What are some (possibly) great upcoming book-based movies? I ask myself this at least a couple times a year. This is one of those times, given that the best non-action-with-amazing-special-effects movies are released in the last part of the year to catch a glimmer of Oscar fever.
Book-based movies to me imply quality plots with intriguing, provocative stories and great characters – even characters that develop. Car chases, explosions and 3D effects are somehow of lesser importance. But the reality remains: some movies made from books are just not as good as the books that inspired them. Successful adaptations are possible, but not a guarantee. (Two recent films that survived translation were the films made from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo [both versions!] and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner).
Why so difficult? Because the mediums are so different. Movies are a more linear form, and can only ‘show’ maybe 100 pages of a book in a comfortable period of time. Books can play on our imagination at different levels that movies can’t seem to reach. For instance, it’s not easy to put the complex interior thoughts of characters on screen, nor the narrator’s guiding voice. I’ve heard that in the upcoming adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina whole sets of characters have been excised to make the film manageable. (Given Tolstoy’s sprawling prose, this was probably a very good idea.)
Although great books are hard to translate to screen, I am glad filmmakers make the attempt. Often they show great creativity as brand new works of art come into being before our eyes. Maybe we need to see movie adaptations as entirely different animals, and not compare them so much to their book counterparts? (An almost impossible thing to do if you’ve read the book before the movie!)
Here are just a few upcoming movies based on books you can borrow in the library:
‘Les Miserables‘ – Apparently this is the first musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic tale. Why it could be good? A formidable cast for starters: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. A vivid story of crime and punishment in which ex-convict Jean Valjean searches for redemption in revolutionary France.
‘Life of Pi‘ (original book here) – A fantastic tale of a Indian zookeeper’s son lost at sea with only a wild tiger to keep him company. Based on Canadian Yann Martel’s bestseller. Trivia: Martel had a hard time selling his manuscript. Many have wondered if this book could ever be put to film, but apparently even Martel likes what director Ang Lee has done!
‘Rise of the Guardians‘ is a popular inventive children’s book series by William Joyce. Classic characters like the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost come to life to challenge the villain, ‘Pitch the Boogieman’ voiced by Jude Law. Has potential for a fun kids’ movie.
‘Midnight’s Children‘ is based on the 80’s book by Salman Rushdie. “A pair of children, born within moments of India gaining independence from Britain, grow up in the country that is nothing like their parents’ generation.” Intriguing.
‘Jack Reacher‘ – A movie made for Tom Cruise’s talents based on the works of British author Lee Child. “A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.” This wouldn’t be another movie about vigilante justice, would it?
‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ — starring and directed by Ben Stiller, based on the James Thurber short story. A timid man who lives life vicariously through heroic daydreams embarks on a true-life adventure when a negative goes missing. Coming later in 2013.
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘
I almost don’t need to give a reminder about this one. The first of three movies by Peter Jackson to be released over the next 18 months. “A curious Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group fo Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.”
What do you like best? Reading the book before seeing the movie, or the other way around?