Adaptation

I love movies. Old movies, in particular. I, along with the civilized world* think adaptations of books are, generally speaking, a terrible idea. There are, of course, notable exceptions, but, by and large, they suck. Even when they weren’t terrible, they fail to capture the essence of the book or piss off the author (see: Poppins, Mary).

Lately, I (along with every person on the planet**) have fallen in love with comic book movies. Oh, sure a few came along previously now and then, but the less said about Dick Tracy and Daredevil, the better. I attribute their recent success largely to the subject matter- A comic book does not contain nearly as much information as a book, and certainly even the most complex has far less ‘beats’ to it than the average novel. The pacing lends itself much better to a two-hour adaption than, say, The Hobbit (rot in the fires of hell for all eternity, Peter Jackson). So you end up with a much more entertaining product that adapts the subject matter more effectively.

Which, in a somewhat convoluted fashion, lead me to wonder why more movies aren’t based on short stories? It’s not like there is a lack of short fiction out there (and lord knows the film rights would probably be cheaper). But check out this list of feature films adapted from short stories. It’s… underwhelming. 3:10 to Yuma, Coraline, Enemy Mine, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Shawshank Redemption… Very little jumps out. Oh, god, Paycheck. How is Ben Affleck so terrible? But I digress. There is not a lot out there.

Short fiction should meet the criteria- generally, a story 5,000-10,000 words in length would translate very well to two or so hours. In fact, better, because it would often allow filmmakers to take liberties that they can’t visually with comic books, or will face backlash for in the detailed world of novels. So why isn’t there more?

I, unfortunately, don’t have a good answer. But if any Hollywood people think it’s a good idea, I know a guy***.

 

*I do not mean America. I mean people who hate movies adaptions of books.

**I do mean every person on the planet.

***Not why I wrote this post, but hey, why not.

The Five Best Film Adaptions

With the release of The Great Gatsby, which looks terrible, and all the hullabaloo around Ender’s Game, I got to thinking about what good film adaptions there are. Here’s my list:

  • Casino Royale (2006). I hate the old James Bond movies. Too funny to be taken seriously, to serious to laugh at and never really good enough to forgive the torrid middle ground. With the rights to Casino Royale opening up, Bond was finally done right. The plot is well executed, and the performances are fantastic.
  • via Think Geek

    via Think Geek

    Murder on the Orient Express (1974). For as much as I love a good detective story, I am not the worlds largest Agatha Christie fan. But, boy oh boy, put Lauren Bacall AND Ingrid Bergman, my only two celebrity crushes EVER and I don’t care how old they are in this, in the same film, base it on the Lindbergh kidnapping and I’m all in. Masterful performances and twists as dark as Hitchock make for one of my favorite films of all time.

  • The Maltese Falcon. While we’re on the subject of women Bogart and I both love, let’s talk Bogie himself. In truth, the inclusion of the Maltese Falcon feels like cheating (I defy you to find me one person who read Hammett’s novel before seeing the movie. I further defy you to find me ten who have read it at all). That doesn’t mean it’s not based on the book, and we can call it a fair adaption if it far eclipses the book itself, yes?
  • Out of Africa. This is included for several reasons, not the least of which is that this movie contains some of the all-time great pieces of dialogue. In case it’s not obvious, Denys Finch Hatton is one of my greatest heroes, although we differ in two ways. Redford’s performance is outstanding, as is Streep, with Pollack directing. This film, more than any other on the list, captures the emotion, feeling and story of the book- which was all true. A rare feat.
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Perhaps the best thing about this was that it didn’t try to hard. It borrowed from other books in the series (The Far Side of the World being the seventh) for some fantastic moments while avoiding pulling in too much made it very watchable and concise, and I want more dammit. The natural chemistry of Lucky Jack (Crow) and the doctor (Bettany), so central to the novels, comes across brilliantly. The battle scenes are practically unequaled, with splendid attention to detail. If they ever give this movie the 3D treatment, you will feel like you’re drowning during that one scene.

Those are my five; what would you include?

DESR

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