(Hey, readers! Ernie here, continuing the guest blogging series. Send me a note if you’re interested in contributing.) The forthcoming adaptation of The Dark Tower got me thinking about books made into movies.
There’s no question that adaptations are a lucrative game. The adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 took in $1.34 billion at the box office.
But can all books be adapted for the big screen? Or are some titles just completely unfilmable?
Read on to discover nine books made into movies that would never work, or just maybe…
1) Paradise Lost by John Milton
There have been plenty of Christian films to see box office success.
And Alex Proyas attempted his own adaptation, starring Bradley Cooper as Lucifer. That was scrapped in 2012. No one has stepped forward to offer another version.
The poem has God and Satan as main characters. And Adam and Eve would spend a lot of the film naked.
As well as nudity, studio executives get nervous around 400-page poems. Even if the subject is essentially a holy war.
2) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Of all of the potential books made into movies, The Left Hand of Darkness provides one major sticking point.
For much of the novel, the inhabitants of the planet Gethen have no gender. They only develop sexual organs during certain phases.
And that intermittent gender means that the characters could be female, genderless, and then male. All depending on the phase they were in.
Needing actors with no obvious gender is one problem. But then convincing audiences that gender isn’t important is another.
Gender isn’t even the main point of the book. It’s all about interplanetary diplomacy.
I can’t see this being made anytime soon. And that’s okay.
People still need to read books. Especially since reading can even increase our empathy for others.
3) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Yes, there was a World War Z movie. But it wasn’t a movie of this book.
The World War Z film is essentially an adaptation of The Zombie Survival Guide.
Fans of the original book would love to see a film version. But despite the efforts over the years, no one has managed.
Maybe the nature of the book is to blame. It’s a collection of separate, standalone stories.
There’s no central character. And while that works in a book, it doesn’t suit film structure.
But let’s hope that screenwriters keep trying to make it work.
4) House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This sprawling book is often a favorite of the critics. But how on earth would you ever capture it on film?
On the surface, House of Leaves tells the story of a documentary about a house in which a door mysteriously appears.
But there’s so much more to it than that. It’s even difficult to describe it.
The book itself is told through clippings, manuscripts, and footnotes. Its stream-of-consciousness narrative makes it difficult to read.
I’m sure the special effects department would love the chance to play with the space of the house. But any attempt to streamline the story would lose the essence of the book.
Maybe Hollywood should try these suspense novels instead.
5) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Westerns might have enjoyed a brief resurgence with The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk, and Slow West.
But this particular novel proves difficult to adapt. It’s even been called an anti-Western.
Blood Meridian is violent in a way that puts even Tarantino to shame. And the protagonist (and a regular participant in the violence) is only a teenager.
Some feel it’s too racist, and while it is historically accurate, it’s unclear who its audience would be.
Given its exploration of a Native American massacre on the US-Mexico border, the time is just not right for an adaptation.
In July 2014, James Franco shared a 25-minute test of the film. So far, no studio has stepped forward to take it on.
6) Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
There have been plenty of comic books (or graphic novels) made into movies.
But the supremely cynical Transmetropolitan is unlikely to be one of them. The books follow the adventures of the foul-mouthed, drug-taking, gun-toting journalist Spider Jerusalem.
A film adaptation was suggested in 2003, while an animated version starring Patrick Stewart accompanied the boom in online media.
Ellis himself has even quashed any rumors since production costs would be too high. The books are set in a neon-drenched and technology-driven future.
That in itself isn’t a problem. But the themes of a corrupt presidency, racial discrimination that extends to a new species and police brutality might make studio executives nervous.
7) The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
Of all the classic books made into movies, The Catcher In The Rye is conspicuous by its absence from that list.
Many directors have tried to buy the rights. Salinger refused to sell them during his lifetime. But even his death in 2010 did nothing to help that situation.
The rights are still unavailable.
But even if they were, would a film work? The novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, does a lot of complaining about unrealistic films and the fake veneer of Hollywood.
Salinger always thought a film version of The Catcher In The Rye would feel contrived. And many feel that he would be proven right.
8) The Stand by Stephen King
Stephen King has had several of his books made into movies. The Stand, often considered his magnum opus, got the TV miniseries treatment in 1994.
But fans have wanted a feature film version since 1978.
Would it even work? The novel is 823 pages long. That’s a lot of story to fit into a film’s running time.
Even four hours might not be enough.
There have been rumors of a full adaptation but nothing has ever materialized. Perhaps that’s for the best.
9) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a deeply influential book. But it’s unlikely to get a film adaptation for two reasons.
First, it spans the generations of one family. Their lives parallel the creation and destruction of a single city. That’s a lot to put into one film.
And many think its fantastical style would make it too difficult to film.
But second, Gabriel Garcia Marquez will not sell the adaptation rights. So even if a studio could work out how to adapt the book, they wouldn’t be able to.
There have been many more books made into movies that probably shouldn’t have been. And there are many more books that will never see the film treatment.
(Ernie here: I hope you enjoyed our contributor’s list. Thankfully, I write thrillers, which would make great film adaptations! Read Sara’s Game first. Then you can imagine which stars you’d cast in the film when you’re finished.)