Quite possibly the most hotly debated genre in geek culture, the book to movie adaptation is not going anywhere soon.
From The Wizard of Oz to Lord of the Rings, movies adapted from books have long been a Hollywood staple, and the upcoming movie season proves no exception.
The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkein
The Book: A whimsical romp through Middle Earth, The Hobbit is J.R.R Tolkien’s most readable work. While not as layered as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit follows a band of mostly memorable characters on their mission to steal back a cave of treasures from a mighty and rather intelligent dragon, Smaug. Led by the wizard Gandalf, the band of dwarves and our hero, Bilbo Baggins – an unwittingly adventurous hobbit – face beasts and battle, inadvertently obtain a very precious ring, and…spoilers…desolate a dragon.
The Movie: While no where close to the epic depth and spirit the Lord of the Rings trilogy had, Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle Earth by adding bits from the Silmarilion (Tolkien’s tome of Middle Earth history) and bits of Hollywood style story telling, The Hobbit movie doesn’t exactly stick to the book it is adapted from. The addition of characters and romance, not to mention the overuse of CGI, turns what might have been a harrowing adventure into more of a popcorn flick. Still good fun, and of course, DRAGONS! Some of the cast of Lord of the Rings, Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom among them, do tie the films together, though this set of movies was approached very differently, a fact that is obvious in the delivery. What the movie lacks in chemistry it makes up for in sweeping views and a dragon. The final installment, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, hits theaters this December.
Mockingjay, The Hunger Games trilogy — Suzanne Collins
The Book: Mockingjay is the heart-wrenching finale to the Hunger Games dystopic saga written by Suzanne Collins. The book details the final stage in Katniss Everdeen’s adventure, one she likely would have chosen to avoid. While touted as a YA sci-fi book, Collins touches on deep social issues while avoiding the stereotypical heroine in love plot device. Yes, there is romance, but the main theme is revolution. Better written than one would expect from the YA press machine, it is more in line with the sort of social commentary found in the likes of 1984 or A Handmaid’s Tale.
The Movie: First advertised as a sort of a sci-fi Twilight, the powerhouse that is Jennifer Lawrence leads a cast of amazing talents, including Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci, Mockinjay may well prove to be worthy of higher praise. While the first film cut swaths through the original story and had a tint of teen drama about it, the sequel, Catching Fire, had a bit more meat to it. Taking more from the tone of the book, Catching Fire captured more of the darkness the book details, and seems to be steering the story in a much more adult direction. While the final book has been split into two movies, the promise of Catching Fire could mean very good things, including more of the book being covered with two full movies to do it in. With the final book being full of (Spoilers Alert…) lots of death, more so even than the first two, and a strong focus on the revolution, fans are hopeful. The loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays a pivotal role in the second film, was a tragic blow but will reportedly not affect the release of the film, set to hit theaters this November.
IT By Stephen King
The Book: Not your typical horror fare, Stephen King’s IT chronicles the adventure of seven children as they battle not only the trials of adolescence, but also true terrors no grown up could ever understand. When the seven discover the truth behind a series of missing children in their sleepy town of Derry, the group leader Bill Denbrough’s little brother among them, they must face the evil head-on, trading their innocence for peace. Sadly, evil is not so easily defeated, and as adults the former friends – lovingly known as the “The Losers Club” – must face the repressed memories of their childhood battle, and defeat evil for good this time.
The Movie: The massive book was adapted into a TV mini-series in 1990 that starred, among others, the late John Ritter. While the truly evil Pennywise the Clown was played to perfection by Tim Curry, the mini-series seemed to white wash the real darkness of the book, removing several gory scenes and one particularly uncomfortable sex scene, leaving plot holes and a somewhat sterile feeling to the story. While many still had to sleep with the lights on (or avoid showers), the adaptation pales in comparison to the book. In 2011, it was announced that a newer version was in the works, and at one time Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) was linked to the project. Recent buzz on the project has Cary Fukanaga taking over. Fans of the HBO show True Detective can expect the same greatness with the new IT project, seeing his skill with handling the darkest underbelly of the human race. Turning the story into a two part film will allow for more of the novel to remain intact, while putting back in some of the themes that were simply too intense for network television.
The 2013 release of the revamped Carrie, the announcement of a director for the remake of The Stand, the continued promise of a Dark Tower movie in the works, and the buzz about a possible Pet Cemetery reboot are putting Stephen King back on the scene in a big way. His horror themes have been historically difficult for filmmakers to adequately capture, and as a result many of the films adapted from his books are simply not that good. Filmmakers have been turning toward a more straightforward, raw sort of story telling with blockbusters like Christopher Nolan’s recent Dark Knight trilogy. This is just the right tone for King’s brand of horror.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Book: The Fault in Our Stars is a YA dramedy that follows a group of young cancer patients. John Green’s main mission with this book was to show cancer patients as just people, and highlight a desire for normalcy. The book is pretty typical of the genre, with characters slightly too intelligent for their age, and with just the slightest dash of romance. The story follows Hazel and Augustus, two teen cancer survivors, as they seek some semblance of a normal adolescence.
The Movie: Due to hit theaters June 6, the film adaptation of the book looks to be about the same in presentation. With the exception of Willem Dafoe playing the only really interesting character, the movie seems to have its sights set directly at the under 25 audience. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller star as Hazel and Augustus, respectively.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Book: Another YA dystopian drama, the Divergent series has been compared to The Hunger Games, with society divided into personality types instead of societal purpose, though fans are split as to which series captures the genre best. In a futuristic Chicago, the population is divided into 5 factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful),Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the knowledgeable). When it is discovered the heroine, Beatrice Prior, has an aptitude for more than one faction making her a Divergent – a fact that she is warned would not be accepted by the rest of their society – she must choose where her loyalty lies.
The Movie: Riding high on the $900 million success that was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lionsgate will release the first in the Divergent series this month. The buzz alone has been credited with driving up Lionsgate stock, and the production company is hoping for the same kind of success The Hunger Games and Twilight have seen, tapping into the book series success and the horde of teenage girls already buying up the merchandise and blowing up social media.The movie will star Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars) and has all the makings of an angst filled sci-fi adventure. Lionsgate has already green-lit the remainder of the series to be likewise adapted for the screen on the mere promise of the project’s potential revenue, though whether or not the movie will stay true to the book remains to be seen.
While movie studios have been quick to take advantage of the recent resurgence of the book to movie adaptations, avid readers are more concerned with their books being in the right hands, with few writers having the chance to participate in the screenwriting process.The recent crop of adaptations are an even split of big budget driven movies and passion projects driven by a love of the work, or at the least an understanding of the book itself that are likely spawn limitless conversations in book clubs around the world.