Cinema has been taking a cue from literature since Georges Méliès adapted The Brothers Grimm and Shakespeare for film as early as 1899. Film as a medium expanded the narrative potential and, much like photography, changed art and our collective perception forever. For better or worse, we have been steeped in and obsessed by screen adaptations of the written word ever since.
Screen adaptations have also enriched us with the classic and endless argument: WAS THE BOOK BETTER. Short answer, in general, is “yes”. My go-to example that demonstrates the rule is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The film version won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director in 1976. Objectively, a Very Good Film. In fact Ken Kesey, the author, famously hated the film for the same reason I felt underwhelmed. Milos Foreman chose not to narrate the story from Chief Bromden’s point of view. However, the absence of Bromden’s narration, inner life, and hallucinations were impossible to depict on-screen with the technology available at the time, thus creating a very different tale than Kesey intended, indeed.
Below, I listed several upcoming book-to-screen adaptations that I am particularly excited about, whether they will outshine their source material or not:
Westerners have collectively lost their shit over Agatha Christie adaptations for the better part of a century now. Reboots can be infuriating, but Christie’s work begs to be told again and again. Lately, Kenneth Branagh has been taking his turn at the helm of good ship Hercule Poirot. Starting with 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh seems to be having a great time starring as Poirot as well as directing the pictures. I’m a David Suchet stan, so while I don’t mind the occasional Peter Ustinov or Kenneth Branagh portrayal, I tend to prefer the PBS version of the funny little Belgian. Will still be watching the ever-lovin’ heck out of this, however mind you. (In theaters now).
This film was supposed to come out in 2019, but got pushed back to 2020 and then SOMETHING happened and it’s still waiting to be released. The screen adaptation stars Ben Affleck, while not a personal favorite, he does excel at playing the oily love interest who may not have his partner’s best interest in his heart ala Gone Girl. Perhaps you saw Ana de Armas in the delightful Knives Out. I adore her and think she’ll shine in this adaptation. (Hulu March 18th, 2022).
I started listening to this book earlier in the week. Got to say, I am hooked. Give me a juicy story about horrible people being horrible to each other and I am IN. Throw in an insane power imbalance, sexual politics, and what I believe is turning into a revenge plot and I’m as happy as can be. I’m going to risk it and say that this is going to make for one hell of a TV adaptation. (Netflix April 15, 2022)
That’s right, it’s time for another ‘Salem’s Lot adaptation. The 1979 version is still a lot of creepy fun, but looks pretty terrible. The 2004 adaptation looks great but never quite ascends to the creep level present in 1979. I’m excited for this redo for one because vampires are fun and gross and two, I promised a friend I would finally read something by Stephen King. I read ‘Salem’s Lot, almost entirely enjoyed it, and now look forward to a new take on an old tale. (In theaters September 9th, 2022).
I listed four projects I am personally excited for, but that is not to say there aren’t tons and tons of additional book-to-screen adaptations slated for 2022. Check out a longer list HERE. Did you notice that Denis Villeneuve is on board to direct Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendesvouz with Rama when he finishes up with the Dune sequel? I wish I cared about Dune, but I just don’t. Rama, now that is a story I would love to see writ large at the multi-plex. What about you? What adaptation are you most excited about? What is your historic favorite? We won’t ask Kesey tho, he’s bitter about it.