Some days my titles for these posts don’t even fit into Twitter. True story.
Anyway, remember that list/flowchart of sci-fi/fantasy books from last week? I got to thinking, they’ve tried to make movies out of a lot of those, especially the older ones. Some were good and some were bad, but there’s pretty much a universal impulse to make movies out of old science fiction or fantasy titles — seriously; check out the list in ranked format rather than flowchart and run down it. You have to get to #8 (the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov) before you find one that hasn’t been made into either a feature-length movie (often multiple versions) or a televised mini-series or both*.
But it’s important to note that a lot of people have never seen, or even heard of, the movie versions of a lot of these. A 1998 Brave New World featuring Leonard Nimoy, seriously?
A lot of the movies are just really, really bad, no way around it. Totally forgotten because they were totally forgettable. And I’m starting to wonder if maybe there isn’t something about good writing that makes for a bad movie. The Lord of the Rings series were enjoyable books that made enjoyable movies; Ray Bradbury’s books were a little more thoughtful and made for a whole pack of really terrible movies. Harry Potter, fine on screen; The Last Unicorn, beautiful and complex and utterly destroyed in its animated form.
I’ll think about it for a while and look for exceptions. The Princess Bride, I suppose — wonderful movie, wonderful book. A world of difference between the two, though. Maybe a better thesis would have been “The sign of a good book might be how much you have to change, cut, or simplify to get a good movie out of it.” That accounts nicely for the basically straight-to-screen translations of things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and the struggles people have had with Orwell and Asimov.
* Even that one’s questionable: the Foundation series technically includes the various robot books, a couple of which have been made into films. And there was a trilogy of Foundation movies in production that fell apart and were replaced by, fittingly enough, #1 on the list, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.