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Forthcoming movies

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At the last movie I saw in a theatre (one of this summer's part-three installments--maybe Spider-Man 3?), I saw a trailer for the Golden Compass movie.

As some of you may recall, I totally adored the book. (I was less and less impressed with the other two books, alas.) And I was deeply dubious about the movie. But wow, the trailer was spectacular. Airships, clockwork; excellent casting (in terms of actors looking like I want them to look); stunning visuals. I'm now really looking forward to the movie.

The trailer won me over in somewhat the same way the Narnia trailer did, although I think with the Narnia one I tried to continue to keep my expectations low because it seemed so unlikely that they would do a good job with it. But the fact that they did (in my judgment of it, anyway) may have given me unreasonable expectations for other adaptations.

I mentioned in my review of the Narnia movie that the books really connected with my sense of wonder as a kid; that lamppost in the snowy wasteland is pretty much the iconic image of fantasy in my head.

But the Narnia books were not my favorites. I think the series that defined fantasy for me, that occupied a central place in my heart, was Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, especially the book with that title. I may be exaggerating a little. But as I've noted elsewhere, I first read The Dark Is Rising at age ten and a half, and was sure that when I woke up on my eleventh birthday (even though it wasn’t midwinter’s day) I would be let in on the secrets of the Old Ones. My eleventh birthday was bitterly disappointing.

(And on a side note: when I read that book as a kid, and I think the rest of the series (except Over Sea, Under Stone, which barely counts as part of the series), the child characters seemed completely believable to me; for once, an adult author really got what kids were like. When I re-read the books in late college, the kids seemed to me to be much too adult, not behaving like kids at all. Which made me ruefully realize that I had forgotten what it was like to be a kid.)

A year and some ago, I wrote: "I wonder if The Dark Is Rising will be the next beloved series of children’s fantasy novels turned into films?"

And sure enough, it is.

Except.

The trailer gives me no confidence at all that the movie(s?) will contain any of the magic of the books. Even though the movie's being produced by Walden Media, the people who did the Narnia movie.

A Sci Fi Wire article about the movie quotes director David Cunningham as saying "As the director, [my challenge] is then to try to take all of that rich mythology, all of that rich ambiance and all of that, and try to do something in such a way that translates to film." Which I'm in favor of in theory. But in practice, I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to watch it.

Speaking of translating to film, apparently the Watchmen movie has finally gotten out of development hell; filming is scheduled to start in September. That Wikipedia article mentions that the previous version of the script attempted to update the setting and story to make it relevant to the modern world (which is what they appear to be trying to do with Dark Is Rising), but the final version of the script goes back to setting the story in an alternate 1985. Which I think is risky, but I applaud it. The cast are mostly unknown to me, but I'm tentatively optistimic.

Even though, as Alan Moore and others note in that article, the story is in some ways probably unfilmable. I do think that the best thing to do with a movie adaptation of a book is to translate to film rather than trying to be absolutely true to the original; but as with my favorite adaptations (The Princess Bride and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), I want the creators of the movie to bring in as much of the book as they can. Not a slavish word-for-word adaptation, but trying to be as true to the letter of the book as is reasonable, while adhering completely to the spirit of the book. Whereas the Dark Is Rising trailer looks to me more like "loosely inspired by."

And speaking of comics and comics-related works being adapted to film, I've been aware for a while that they're making a movie of Neil Gaiman's Stardust; now there's a trailer for that as well. Unfortunately, I still have yet to read the book--I somehow find the beginning nigh-impenetrable. I've lost count of how many times I've started to read it and had my attention just slide off it. But I guess I'd better try again immediately if I want to read it before seeing the movie.

Thanks to David VS for the info and links!

. . . Okay, one more indirectly genre-related movie while I'm here: there's now a trailer for The Jane Austen Book Club. Another case where it would be hard to be really true to the book; but it looks like it might be a fun movie if you don't care too much about strict fidelity to the book.

6 Comments

Wow, it's like conservation of movie quality. The Golden Compass looks incredible and The Dark Is Rising looks like...I don't even know. Something irrelevant and cheesy. Bad! Very bad!


My take on the Dark Is Rising trailer is that they've followed the SciFi Earthsea school of filmmaking: take the title, character names, and some themes from the original text and then blend with a quart of Generic Fantasy Mix. At least in this case they seem to have recognized that by giving the movie an alternate title: The Seeker.


Jed-

I'm starting to have more confidence in the Watchmen movie. Beyond Zak Snyder's treatment of 300, which showed he could dop stylized filming, this interview done at comic-con seems to suggest he's got a good grasp of the material: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/33491

Colin


I actually didn't enjoy the Golden Compass series (much to my surprise) but slogged dutifully through them nonetheless. I could imagine the movie doing well standing alone. I am a strong believer in the simplified Hollywood equation where the quality of a movie is in inverse relationship to the mediocrity of the original book. (This doesn't apply to independents, short stories, short films, etc...)

By the way, have you noticed how Heroes, on NBC, is mining Watchmen for its underlying plot arc? I love Watchmen and adored Heroes right up to the point they started appearing derivative. Still a lot of affection for it though; I'm looking forward to seeing the new season online, which is more than I can say for 99% of TV shows, which I usually wait cheerfully to see on DVD through Netflix.


Oh, great, Watchmen from the director who brought us 300. I guess we can only pray that Development Hell sucks it back in....


I'm not looking forward to this movie at all, and am actually encouraging people I know not to see it. Here's a list of the changes they've made.


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