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To Film or Not to Film, That Is the Question

book to movie

June 20, 2018

In 2003, an attempt was made to turn Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time into a movie. It was declared a disaster by critics. It would be nearly 15 years before Hollywood would try again. When a new cinematic adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time was first announced, many fans were skeptical. They honestly didn’t think that the book could ever be successfully translated to the big screen. And seeing as how the movie was considered to be a box office failure, fans may have been right.

So I was wondering if there are other books that wouldn’t work as movies. It is hard to tell. For many years, people thought that The Lord of the Rings would never be successfully adapted. However, once the technology was good enough to realistically create the special effects needed to tell the story, it turned out to be completely achievable. With the advent of CGI (computer-generated imagery), many books that were thought to be impossible to make into movies are now within reach. But are there some novels that still won’t work no matter how advanced the special effects are?

Occasionally, books have plots that are so complex that to try to translate them to a visual medium is immensely difficult. It just can’t be done without serious cuts to the source material (or a movie so long that no one could sit through it). I think that Dune is one of those properties. The narrative is so dense that even though there have been several attempts on both TV and film to make the story come to life, they have been considered failures by critics. Despite this, it has recently been announced that they are going to try again.

One adaptation that has never even been endeavored (and I hope won’t ever be!) is The Catcher in the Rye. The classic by J. D. Salinger is so iconic that no one has even attempted to make a film out of it. Now, this is partly because the late author and his estate have so far been adamant that no movie be greenlighted. However, if enough money changes hands, it could one day come to fruition. It is almost impossible to imagine a successful movie version of The Catcher in the Rye. Seriously, what actor could possibly pull off a convincing Holden Caulfield?

Nevertheless, just because many feel a story should be left on the page doesn’t mean that filmmakers won’t still try to bring it to the big screen. I was horrified when they made a movie out of one of my favorite books, Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. I knew that they would not be able to be faithful to the source material for the simple fact that the main character has a baby before the age of 12. That would just be too controversial for modern-day audiences. And I was right. Ayla was ultimately portrayed by a very adult Daryl Hannah, and the movie left all the nuance and beauty of the story on the cutting room floor.

Succeed or fail, Hollywood just keeps adapting. Every year, there are more and more movies based on popular books, and 2018 is no different. Recently, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One hit theaters, and this summer there are still more to come. Since they are not yet out, it is hard to tell which ones will succeed and which will fail. Below is a list of those that are going to try. What do you think the chances are that they will be good? Are any of these your favorite novels?

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Another young adult novel set in a dystopian future. Will it be able to do what the Divergent series couldn’t?

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: Can this funny book contend with the big budget blockbusters or will it be a dud?

Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström: Criminals in contemporary Sweden. What is this current fascination with murder in cold places?

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: A horror story set in 1947. Horror is popular right now…so maybe.

MEG by Steve Alten: Think Jaws, only bigger and more ancient.

Let’s hope these summer movies can do their books proud!

Pamela M.
Antioch Branch

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