Books on the Big Screen
With no holiday-season movie equivalent of the “Chronicles of Narnia” versus “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” slugfest of 2005—and about six months away from the next film in the “Chronicles” series and nearly a year away from the scheduled release of the next “Potter” adaptation—it almost seemed as though 2007’s year-end book-to-movie offerings were designed to boost the fortunes of lesser-known titles rather than break box-office records.
With the exception of “The Kite Runner,” director Marc Forster’s ambitious take on Khaled Hosseini’s international best-seller, and “P.S. I Love You,” a romantic drama adapted from the 2004 novel by Cecelia Ahern, high-profile releases of late have reached down the “long tail” for their source material, stimulating sales for a variety of titles with mainly niche appeal or simply long out of print.
The most hyped movie of the holiday season, “I Am Legend,” represents the third time around for sci-fi writer Richard Matheson’s book of the same name, originally released in 1954. It was earlier filmed as “The Last Man on Earth” (in 1964) and “The Omega Man” (in 1971). Matheson’s novel was re-released as an Orb Books paperback edition in 1997.
December also saw the release of “The Golden Compass,” based on a young-adult fiction novel, “Northern Lights,” by British author Philip Pullman. The Carnegie Medal-winning book, released in 1995, is the first in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. It was reported in January that New Line Cinema had not yet decided whether to green light a sequel to the film, which cost $180 million to produce and had brought in $154 million worldwide a month out of the gate.
Released just before New Year’s, “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” mines a similar fantasy vein. The movie is based on the book “The Water Horse” by prolific British writer Dick King-Smith. Smith is better known for writing the only tome ever to challenge E.B. White’s (“Charlotte’s Web”) status as king of talking-pig fiction: “The Sheep Pig,” aka “Babe.”
- University of Chicago Press