Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Movies By the Book

In anticipation of Prince Caspian, which is being released in May of this year, I was reading a few articles about it online. I clicked on a few links and found this quiz: Which Chronicles of Narnia Character are You Most Like? Of course I took the quiz, and I found out I'm Lucy! She's my third favorite character, after Reepicheep and Jill, but looking at the other results it looks like they only used characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I'll take it!

There seems to be a trend lately of making films based on children's fantasy novels. It started with Harry Potter in 2001 (that's when the first Lord of the Rings film was released, too, but I don't know if it can be considered a children's book). By the end of 2005 there were a slough of others, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Five Children and It, Ella Enchanted, and the aforementioned LW&W.

This past holiday season saw the release of The Dark is Rising (based on the novel by Susan Cooper, which is really good) and The Golden Compass, which wasn't nearly as successful as all the hype predicted. I read the latter when I was younger, too (I never realized how many fantasy novels I read between the ages of 8 and 14 until they all started being made into movies!), and it was okay. As for the controversy surrounding Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, all I have to say is this: the author is an atheist, but he wrote books about killing God. How can you kill God if He doesn't exist? Besides, like I said, the book is just okay, so it's not worth arguing over.

Any way, soon a film based on the Spiderwick series will be released. I haven't read any of these because I believe I was already at least in high school before the first one was published, and they have a slightly younger target audience. And, as I said before, the highly anticipated (at least by me) release of Prince Caspian is this May. Hollywood studios are probably going to milk this trend for all it's worth and keep making films based on children's fantasy novels as long as they can make money on them. Here are a few more children's fantasy novels that I think would make good movies.

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
I read all five of these books in three days the summer I was eleven. Disney made an animated version of The Black Cauldron in (I think) the late 80's. It actually combined the plots of the first two books, The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron, but I think all five books should be filmed each as their own movie, and in live action. Not quite as good as Narnia, but almost, because the land of Prydain is based on ancient Wales!

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
This book was originally published in 1907, so it's a little older, but I remember devouring it when I read it for the first time at ten. Nesbit pretty much invented the three- to- five- children- find- a- magical- creature/ land/ object- and- have- adventures- while- learning- to- appreciate- each- other genre, and many authors since then and today, including C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, owe something to her.

East by Edith Pattou
Based on a Norwegian fairy tale, this novel was actually written for teenagers, not children, but who's being technical? "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" has been one of my favorite fairy tales since I was seven. I wrote a review for Amazon.com that's really good. Read it here.

The Novels of Edgar Eager
Half Magic, its sequel Magic by the Lake and companion books Knight's Castle and The Time Garden; Magic or Not? and its sequel The Well Wishers; and Seven Day Magic, which stands on its own, are all great books. Eager gives credit where credit's due: he mentions E. Nesbit's work at least once in every novel and recognizes her influence on children's fantasy.

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

The first part of this novel, The Sword in the Stone, has been Disney-ized, back when Disney was still respectable (I mean that in the best way possible). White based his book on Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Artur, the definitive work on Camelot legends. I know, there are a lot of King Arthur movies out there already. The story of Arthur, Gueneviere, and Lancelot is probably one of the most-used in literature and film (outranked only by Romeo and Juliet and maybe Pride and Prejudice). But I think this is a different angle on the tale. Besides, after the disappointment of 2004's King Arthur, we deserve a good Camelot movie, so it should either be this or a remake of the Camelot musical.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Again, a book that's technically for teens, but I've seen it in the children's section of several libraries. This book will make an amazing movie, and not one that just kids will like. It has everything any reader of fantasy expects: magic, epic battles, quests and tournaments, mystery, lore, even a little romance, and it has the added bonus of being a story from a female perspective, something we need more of. McKinley wrote a prequel titled The Hero and the Crown that takes place hundreds of years earlier. It was good, but not as good.

I might just have to write the screenplays myself.

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