I wanted to focus in on this claim that the Handmaid's tale movie 'blunts' the scariness of the book through three particular explorations: the protagonist's access to control and identity, the depiction of the handmaids' indoctrination, and the protagonist's relationship with Nick. (This is in equal parts a response to http://machines.pomona.edu/55-2008/node/92 and http://machines.pomona.edu/55-2008/node/91).
As recognized, the movie grants the protagonist major individuality when it reveals her name. This act of establishing identity continues throughout, though, often serving to blunt the scariness of the book. Simply through the visual nature of film the movie gives her a body type, a skin color, and an approximate age. Throughout her private meetings with the commander, this identity grows. In contrast to her belief that "Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently" (p. 153), she yells and chats loudly (~54:00) and appears very relaxed with the commander. As discussed in class, Atwood closely links clothing and identity â€“ Moira escapes by donning the Aunt's garments, the red habit and wings play a huge part in defining the handmaids. In the film, Kate takes every chance she can to discard these clothes, wistfully leaning topless out the window after the first ceremony and often stripping to only her white slip when she returns to her room. Such actions contrast sharply to the novel's commentary on identity: "My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born" (p. 66). The freedom to dress as she pleases when alone (including being naked, returning to the way she was born), in addition to the exercise of more explicit control (helping Moira escape, killing the commander, as explored in the other posts) undermines the feeling of hopelessness the novel cultivated so well.
I agree with dreamfall17 and wooohooo that the indoctrination scenes seem to give up their power somewhere, though I find the particulars difficult to pin down. I find the visuals of the Marthas with their high heels, conservative brown wool dresses (not very efficient for dealing with escaping prisonersâ€¦), megaphones, and small discipline sticks less than imposing. Most importantly, I feel that the film fails to demonstrate a "breaking" process in the handmaids. In a major way, this can't be helped, as the film must sacrifice the ability to get inside Offred/Kate's head and follow her increasingly compliant thoughts. But, forced outside the stream of consciousness, the movie speeds through the transition from women fighting back against the armed guards to agreeing passively with the Marthas. Finally, one of the main issues brought up by dreamfall17 makes a huge difference â€“ the movie's obsession with depicting the actual violence involved actually weakens the threat. A future dystopia built on violence and military force is much more easy to fight than one built on laziness and arrogance.
Earlier writers also introduced the final point, but I wanted to try and flesh it out a little more. How might the protagonist's relationship with Nick differ in a way that decreases the threat of the novel? First, Luke is dead, completely eliminated from the picture. The lack of guilt that Offred is going through, then, decreases the tension with Nick. The movie continues to simplify their relationship when Nick takes on a seducing role instead of seeking to remain uninvolved ("No romanceâ€¦ okay?"). Throughout the film, nobody explicitly mentions the existence of the "eyes." Without this worry that Nick might turn her in, his relationship becomes one of sexual satisfaction and salvation (sexually and from the entire system) without guilt or downside.