in the linear, but all at once in non-sequential random order. Lost? Yes, I was when I first started reading the book.
Michael Sacks plays Billy Pilgrim, a WWII veteran who "timejumps" from his settled family life in suburbia, back to the World War II and his time spent interned in Dresden POW camp and into the distant future where he is on the planet Tralfamadore, confined to a zoo-like dome with an adult movie star as his love interest, observed by aliens who only exist in the 4th dimension.
The plot sounds twisted and convoluted to those who are unfamiliar with Vonnegut's prose, but the adaptation makes the movie quite easy to follow considering the non-sequential order.
Part sci-fi, part war but brilliant in its execution and craft, this is up there with Catch-22 as the all time anti-war movies. Recommended especially to those who've read the book.
March 17, 2010
Perhaps George Roy Hill could dream of adapting a Kurt Vonnegut novel to film, but to take Vonnegut out of it while doing so is guaranteeing failure.
When I see the movie, I remember this quote: "There are no characters in this story and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces.". Slaughterhouse Five is not the story of Billy Pilgrim and his struggle with being "unstuck in time", but rather, it is a former-soldier-now-writer's recollection of the war and his reaction to a world that's eating itself alive.
Without Vonnegut's guiding voice, the story and characters feel thin and purposeless, unsure of what tone to convey. The acting can generally be called bland or caricatured. Having said that, Hill's more sympathetic interpretation of Pilgrim's story contains enough wit and heart to remain watchable. It's a fine alternative to the somewhat cold approach to these sections in the novel. The scenes that show Dresden before and after its destruction are perhaps the most well-made in the film. Simple but effective images of lives lived and then decimated. Prague, standing in for this lost city, looks incredibly beautiful.
Other than that, this is a hollow shell of an adaptation, running through a set of pre-written scenes without much of a philosophy to support it. So it goes.
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