When I was 12, I went down to my local video store and rented the VHS tape of The Hotel New Hampshire. In the film’s credits, I learned that the movie was based on the novel of the same name by John Irving. At that time, I kind of understood that there were these people called “screenwriters” who wrote movies, but this was the first time I made the connection that sometimes, movies were adapted from books.
From then on, if I found out a movie was based on a book, I’d run down to the library and borrow a copy of the book. But this was pre-Internet days, so this information wasn’t too easy to come by, especially not to a kid. So, I’d always be alert during the film’s opening credits to catch this information, then, if I enjoyed the movie, I’d read the book.
Covering entertainment news every day, I often write about books being adapted for film, so I’ve been running under the assumption that the average person also knows this information. Turns out, that’s not so. I’ve met people who didn’t know Atonement and The Kite Runner were based on books, and forget it if the movie was based on a graphic novel — no one seems to have that on their radar.
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 10 movies coming out this year which were adapted from book/graphic novels, along with related source material to get you ready for the 2008 mega-movie season.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Source Material: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Author: C.S. Lewis
Screenplay: Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Ben Barnes, Liam Neeson (voice), Sergio Castellitto
Release date: May 16, 2008
In this tale that continues The Chronicles of Narnia fantasy saga, the Pevensie children — Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy — find themselves transported out of England and back into the magical land of Narnia. The children find that while it’s only been one year in their time that they’ve been away, 1300 years have passed in Narnia and much has changed there since the siblings ruled greatly as Kings and Queens of the land. After usurping the throne, the evil King Miraz now rules over Narnia instead of its rightful heir, Miraz’s nephew Prince Caspian, who lives in exile.
Non-canon tidbit: Susan and Prince Caspian’s ages are slightly advanced in order to creating a budding romance between the two characters.
Related Reading: The Chronicles of Narnia Complete Collection with Narnia Timeline by C.S. Lewis — This collection includes all seven Narnia books, as well as a Narnia timeline. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe marks the first appearance of the Pevensie children.
Sex and the City
Source Material: Sex and the City
Author: Candace Bushnell
Screenplay: Michael Patrick King
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Release date: May 30, 2008
Just about everyone knows the long-running HBO series, which starred Sarah Jessica Parker as relationship columnist Carrie Bradshaw and her trio of close-knit NYC socialite girlfriends. But how many people remember that the cable television series — created by Darren Star — was actually first a best-selling book by Candace Bushnell? Bushnell’s book was a collection of essays the author wrote for the New York Observer about her and her friends’ experiences in the Manhattan social scene.
Non-canon tidbit: In the book, Carrie has a wider range of friends and the three presented as her inner circle on the show — Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha — are minor characters with much different personalities.
Related Reading: Sex and the City: The Movie, the official movie companion by Amy Soln and Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell Updated Edition by Amy Soln, the official companion to the television series.
Midnight Meat Train
Source Material: The Midnight Meat Train from Books of Blood
Author: Clive Barker
Screenplay: Jeff Buhler
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Roger Bart, Vinnie Jones, Brooke Shields
Release date: May 14, 2008
After falling asleep on a New York subway train, the unemployed Leon Kaufman, awakens to find himself at the last stop of the line — a secret station where a killer named Mahogany has the bodies of the people he’s butchered hanging like animal carcasses at a meat warehouse. Leon must fight the killer for survival, but winning means more than just staying alive, but a whole new way of life.
Non-canon tidbit: In the film, Leon is a photographer on the trail of a subway serial killer, and reports are that the story has been expanded on for the adaptation.
Related Reading: Books of Blood by Clive Barker — A six-volume collected anthology of horror fiction short stories. No other stories relate to Midnight Meat Train, but the collection does include The Forbidden (adapted to film as Candyman) and The Last Illusion (adapted to film as Lord of Illusions), as well as The Book of Blood, which is currently being adapted for film.
Source Material: Wanted
Author: Mark Millar (writer), J.G. Jones (illustrator)
Screenplay: Derek Haas, Michael Brandt, Chris Morgan, Dean Georgaris
Cast: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie
Release date: June 27, 2008
Unenthusiastic slacker Wes is a hypochondriac whose job makes him miserable, as does his live-in girlfriend who cheats on him. He has no hope for his life and lives a bleak existence, until one day a bad-ass assassin named Fox comes into his life and reveals that Wes is actually the son of The Killer, the recently killed leader of a sect within the secret supervillain organization called The Fraternity. But Wes’s inheritance is more than large sums of money; it also comes his father’s position in The Fraternity, which sets Wes on a path of violence that let’s him have everything he’s ever wanted and more. Director Timur Bekmambetov’s big-screen version stars James McAvoy as Wes, with Angelina Jolie playing his mentor and lover Fox.
If you think you’ll fancy the movie, then pick up the Wanted (Assassin’s Editon) version of the graphic novel, which contains the original series, plus the Wanted Dossier, excerpts of Millar’s script, interviews, and behind-the-scenes developmental art.
Non-canon tidbit: Word is that the first half of the film follows the story of the graphic novel and that the ending is similar, but that the superhero attire was axed (not sure if this means that the entire superhero element was ditched, too). Also, the film introduces a new plot element by having the organization follow death orders commanded by the Fates, weavers of every human’s lifeline.
Related Reading: Savage Dragon #127 & 128 by Erik Larsen — Some Wanted characters appear in these two issues of Image Comics’ Savage Dragon #127 and #128, a story published after the end of Wanted. These issues have yet to be collected into trade paperback at this time.
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Source Material: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne
Screenplay: Michael Weiss and Mark Levin
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Release date: July 11, 2008
In this Jules Verne classic, an eccentric professor and his nephew decipher a coded manuscript which leads them to Iceland where they descend into a volcano. Once inside “the center of the earth” the duo and their guide encounter dangerous prehistoric conditions and species.
Non-canon tidbit: Aside from modernizing the 1864 science fiction tale, the professor (Brendan Fraser) and his nephew are now guided by an attractive female named Hannah. Not much is known about the character yet, but I’m guessing there will be a love connection between Hannah and Fraser’s character.
Related Reading: Verne wrote many adventuring tales, though none that were specifically related to Journey. For another popular Verne tale there’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Completely Restored and Annotated), or check out Jules Verne: The Definitive Biography to learn more about this extraordinary author.
Source Material: Choke
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Screenplay: Clark Gregg
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston
Release date: September 26, 2008
The novel from Fight Club author Palahniuk tells the tale of Victor Mancini, whose unfit mother kidnapped him from various foster homes as a child. As an adult, Victor is a med-school dropout and sex addict who becomes a con man in an effort to get the money to support his mother, who’s now in a nursing home. His con involves “choking” on his food at restaurants so that someone can “save” him; after they do, Victor preys on their sympathies, getting them to pay his bills.
Non-canon tidbit: In an interview with IndieWire, writer/director Clark Gregg said of his adaptation: “After spinning my wheels in a reverent haze for nearly a year, I finally threw the book in a drawer and decided to write my own personal version of this story, one that Chuck would probably have me removed from. This, of course, is when the adaptation finally started to work and to my surprise, Chuck was extremely supportive of its departures.” Translation: expect this adaptation to be loosely based on the novel.
Related Reading: Nothing Choke-specific, but for another Chuck Palahniuk book-to-film, check out Fight Club: A Novel.
City of Ember
Source Material: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne Duprau
Screenplay: Caroline Thompson
Cast: Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Saoirse Ronan
Release date: October 10, 2008
Not much is known about the film City of Ember besides the casting, its director Gil Kenan (Monster House), and that its screenplay is by Caroline Thompson, who penned such greats as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and The Secret Garden. Oh, and that one Tom Hanks is the producer. The children’s book takes place in the city of Ember, where there is no natural light and all electricity is powered through a often-failing generator. Once the lights go out for good, the people of Ember are doomed. Because of the lack of moveable light, the people are trapped in the city, but 12-year-old Lina and Doon believe there must be a way out, so they set out to find out how, which involves deciphering clues from an old mysterious letter they discovered.
Non-canon tidbit: The plot summary released for the movie follows the book exactly — so far, so good! Though, the film’s official synopsis has Lina and Doon as teenagers, not 12-year-olds.
Related Reading: The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne Duprau — Ember is the first book of the series and Sparks is its sequel; Yonwood is the third book, but it’s actually a prequel to Ember.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Source Material: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Release date: November 21, 2008
The young wizard Harry Potter, now 16 years old, and his friends return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their sixth year. In this installment, Harry comes into the possession of a Potions textbook containing useful notes written by the book’s previous owner, a former student known only as “the Half-Blood Prince.” While the notes seem helpful, they could also be a trap of some kind set by Harry’s long-time nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort. This sixth offering is a much darker tale as Harry faces the greatest dangers of his life as he slowly uncovers the mystery of Voldemort’s past and prepares to square off with the dark lord’s minions, the Death Eaters.
Non-canon tidbit: Producer David Baron confirmed that a scene is being added to the film that was not in the book which will take place at the Burrow.
Related Reading: Harry Potter Boxset Books 1-7 by J.K. Rowling — This set contains all seven of the Harry Potter books in hardcover, but if tackling six of the seven HP books prior to the sixth movie’s release seems daunting, then start with book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, then move on to the Half-Book Prince book.
Source Material: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson
Release date: December 12, 2008
This first book of the teen vampire series, published in 2005, has been a great hit recently with young teens. In the novel, Bella Swan moves to a new town with her father and into a new high school, where she meets the mysterious Edward Cullen, who at first seems to dislike her. But when Bella is almost hit by a car, Edward saves her and they eventually fall in love. Bella soon realizes that Edward is no ordinary boy, but a vampire, as his supernatural abilities come to light and the lovers are threatened by other vampires.
Non-canon tidbit: The film’s plot follows that of the book, and so far, no diversions from the book have been reported (but, hey, there’s still time!).
Related Reading: The sequels: New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2), Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3), and due out on August 2, 2008 Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4).
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Source Material: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Screenplay: Eric Roth
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett
Release date: December 19, 2008
Fitzgerald’s short story follows the life of Benjamin Button, who was born an old man in 1860 to a prominent family in Maryland, and over time, ages in reverse. The story is dramatic, but also comedic as Benjamin’s friends and loved ones absurdly remark how he should try to control his strange aging. Not much is known at this time about the David Fincher-directed film adaptation, which stars Brad Pitt as the title character, but chances are, it will take many liberties interpreting the details in Button’s life that were only touched upon in the book — his life was as full of eventful moments, much like Forrest Gump’s life was. Also, Pitt’s baby daughter Shiloh Jolie-Pitt makes a cameo.
Non-canon tidbit: In the film, Button is born in 1919 and the events in his life go through till the year 2000.
Related Reading: Six Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald — The Six Tales of the Jazz Age short story collection was originally the only place to read Benjamin Button, but the story is now available in its own book to tie-in with the film (see Source Material link). While the character of Benjamin Button does not appear in any of Fitzgerald tale, the Jazz Age collection contains similar fantastical stories.
Here are some films that were released in the beginning of the year, if you’d like to catch up with them before the DVD releases.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Source Material: The Spiderwick Chronicles Books 1-5
Author: Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi
Screenplay: Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, John Sayles
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, David Strathairn
Release date: February 14, 2008
The Grace children along with their mom move into the Spiderwick Estate, where they discover a book — Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You — which awakens the surrounding magical world of faeries, goblins, and an evil powerful ogre to their presence.
The film is based on the five novels in this children’s book series — The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda’s Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath — though not all of the elements from the books made it into the film.
Non-canon tidbit: The screenplay departs quite a bit from the books, though that could be because some elements from the books will be used in the film sequels. A subplot about the children’s parents is introduced, and there’s an alternate more audience-friendly ending.
Related Reading: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi — This is the field guide left behind by Arthur Spiderwick that the children use to help them combat the evil magical creatures surrounding the Spiderwick Estate.
Source Material: Jumper: A Novel
Author: Steven Gould
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson
Release date: February 14, 2008
The 1992 novel follows the story of Davy, a teenager who discovers that he has the power to teleport. He uses that power to get away from his abusive father and search for his long-lost mother, resorting to criminal activities to get what he wants. The film does follow that part of the book, giving Davy (now David) a similar childhood appearance and the same love interest, teleportation skills, and initial criminal motives. But instead of showing Davy’s progression and maturity, David becomes a spoiled, whiney, hurtful person who wants what he wants when he wants it and thankfully he’s got this lovely teleportation power to do it. (Is this the only type of character Hayden Christensen can play?)
Non-canon tidbit: See above; also the film added in Paladins, religious fanatics who track down “jumpers” like David to kill them.
Related Reading: Jumper: Griffin’s Story and Reflex by Steven Gould — Griffin’s Story is a new adventure that revolves around a character created specifically for the film, a 9-year-old jumper Griffin O’Conner, while Relex is Jumper‘s sequel, which follows the life of the adult David.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Source Material: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Screenplay: Peter Morgan
Cast: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
Release date: February 29, 2008
Phlippa Gregory’s historical fiction masterpiece is told from the perspective of Mary Boleyn, the younger fairer sister of Anne Boleyn. Before Anne infamously wedded the 16th-century King Henry VIII and gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, the lesser-known Mary was the King’s mistress. The novel gives us what the PG-13 film, which stars Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as the rivaling sisters, could not — an R-rated and more realistic portrayal of these real-life events.
Non-canon tidbit: Many, many liberties are taken in this film adaptation, though that’s to be expected considering the source material was a fictional retelling of historical events. Much of Anne and Mary’s childhood is omitted from the film, and how the two sisters became involved with the King is changed from the book.
Related Reading: The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell — While Philippa Gregory has gone on to tackle more Tudor subjects, The Other Boleyn Girl is her only novel focused on Anne and her sister Mary. Maxwell’s novel is another fictional account of Anne Boleyn’s life told through Anne’s diary, as read by her daughter Elizabeth I.
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who
Source Material: Horton Hears A Who!
Author: Dr. Seuss
Screenplay: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Cast: (voices) Jim Carrey, Steve Carell
Release date: March 14, 2008
“A person’s a person no matter how small” is what we learn from this Dr. Seuss tale about Horton, an elephant who stumbles upon a speck of dust which contains an entire town of microscope people in it. No one will believe the elephant’s claims that there are people living in the dust; instead they mock Horton’s efforts Horton to protect the town, called Who-ville, from harm. Horton’s cause is a noble one and he works together with the people of Who-ville to convince the disbelievers to come around.
Non-canon tidbit: The film follows the events and characters of the original tale. But because the 1954 illustrated storybook runs only 30 pages, the CGI-animated film elaborates on the story, and obviously, the dialogue.
Related Reading: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss — Grinch is a post-Horton tale involving the people of Who-ville, while Horton Hatches an Egg is our first introduction to the elephant Horton.