Last of the Mohicans has been adapted to cinematic versions many times before, which speaks volumes about the enduring popularity of the book. There is something about the novel that continues to attract modern directors and thus we have so far been given four different cinematic versions of the book, the latest being a directorial piece of Michael Mann who has films like Miami Vice to his credit. This version appeared in 1992 and included some big names of Hollywood the most prominent being Daniel Day Lewis who played the role of Hawkeye in the movie.
If you have read the book, then it is extremely easy to detect the numerous differences that exist between the novel and its cinematic version. Inn fact these differences are so obvious and glaring that a reader, who had merely skimmed through the book could also see them clearly. However that doesn't make the movie any less interesting or engrossing than the book and the credit for that goes to the director who made some shrewd changes to the movie to make it more interesting for modern viewers.
The director made some crucial changes to the storyline, which more or less change the entire story while not altering the basic theme of the novel. Alleva (1992) highlights these differences in these words: "The screenplay, concocted by Mann and Christopher Crowe out of both the novel and the 1936 Randolph Scott movie, rearranges the book's love rivalries, relieves Natty Bumppo of his indifference to sex, disparages the British colonial policies with a vigor that Cooper never employed, kills off characters that the author spared, spares some that he dispatched, and, by necessity, speeds up and streamlines the plot. Yet this version captures an element of Cooper's vision that is indispensable to the special magic of the story."
The vision of cooper's remains intact and so does the main theme of the novel. But if we don't touch the similarities which are certainly numerous and therefore not worth mentioning, we end up with some crucial and critical differences that set the movie apart from the book and reveal the true cinematic genius of the director. The reason I believe Mann took the right step when he altered a few things is because modern viewers can relate more to the movie version of some characters and the storyline than they can to the 1757 version of the same. For example, lets discuss the leading character in the novel and see how the same character is depicted in the film.
Hawkeye is shown as the real Mohicans hero with little or no emotions in the book. Cooper's hero is a man who doesn't necessarily need love to survive and neither is he seriously in love with any woman. Though he likes Alice, there is emotional detachment apparent from his attitude towards the woman and whole idea of love. He is more interested in being a rough and tough hero who can hit a target from any distance without any trouble at all. He can also fight evil Indians fearlessly and doesn't know a thing about cowardice.
Cooper's Hawkeye is a highly skillful man who is born and brought up in the woods and is quite familiar with the rules of the jungle. On the other hand, Mann's Hawkeye is a slightly different person. The director has tried his best to preserve some of the most essential characteristics of Hawkeye intact including his fearlessness and extreme courage. But some essential changes were introduced to make his character more humane.
Novak (1992) writes: "Mann omits most of Cooper's incidents designed to display Hawkeye's skill as a marksman and scout. This is not all bad, since many of those incidents were so preposterous that Mark Twain, especially annoyed at Hawkeye's ability to hear Indian enemies sneaking up on him in the woods, said in a critical essay that The Leatherstocking Tales should have been called The Broken Twig Series."
In the movie version of the book, Hawkeye is shown to be in love with Cora. Now here comes the most glaring difference. For one Hawkeye was never in love with Cora in the book, he liked her sister Alice. In the movie, however, not only is he in love with Cora, he also enjoys sexual contact with her. Not only is Hawkeye slightly more…