Tag Archives: adaptation

Adaptations I Would Love to See

18 Aug

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.

As much as I love the original Total Recall, not sure that eye-popping Arnie would be suitable either.


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:


Road Rash

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.


Second Sight

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.

In Defence of Remakes, Reboots, Prequels and Adaptations

6 Apr

Probably not the best way to start this, but I just saw The Thing. The 2011 one. And it…erm…wasn’t very good. Supposedly a prequel, it followed the story of the original to the letter, had renamed versions of the same characters in it, and had nearly shot-to-shot scenes from the original (want a tense scene where they check who and who isn’t the Thing? And then it goes wrong? You got it!). It was worse in every single way. It was tame, the characters were stupid, the special effects were generic, and it wasn’t scary.

However, all is not lost when it comes to prequels, sequels, and reboots. They’re often seen as a lost cause from the off, and I’m just as guilty as everyone else in this.

But, in themselves, these films aren’t evil. Look at how many brilliant films are adaptations: The Godfather trilogy, Schindler’s List, Blade Runner, The Shining, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Dr Strangelove, and every goddamn Disney animation that was made for decades. Lots of cult and classic movies are too: The Running Man, Rambo, Death Wish and Total Recall for instance.

Quaid's reaction to the news he is being played by Colin Farrell

Some of the best films ever made have also been remakes of previous movies, such as The Magnificent Seven or Cape Fear. The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Fly – what I like to call the ‘Triforce of Body Horror’ – are all remakes of 1950s films based on even older fiction. Going briefly over to television, The American Office is vastly superior to the British original.

What I am trying to say is this: remakes and adaptations are not a new thing and sometimes they can be absolutely brilliant.

The Descendants and Drive were two of my favourite films of 2011. The Dark Knight is one of my favourite films of all time and it’s a sequel to an adaptation of a comic book and also a reboot of two previous versions of the franchise. The Departed, in 2006, was a remake of the Hong Kong movie Internal Affairs. The Social Network was based on real-life events and on a non-fiction book. Never Let Me Go was adapted from an equally-brilliant novel in 2010. Children of Men. The Girl with the Dragon tattoo. 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit were both remakes. 21 Jump Street, loosely based on a 1980s TV show, is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years.

Seriously, see this movie.

This summer, the most-hyped films are The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Prometheus, and Amazing Spider-Man. I think at least two of them are going to be genuinely fantastic movies, I’m sure they will all be entertaining, and not one of them is a new intellectual property.

That’s not to say, though, that is isn’t worrying that there are few original ideas. When I saw the trailer to Total Recall 2012 I groaned. When I heard about the remake of Robocop I wanted to cry. When Michael Bay told us about Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles I wanted to gouge out my eyes.

Speaking of franchises that are totally original: a comic, then toy and cartoon line, then live-action movie series

But this isn’t because they are remakes. It’s because there is something wrong with film at the moment. With the way they are produced and directed. The Nightmare on Elm Street, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and Alfie weren’t bad films because they were remakes and adaptations: they were bad because they were awful films. House of Wax, Rollerball (oh dear god Rollerball), Planet of the Apes, and The Day the Earth Stood Still weren’t bad films because they were remakes: they were bad because the scripts were bad, the direction was bad, or the performances were bad.

The Wicker Man would not have been better if it was called Snuggleberries

There is something wrong with films at the moment. And that thing is safety. Remakes aren’t a new thing, and remakes weren’t always good (go and watch the 70s King Kong, I dare you). But at the moment films are made with safety and security in mind. So many films look like they have been directed by the same person. It’s the same in independent film – how many versions of Garden State have you seen under different names? People are choosing ideas that are likely to make them money. And who can blame them? If they make a box office bomb, their career is on the line. In the recession, there is less money for new intellectual properties. There is so much more of a risk involved, and these people need to eat.

So you want to know how to stop this rot? How to stop studios making the same film over and over again? Go and see films that look interesting, that look innovative, or that look just plain damn awesome. Scott Pilgrim was a bomb at the box office because people didn’t go to see it. It was also rather darn good. It was also also an adaptation.

It doesn’t matter if a film is a remake, an adaptation, a reboot of a series, a prequel, a sequel, or a spin-off. If it looks good, if it looks like it does something that interests you, or that it does something new, go and see it. That way, directors will be more likely to make risks. To make films that matter. To make remakes that surpass the original versions based on the sheer quality of the final product.