By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)
When the idea first came around to write the top five adaptations of comic books, video games, books or characters that I’d like to see, I thought, “Great, what a great idea.” Then, it slowly dawned on me. I hate adaptations in most every case. Seabiscuit? Hated it. The Lorax? That looks so despicable, I refuse to give it my money. Harry Potter? I will never trust anyone that says, “No really, the next one is when they start getting good.”
The next thing I realized is that in some, possibly misguided, corner of my mind, there are still some things that I’d like to adapt. Stories that captured my attention and that are on my list of things to write after I finish my current project. I may never get to them, especially since a couple have been on my list for a while, but hope spring eternal, especially at this time of year.
So, how would I approach this? First, I have to assume that I trust the filmmaker, like I trust Peter Jackson after the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I know that’s not a rational assumption. For every Fellowship of the Rings that Jackson did, there’s a filmmaker who does Batman and Robin, Iron Man 2 or any Harry Potter movie. For every V for Vendetta that takes Alan Moore material and makes it great, there’s a From Hell or Watchmen and I go back to hating adaptations.
To make a great adaptation, the filmmaker has to respect the source (don’t get me started on Michael Bay and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), understand the vibe of the source and still be willing to go off script and put their own voice into it. I wonder if instead of a shot for shot remake, if Gus Van Sant had done something new with Psycho, it would have worked. The cynic in me doubts it very much, but the optimist wonders mostly to himself that it could have been interesting if nothing else. A shot for shot remake with Anne Heche instead of Janet Leigh? Why not just watch the original?
So, what does that leave to adapt? I think it leaves things that I don’t consider sacred and fortunately that still leaves plenty. I’m not saying these aren’t favorites, but I think they could work nicely as adaptations. Just to make it more interesting, not only will I choose the five things to adapt, but make them in five different genres. First the honorable mentions: American Gods (tough to make, but in the hands of someone like Tarsem Singh who did the underrated The Fall there would be some cool, trippy otherworld sequences) and Geek Love (come on, aren’t we due for a great carnie movie?). Now, let’s do the countdown.
5. Red Dead Redemption – Genre: Western
I don’t know if there has been a good video game movie. However, if they follow the story of Red Dead Redemption they’ve already got a pretty cool cinematic western. John Marston plays the typical western hero of a former rogue looking for redemption and trying to save his wife and child. It’s been done many different times, but if you have good actors, good scenery and good dialogue to go with this story, it could work. I can’t tell you much more about this particular story; I just know that I’m still surprised that a video game actually moved me.
4. Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew – Genre: Animated Feature
Originally, this spot was for The Invaders as I love a good WWII movie and there’s nothing better than fighting Nazis. Then, as I wrote it, I mentioned some other favorite comic book characters: The Powerpuff Girls and Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and how they would look cool fighting Nazis as well. Then, I kept reading it over and over, and since Captain America: The First Avenger already went back to World War II, there’s not much space for The Invaders. There won’t be more Bucky. There won’t be the original Human Torch, Toro, Union Jack or Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The Powerpuff Girls already have a TV show and a movie. However, if you’re looking for a silly parody of super groups as an alternative to The Avengers or I have to assume an eventual Justice League movie, then look no further than Captain Carrot, Yankee Poodle, Fastback, Pig Iron, Alley-Kat-Abra and Rubberduck. If they can fight the Nazis, that might be the perfect movie.
3. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – Genre: Medieval England Period Piece and Sci-Fi
C.J. Bunce introduced me to Connie Willis at his first San Diego Comic-Con when we went to a panel she did, and I read a few of her novels and found them charming, interesting and fun. I think the appeal to adapting Doomsday Book comes from glimpsing a true epidemic in the form of the black plague in the eyes of someone from the future. I didn’t like Contagion much, so maybe the book adaptation of Doomsday Book could effectively show the terror of an incurable disease spreading and the feeling of helplessness that follows. For the protagonist Kivrin, trying to not reveal you’re from the future adds a great layer to that tension, having to remain disconnected while not being sure if she’ll ever leave this doomed time.
2. Sleeper by Ed Brubaker – Genre: Noir
I’ve written about Sleeper in two previous Borg.com posts, so you know how much I like it. I also think that it would make a fantastic film noir. You have the femme fatale in Miss Misery, you have a guy that doesn’t know what’s good or bad anymore and you have crime galore. If that’s not a great film noir, with bonus super powers, I don’t know what is.
1. The Great American Novel by Philip Roth – Genre: Baseball Comedy
The Great American Novel might be one of my favorite baseball books of all time. I took it in the third round of a baseball book draft. (I knew it would last until then, so I grabbed The Boys of Summer and The Glory of Their Times with my first two picks). The story of the Ruppert Mundys and the forgotten Patriot League as told by “Word” Smith (thanks, Wikipedia) would run circles around Moneyball the movie. I think the fictional 14-year-old manager (I think that’s the age – goodness, I need to buy a copy of this book to read again and so I can look up such queries) would make a better representative of sabermetrics than the “fictional” Peter Brand.
Moneyball the book was my fifth round choice in the baseball draft – and just another perfect example of how I dislike movie adaptations of books that I enjoy. As much as I would like to see this list made into movies now that I’ve written this post, my gut tells me it’s probably better if they’re not.
Come back tomorrow and C.J. Bunce searches out some choices he think would be difficult to adapt but fun to watch.