Recently I’ve written about how difficult it is to make a good, faithful adaptation and about my personal feelings on a number of adaptations. Here’s the final part of my series – what would I love to see appear on the big screen.
A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula Le Guin
Maybe it’s nostalgia, but Ursula Le Guin’s original Earthsea trilogy is my favourite fantasy universe. The unique setting, original characters, and genuinely deep subtext set it apart from the other series I read at a younger age. Unfortunately, it’s yet to have a decent adaptation; both the Studio Ghibli and Sci Fi channel visions of the Earthsea universe have fallen short of Le Guin’s – and the fans’ – expectations. I would love to see A Wizard of Earthsea be given a big-budget adaptation that is truly respectful to the message of the novel.
The Straw Men – Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall is my favourite author. Consistently great, both his science fiction (written under the name Michael Marshall Smith) and his thrillers bring fresh new themes and ideas to their respective genres. Although his novels and short stories have been optioned, his work has yet to be brought to the big screen. Although I’d love to see Spares, Only Forward, or another of his more weird stories, I think The Straw Men has the widest appeal. A slick thriller with a compelling mystery and genuinely disturbing subject matter, it’s a fine example of storytelling and could become an excellent film in the right hands.
Various Philip K. Dick Short Stories
There have been many Philip K. Dick stories adapted into film, to various degrees of success. We’ve had Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau to name a few. However, there is massive untapped potential in his back catalogue, for directors and scriptwriters that know how to adapt it. Personally, I would love to see someone take a crack at the disturbing What the Dead Men Say and Faith of Our Fathers, or possibly even the introspective, reality-questioning The Electric Ant.
System Shock 2
Out of all the horror games I have played, System Shock 2 is the one that has made me scream like a little girl the most. Violent, disturbing, hard as nails, and with a compelling narrative and extremely uncomfortable atmosphere, it is one of the best examples of video game storytelling. All of this adds up as potential to make one hell of a movie. The plot is sound on its own – but would the isolation of the game transfer well into a movie structure?
At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft
This very nearly happened, with Guillermo Del Toro ready to direct. Unfortunately, because of studio concerns over rating – preferring to make it PG-13 rather than R-rated – it never happened. Since the release of Prometheus, Del Toro has said that his version is now extremely unlikely to happen, because of big similarities between Ridley Scott’s film and his proposed adaptation. A real shame, because it could have been incredible. Meanwhile, here’s a great short animation:
For the uninitiated, Road Rash is a 1991 motorcycle racing game, with the main gaming mechanic based around your ability to beat up other racers. Pretty cool, eh? But not exactly film-worthy, particularly when two films with similar stories – Torque and Biker Boyz – happened to be absolutely appalling. But imagine if the team behind Drive got their hands on this; a story of a young biker, lured into the dangerous mob world of illegal races on the freeways of California. As he gets further and further into the competition he loses more and more inhibitions over violence, eventually becoming a monster and losing all ties to the outside world. Think Citizen Kane or There Will Be Blood with Kawasakis.
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Flowers for Algernon would be a genuine challenge to bring to the big screen. It’s already been attempted before, in 1968’s Charly and in a 2000 TV movie, but because of the diary-based format and the intensely personal nature of the text, results have been mixed. But there is real potential for a wonderful film here – with the added bonus of a film bringing further readers to the original, which I count as my personal favourite novel. There were rumours back in 2009 about Will Smith taking on Flowers for Algernon, but it’s all gone quiet recently.
The Magus – John Fowles
Complex and psychological, The Magus may well be John Fowles’ magnum opus: a tale of subterfuge, trickery, and smoke and mirror tactics. It wouldn’t lend itself kindly to film, and its previous adaptation – from 1968 – was a massive critical failure, in spite of the screenplay being written by John Fowles himself. But somewhere in this brilliant novel there is definitely the potential for a great film; it is just a shame that Fowles will never see it come to fruition. Another of his novels, The Collector, could also make a fantastic feature film.
The final video game on my list, Second Sight is a hidden gem from the original Xbox era. Released in 2004, it told the story of a psychic who takes up in a strange medical facility. His only memory is of an undercover mission with the US Military in Siberia. As he escapes the facility, with the help of telekinetic powers, he starts to have flashbacks to the mission. He soon realises that his actions in these flashbacks have a very real and physical effect on the present day world. With a great plot, intriguing mystery and a genuinely cool plot twist, it’s now unlikely that Second Sight will ever get out of video game obscurity.
Eisenhorn – Dan Abnett
Finally, we have the world of Warhammer 40,000. There’s been a huge amount of literature based on the table-top game, including the Horus Heresy series which is amongst the most ambitious literary series of all time. Although we’ve had one 40k film, with a screenplay written by Dan Abnett and some tremendous names amongst the voice actors, it fell wide of the mark and was a straight-to-DVD release. Part of the problem with the 40k universe is the immense back story that needs to be taken into account. The best way to let people in gently would potentially be the character-based Eisenhorn trilogy – about an Inquisitor protecting the future of humanity. Vast, expansive sci-fi adventure novels, the Eisenhorn books can be enjoyed by those outside of the fandom and are a great entry point.
So, that’s the end of my brief series on adaptations. Up next, I’m moving onto a new regular segment: reviewing each and every video game in my collection, in chronological order.