5 Forthcoming Book-to-Film Adaptations that Can Go Very Wrong

81GcOE3jVsL 1. “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt 

Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” is the number one international best-seller which won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. The story of a boy who lost his mother in a tragic event and who then clings to the only object that reminds him of her – the picture of a goldfinch is really the masterpiece (as was also called so by some critics), and Tartt was even compared to Dickens. The story is very emotionally-powerful and detailed, even though the second part is weaker than the first. What of the movie, then? The film is scheduled for 2019; will be directed by John Crowley (“Brooklyn” (2015)); and will star Ansel Elgort (“Baby Driver” (2017)) as the main character Theo. Why the film could prove to be a total disaster? There are many reasons. Though Elgort will probably look good as Theo, it will be next to impossible to capture the magic of the book. In the book, Theo battles internally with grief and trauma which are barely perceivable, and no film would really match the masterly of capturing the internal dilemmas of the main character in the book, not even considering all the philosophical references implicit in the book’s narrative structure. It does not also help that the book is around 860 pages long and spans many years. More so, the film could really tarnish the captivating narrative of the book for good. Why even try? 

3950402. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

After nineteen years of running after good marks and prizes and grants of one sort and another, I was letting up, slowing down, dropping clean out of the race” (Plath, “The Bell Jar”).

“The Bell Jar” is the only fully-fledged novel written by a poet and novelist Sylvia Plath who tragically took her own life at the age of 30 in 1963. It tells of Esther Greenwood, an academically bright girl who wins a month-long internship at a prestigious magazine publishing house in New York. Confused about her environment and the expectations, Esther finds it hard to adjust to her new life, and things get worse when she is forced to return back home to Boston. Kirsten Dunst is set to direct a movie based on the novel, with Dakota Fanning starring in the lead role. Dunst and Fanning (who was previously in a hard-to-stomach film “Brimstone” (2017)) seem the perfect director-lead actress coupling for such an emotionally difficult book. However, there may be many problems in successfully adapting the story (even though just that was also done in 1979). The novel feels very personal (it was considered to be a semi-autobiography), and many passages in the novel are simply the main heroine thinking, contemplating the meaninglessness of her short “high-life” period in New York, and sliding into depression in suburban Boston. This means that it will be difficult to convey the emotional undercurrents of the book and portray the heroine in a fair and just way to herself. 

3. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho  81l6zbSjSzL

This book is an international bestseller with millions of copies sold worldwide. This definite modern classic follows a young shepherd on his journey to realise his personal goal and find unheard-of treasure. It is only too clear why this book will be very difficult to translate to the screen, and any film adaptation could prove disastrous. The novel is allegorical, symbolic and full of messages on the importance of leading one’s life by following one’s heart and dreams. It feels personal and may have different things to say to different readers according to their interpretation of the narrative and messages, and even according to their current position in life. Translating these messages to a film content without losing their power is going to be very difficult, and, in fact, Coelho was initially reluctant to sell the rights so that somebody could make a movie. Nevertheless, TriStar has made a rights deal to make a film out of the novel, and now Laurence Fishburne, with PalmStar Media’s Kevin Frakes and TriStar’s head Hannah Minghella will be in charge to make the story a cinematic success (rumoured to be released late 2018).

4. “White Noise” by Don DeLillo  91vWoLBq6VL

What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation” (DeLillo, “The White Noise”).

Michael Almereyda (“Experimenter” (2015), “Marjorie Prime (2017)) is set to adapt to film “White Noise” by Don DeLillo, one of the better-known novels of the author. In this book, a professor of Hitler Studies has to confront his fear of death when the Airborne Toxic Event takes a hold of his life. The man is part of the American family which tries to grapple with uncertainly while also trying to understand the meaning of life/death. From philosophy to politics, it is hard to imagine how a narrative of that subtle nature may be translated to the screen (even though the book does have some very cinematic moments). The book is also satirical with a fine (sometimes macabre) wit implicit at its very core, which, arguably, can only be appreciated through the black letter of the prose. Moreover, another famous adaptation of a DeLillo’s novel was “Cosmopolis” (2012) by David Cronenberg, and it was a strange film to say the least, which did not quite meet the high expectations upon its release (neither of the audience nor of the critics).

9780553213539  5. “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells is a classic book, exploring many curious themes and being one of the most famous books in the science-fiction genre. It was adapted to the screen in 1933, and there have been recently rumours there is going to be a “reboot” of the Universal Monsters with Johnny Depp to star as the lead role in the new “The Invisible Man” movie, and with Ed Solomon (“Men in Black” (1997)) to write a script. Of course, as of this moment, there is no guarantee that the film with Johnny Depp will really see the light of day, but the idea should not sound so very exciting. Firstly, although the new image technology can really work wonders on screen when portraying an invisible man, such special effects will really “wow” few people nowadays, and the film could come off as tacky and thin in plot (if adapted faithfully from the book). Secondly, Johnny Depp’s late public persona image has not been ideal and, with all due respect, the man is no longer the man to play convincingly leading characters in such films. 

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19 thoughts on “5 Forthcoming Book-to-Film Adaptations that Can Go Very Wrong

    1. That is exactly another of my worries too. The only “monster revival” I am excited about in future is the Hunchback of Notre Dame – rumoured now only – I have always thought there needs to be a new live action adaptation of that book, especially with all these new visual advances available.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I wish they would, but a reworking of their child-friendly animation. I remember in 2013, I did that list of major classics I would love see on big screen and that movie was my number one: https://dbmoviesblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/10-classics-i-would-love-to-be-made-into-major-films/. They could do so much with it, and if they attempt, I hope they realise that Claude Frollo is not a real baddy, and started good, and will make of him a more thought-provoking character than something purely evil.

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    1. Exactly. It is like we don’t have fresh talent anymore, and Depp still dominates every other movie. Murder on the Orient Express and Fantastic Beasts II may be ok since he is secondary there, but casting him in the lead role is going too far.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I didn’t know about any of these upcoming projects, so thanks for this post!

    I like Donna Tartt’s writing, curious to see how The Goldfinch pans out. I’m surprised her 1992 bestseller The Secret History still hasn’t been adapted for the screen-though there is a similar movie River’s Edge (1986)

    I’ve read a few chapters of The Bell Jar, and I think, as you say, it’s a story of emotion and thinking, and difficult to adapt. Same with Catcher in the Rye, an inner journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am still to read Tartt’s The Secret History, but since I loved The Goldfinch, I guess I would love that book as well.
      And, yeah, I cannot imagine Catcher in the Rye being adapted too, since a lot is going on in the character’s mind. Despite all the toying by the industry with the idea for a big production, probably thankfully, nothing came out of it.

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  2. Sorry it took me,so long to comment! An interesting post, indeed.
    The imagination while reading can take those strange, abstract concepts and run with it subjectively. But try and put it in a film and frequently something is lost. U saw,the trailer for “A Wrinkle in Time” the classic from my youth. I didn’t recall anything up on the screen as familiar.

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  3. These are all great books! Geez I gotta finish The Goldfinch before the movie comes out. I never know how to feel about movie adaptations, so I usually just hope for the best hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hold “The Bell Jar” close to my heart too, and am also nervous what they would produce. Dunst should know something about the topic of the book since she has been through both “The Virgin Suicides” and “Melancholia”, and Fanning is a good lead, but I still think it would be impossible to translate some vital messages to the screen successfully. It is all so personal, thanks for the comment, btw!

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