“They’ve decided to do an adaptation of your book Under The Moon’s Shadow, professor.”
“How curious. We need more films which explore the ethos of man, but how will they capture the essence of my art? The book is three hundred pages of a single, nameless man sitting in a room, watching the moon as he contemplates the foibles and vanity of mankind. There’s not much action.”
“They’ve added a bit of action, sir.”
“Oh? What sort? I thought of adding a walk in the park, but it took away from the purity of my vision.”
“Well, they’ve added a bit where he goes to the moon itself.”
“In a dream?”
“No, he really goes. And there he’s captured by moon people who ride dinosaurs, which he fights one. There’re a few other action bits in the script, but he’ll still be a philosopher. A philosopher with muscles and a past as a boxer, but a philosopher all the same. I think it’ll be a great hit.”
In the perpetual cycle of remakes and reboots, apparently Anne of Green Gables was up next on the list and so this trailer has been released:
I’m both intrigued and saddened by this trailer. Perhaps the actual miniseries will be better and live up to the source material. However, based on the trailer, this is the precocious Disney Channel version of this great book.
“Look what trouble Anne gets into! Isn’t this kid precocious and spunky! The adults tell her no, but can’t help but love her!”
I’d also expect the film to have a laugh track.
Marilla: “Anne, what did you do?”
Anne pulls down blanket, revealing green hair.
Audience: Ha ha ha ha.
[Side Note: This reminds me of the fake sitcom Grizz and Herz from 30 Rock, where the punchline is Grizz meeting eyes with a dog and saying, “Don’t even say it.”]
Fortunately, there’s also this trailer:
Despite the presence of Martin Sheen, the acting feels subpar and Anne’s hair has the sheen of hair dye. Still, this is closer to the essence of the period and the book remains intact. I’ll wait till its released in November to pass full judgement.
The true question, however, is why is this adaptation necessary when a near-perfect adaptation already exists.
Sure, the children are a bit older than their roles at the beginning, but the film covers enough years that you can suspend your disbelief. Other than that, each actor fully embodies their character, from the fiery Anne Shirley, to the busy body Rachel Lynde, to the stern Marilla and sweet Matthew. And never forget the first crush of many young women: Gilbert Blythe
The world, the story, and the pacing also capture the essence of the book, bringing us more than a mere copy, but a fully realized adaptation of a great story.
As for other adaptations, I argue there are five types: (1) Adaptation in Name Only, (2) What Did They Do To This Book?, (3) The Photocopy, (4) Better Than The Book, and, (5) Absolutely Perfect In Every Way.
Adaptation In Name Only
This travesty tends to happen when someone in Hollywood has bought the rights to a book and the rights are about to expire. Or, the basic concept is there, but the storyline is completely different. Some of these are terrible, and might fall in the category of “What Did They Do To This Book?” Generally, they tend to be okay to high quality, despite the divergence from the source material.
For example, Alice In Wonderland is a pseudo-sequel which name-checks everyone from the original story, but has little more to do with the actual book. Though, the actual book is a doozy to adapt. There’s not really a plot, but more a series of clever vignettes. The greatest redeeming quality of this film is the Burtonesque concept art. I don’t think it has much more to offer than that.
What Did They Do To This Book?
The story is mostly there and the character names are the same, but the rest is a messy travesty of the book. The filmmakers clearly didn’t understand the charm or appeal of the book and the film is tossed out on the unsuspecting public.
For example, Ella Enchanted takes a fun, sweet fairy tale and turns it into a post-modern twist on the Cinderella story. It has some redeeming qualities of silliness, but is not the same as the book.
These are the adaptations where the filmmakers hold the book so sacred that they don’t want to make any changes for the medium of film. The film is accurate to the book, but there is a flat lifelessness to the characters and story. The filmmaker wasn’t able to make the small leaps which builds the heart and soul of a film.
For example, the first Harry Potter film. Christopher Columbus did an excellent job setting up the world, establishing the setting, creating the costumes, and introducing us to the Harry Potter filmverse. However, the acting is wooden – even among many of the adults – and while the movie goes through the motions of the story, it does not fully capture the magic of the books.
I would further argue that the movies became progressively better, but didn’t meet the awesomeness of the books until The Order of the Phoenix and the super-epic wizard battle that felt like a real wizard battle.
Better Than The Book
There are some books that are either pretty good or insubstantial and the adaptation takes the story and concept and builds it into something unexpectedly awesome.
Both How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek are based on very basic children’s books, and both are franchises with a pair of extremely fun and well-made films (though, we’ll ignore everything past Shrek 2).
Also, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, despite stretching out a book for a cash grab by the studio, does of a better job of keeping Katniss as a dynamic and empowered character than the book. Not a perfect film, and slow in parts, but I enjoyed it more than the book.
Absolutely Perfect In Every Way
Then there are the masterpieces, the adaptations which stand as great movies on their own while also transferring the full heart and soul of the book to the screen. These are the ones we cherish, the ones we sigh when we see them for the first time and sigh in relief that our precious book is intact. The plot may have been tweaked here and there, but the film is so spectacular you can ignore the differences and just enjoy your favorite story unfolding before you.
Here are some of my favorites, besides, of course Anne of Green Gables with Megan Follows
To Kill A Mockingbird is a masterpiece of acting, pacing, and helping us to face our own prejudices.
Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth is a spectacular, romantic journey. I love the Keira Knightly version as well, which offers a more romanticized and excellently truncated version. What Jennifer Ehle adds to Elizabeth Bennett is the clear sense of humor and cleverness, whereas Keira Knightly’s Elizabeth is more earnest. Both Matthew McFadden and Colin Firth’s Darcy’s are great, but we must also consider the entire film franchise of Bridget Jones’s Diary is based on Colin Firth’s portrayal.
And, of course, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. These films fully capture the epicness and wonder of Middle Earth, tell a grand story on a human scale, and are spectactular. The Hobbit, however, falls into the What Did They Do To This Book category.
- What are some of your favorite and least favorite film adaptations?
- How do you feel about this adaptation of Anne of Green Gables? Will you be watching it next Thanksgiving?
- Or, like me, will you be too busy watching the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix?