Saturday, March 7, 2009

Adaptations I'd Like To See

If adapting a graphic novel were as easy as copying every detail in every frame of the book, with characters mouthing the exact words from the speech bubbles, then anyone can be a great director. Yes, including Zack Snyder. I only have one question for Snyder, which I think he won't be able to answer convincingly: What did HE bring to the film adaptation of Watchmen?

This is an entry that I'd been itching to do, but never got down to it until now, for some reason. I'm reading more and more voraciously as now as I'm older, much like trying to make up for all that I'd missed when I was younger, playing catch-up. Time and again, I come across books that I think would make great films, if someone would only get the rights and adapt them. Here are some of them:

The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas
This year, I read two great books about vampires - John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let The Right One In, and this one from 1980. The Vampire Tapestry is a book that I'd heard so much about and had been hunting down for the last couple of decades. Now that it's finally back in print, I got my hands on a copy and devoured it in record time. It's an endlessly fascinating book, extremely well written and conceived. It features a vampire who is intriguing as he is frightening, yet you care about what happens to him. No crosses, no garlic, no stakes. The vampire is portrayed much like a domesticated wild animal, whose wild instincts remain sharp even when his humanity "threatens" to overwhelm him. This is a book as much about the wild vampire as it is about humanity's propensity for overindulging and overestimating its own intelligence. It's very much a battle between man and beast, the duality within all of us. At first, this book seems unfilmable, because a lot of what's important is internalised. But perhaps a smart director might be able to pull it off.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
This novel is one helluva wild ride, a real page-turner. It features time travel, werewolves, stilt-walking sorcerers, and a whole lot of other crazy stuff, including Coleridge himself! It's so madly imaginative that it'd leave your head spinning for days. It really leaves me wondering why no one has made this into a film. It has all the ingredients of a blockbuster adventure, and now with the availability of CGI, it could really be done. Or at the very least, this could be a great animated feature. I would think that Back To The Future 2 and 3's "stuck in the past" dilemma was inspired by this book. But The Anubis Gates does it better, and really keeps you wondering how the hell its protagonist is going to get back to his own time.

Song Of Kali by Dan Simmons
I wrote about how American slasher/torture porn movies these days feature American tourists getting themselves in trouble in "scary" foreign lands. Song Of Kali would then be perfect for this era. Much like a scarier and more intelligent version of The Ruins, and probably the anti-thesis of Slumdog Millionaire (!!) and City Of Joy, this is horror of the disturbing kind that takes place mostly in Kolkata, or Calcutta when the book first came out. It's about an American poet who travels to Calcutta with his wife and child to retrieve the latest work by a Bengali poet who seems to be back alive after his disappearance for some years. There is a passage in the book that's a real harrowing experience, and which takes place in complete darkness with something stalking the narrator that may or may not be the goddess Kali. In hindsight, it's a story that reeks of xenophobia to some extent, but in capable hands, this could become an interesting horror film.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
I saved the best for last. I love, love, love Iain Banks' psychological horror novel, The Wasp Factory. I don't believe I have ever read another novel quite like it. It's a slim book, but there's a whole lot going on within its pages. It's disturbing as disturbing can get. Essentially all of its characters are mad, and all are headed for certain destruction. The sense of fatalism is thick, and inevitability runs through the novel like a roaring stream. It concerns a boy whose genitals were bitten off by the family dog when he was a baby. He maintains "sacrificial poles" on the island where he lives with his father, as a way of warding off possible invaders. Meanwhile his older brother escapes from the mental asylum and makes his way to the island. The book was deemed a little too controversial when it first came out, but I think it's not so by today's standards, although the effect of its violence and sadism hasn't waned one bit. There's a truly horrific scene involving flies and a baby that I'd really like to see on screen. Sadistic I am!

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