Shakespeare once said that there’s nothing original under the sun, and it seems that 2012 is a year that’s filled with remakes, sequels and adaptations – particularly movies based on books.
There’s a pretty decent range, too; from absurd titles like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, to modern greats like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, to classics like Les Misérables and The Hobbit, both of which are slated for release later this year. We’re also waiting for the release of two films based on books considered to be the Great American Novel: F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Jack Kerouac’s beat novel On the Road, starring none other than Kristen ‘One Facial Expression’ Stewart.
On the the one hand, it can only be a good thing that a lot of these movies are being made now, when movie budgets can rival the GDP of a small African nation. It was hard, in the olden days, to convey the action in some of these books when your only source of money was what you could find behind the sofa cushions. Now that we have companies like Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, with more money and more resources, there’s very little we can’t do.
It becomes so much easier to portray the epic scale of the barricades in revolutionary France from Hugo’s classic, or the opulence of Jay Gatsby’s mansion, or the fantastical world that J.R.R Tolkein envisaged – everyone remembers the frankly dodgy animated version of The Hobbit back in 1977.
It also makes sense from a psychological point of view, too – this seems to be a year of escapism, with events like the Jubilee and the Olympics taking people’s minds off the fact that the economy’s pretty much gone to hell; it’s why films like Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight have been so phenomenally successful, and it’s only logical that filmmakers would look to literature to find great stories that can transport us somewhere completely new for a couple of hours.
And admittedly, there is something gratifying about watching your favourite scenes in literature unfold before your eyes. Even the harshest Tolkein-hater would have to admit that casting Ian McKellen in the role of Gandalf has to be one of the best decisions ever made, and the best actors can make words dance in a way they never could on the page. Kerouac fans will just have to try to look past Kristen Stewart: she may not completely ruin the film.
Of course, the usual gripes one has films based on works of literature definitely apply here. Will the director be able to do the author’s words justice? Will the actors? Will they take out essential elements of the source material, will they bastardise it for the sake of profit? And considering some of these upcoming releases are based on some of the most famous works of literature ever, the worry goes doubly. But you can only worry for so long; these movies are coming out, and all we can do is go and see them in the hope that they turn out to be good.