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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What book series would you like to see transferred to film?

The continued transition of the Chronicles of Narnia book series to the big screen seemed in doubt lately as Disney gave up the films last month, citing budget issues. But now we’re hearing that 20th Century Fox has snapped up the fantasy franchise with an eye toward releasing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010.

What book series — fantasy or otherwise — would you like to see transferred to film?

I’m awaiting the day when Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction series about Miles Vorkosigan [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.], official, gentleman, and imperial troubleshooter, makes it to a visual medium. Though any of the books on their own would be better suited to a big, chunky TV miniseries rather than a two-hour theatrical film. Think Battlestar Galactica meets Aliens… without the aliens. And Jamie Bamber would be perfect as Miles.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Rob

    I would love to see a film series of James Clemens’ fantasy series, The Banned and the Banished. They are very sweeping and cinematic. The problem is, I think it would require at least 2 films for each of the 5 books, in order to avoid cutting them completely to bits. Maybe it would make a better long-form mini-series on HBO.

  • David Eddings’ Belgariad series. Excellent young adult fantasy that would translate quite well to film, I think. It’s not like there isn’t a market for that kind of thing.

  • angel

    I would love to see The Dragonriders of Pern made into a franchise. I don’t think it was possible before, but CGI has finally caught up the the concept. I adored these when I was in high school!

  • BlairBurton

    I think that the young Michael J. Fox would have made a
    perfect Miles Verkosigan, even better than Jamie Bamber.

  • i think the three-parter: Farthing, Ha’penny and Half-a-Crown would make an astounding series of either films, or a Masterpiece Theatre sort of thing. and would be fairly simple to do, not requiring any extreme CGI.

  • Rosalind

    It’s time something by Sherri Tepper was made into a film. Grass & Raising the Stones would be a great pair of books to film.
    For a children’s series, I’d love to see a proper treatment of E. Nesbit’s books. There have been some feeble BBC productions, and a badly done version of Five Children and It. A Narnia type treatment would be wonderful for these books.

  • Patrick

    John Varley’s Titan, Wizard and Demon could be an amazing movie trilogy, but it will probably never happen. The books are huge in scope and quite adult in nature, with all kinds of sex that is integral to the story. They would need to be R rated, but I assume they would be too expensive for that rating. For those that are not familiar with these books, despite their titles they are actually pretty hard science fiction- not fantasy.

    Also, any of Octavia Butler’s books could be turned into fantastic, thoughtful, and not too expensive science fiction films.

  • Bill

    I think I might like to see Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” novels turned into a movie or an HBO series. I say “I think” because I’ve only read 20 or 30 pages of one book. Anita is a “necromancer and licensed vampire hunter/executioner. Her night job, and primary source of income, is the legal profession of re-animating the dead (wikipedia).” Anyway, she lives in a St. Louis inhabited by humans, vampires, werewolves, wererats, wereswans…were-animals of all kinds, and other fantastic creatures. Apparently there is a well-developed mythology behind all this and a fairly successful comic book series grew out of the novels, so sounds like a winner to me.

    Also, if someone decided to do something with the stories in Sartre’s “The Wall” or Camus’ “Exile and the Kingdom”, I’d tune in. I think that makes 11 stories total. TV folk could do one a week in a half hour or hour long adaptation.

  • Without a doubt I’d like to see David Milch as screenwriter on an HBO adaptation of S.M. Stirling’s “Change” Series. I think it might appeal to the folks who liked Jericho and it is certainly better dramatically than a lot of the stuff out there. It’s a lot of location shooting, animals, combat, stunts, and certainly visual effects to erase the current world and replace it with a broken one. I think Milch would rock it hard!

    Hm, other than that, I’d like to see a movie series based on Orson Scott Card’s Ender books. Although Card has been saying it could happen for years, he is so obsessive that it be perfect he’s not letting in any other creative people to work with it. He’s even the creative director of the Marvel Comic adaptation. So I won’t hold my breath.

    Since the sky is the limit, why not Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (and the sequels Blue Mars and Green Mars)? I think that they could be the “2001: A Space Odyssey” of our generation considering that they would be highlighting many of the technologies we will be using to reach Mars in the coming decades.

    I’d like to see a 12 part “Baroque Cycle” based on Neal Stephenson’s sweeping historic novels. If only so that we could expose a lot of the “uncomfortable facts” that he tosses around so cavalierly in the books. It would be interesting to see if people would respond to the “truth” (it is FICTION after all, but a fiction based on a lot of history) of how things came to be as they are now.

  • @Patrick
    Ditto on the Titan trilogy! I think that they might be able to get a PG-13 with some judicious camera angles and dramatic darkness. Hinting at copulation (even if it is with an alien species that resemble a terran animal) might be forgivable. And brief nudity is passable at that rating as well. There is nothing rated-R about basic (or not-so-basic as the case may be) biology.

  • G

    Bill, Anita Blake would be fun (more than say, True Blood) but only with Anita as she is through the first 4 books. Laurell has gone off the depend and Jumped the ‘literary’ shark after that.

    I had high hopes for His Dark Materials. That was the biggest disappointment ever. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana would make a good movie, I think.

    On a non-fantasy arc Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy would make for an excellent movie trilogy. The beginnings of WWII are almost incidental so it isn’t a ‘Nazi’ movie.

  • Patrick

    C. David Dent, I read somewhere that the cable channel AMC (home of Mad Men) was developing Red Mars into a series.

  • Grant

    The Anita Blake series would make a good cable TV show, not so much a movie franchise. But I think G is a bit harsh. Hamilton certainly lost a fair chunk of her original audience when the sex in the stories stopped being metaphorical and became literal (and remarkably explicit). But I think book 4 is a bit early to employ the “jump the shark” meme. IMHO, the high water mark of the series is Obsidian Butterfly, book 9. Still and all, Hamilton’s writting is quite cinematic in nature, and so would translate well to the screen.

  • Bill

    I’d love to see a miniseries or film about the work of Tyco Brahe and Johannes Kepler. They are both great characters and there’s a great story behind their collaborative efforts. A good book to work from would be the following:

    “Heavenly Intrigue”
    From Google Book Search:
    Traces the collaboration of revolutionary astronomers Tyco Brahe and Johannes Kepler, documenting how their seventeenth-century work during the Counter-Reformation era established current understanding in physics, and analyzing recent forensic evidence that Kepler may have murdered Brahe.

  • VT

    Totally with you on the Vorkosigan saga, MaryAnn. Miles is such a fantastic character (as are the rest of them). But it would definitely have to be a miniseries or TV series–too much stuff in there for a feature film.

    The one I’m really waiting for is a good adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, though. That miniseries on SciFi a few years back was such an embarrassingly bad piece of crud. Ditto Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising.

  • Shadowen

    Hmm…

    Well, I must say I’m glad A Song Of Ice and Fire is not getting the movie treatment, instead becoming a series on HBO.

    I understand Temeraire has been optioned, though, and it’ll be awesome to see.

  • Heather

    Completely non-fantasy, but I’d love to see an adaptation of some of Sharon Penman’s hostorical novels.

    Either the Sunne in Splendor – which is Richard III, or her ‘Welsh’ Trilogy which has Eleanor of Acquitane, King John, Welsh princes fighting for independence, progressing towars the time of Edward I (old Longshanks) and his pre-Braveheart stuff…

    Also good? Some more of the Hornblower books please.

  • Joanne

    Amen to the Neal Stephenson suggestion. Some of his sci-fi would make great movies too – as would his latest, Anathem, which would be a sort of adventure road-movie with monks.

    I’d like to see a decent adaptation of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising trilogy – I didn’t dare go and see the recent version as the trailer looked horrific, despite Christopher Eccelston. And a decent live-action adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea too, sticking faithfully to things like skin colour.

  • Orangutan

    I am thrilled that Song of Ice and Fire is being done by HBO. I really, really hope they do it justice.

    I would really like to see Kim Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’ series done, either in movie form, or preferably on HBO or Showtime. And Christopher Moore! Practical Demonkeeping or (dare to dream) Lamb would be fantastic.

  • I’d love them to give another go at Hitchhikers, it doesn’t even have to be a reboot — they could leave the first film and just do Restaurant as long as they take it out of the hands of Hammer & Tongs.

  • Althea Webb

    I’m with Joanne on “The Dark is Rising”. I also didn’t go to see “The Seeker” – the trailer made me shudder. There didn’t appear to be any resemblance to the books, and it was a relief when they changed the title. I wouldn’t want innocent children to mistake the one for the other when they go to read the book. So now somebody with some integrity and talent can go make the series. That would be great.

  • Brenda

    That’s easy.. The Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. More fantasy that science fiction, it would make an AWESOME miniseries. As it takes place in the 1700s and in the 1960’s (travel through standing stones in Scotland no less) it would be a challenge to weave the stories and get everything in. The books are 1000 pages each and you are actually sorry to have them end. Great read too BTW.

  • Althea Webb

    Oh, hey, the Laurell K. Hamilton suggestions suddenly remind me: Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books, how did I forget that? Starting with a werewolf (in “Bitten”), she’s created a whole “otherworld” where there’s a subculture of non-humans that live like everyone else, but with some…special talents. They’re focused on the women and there would be killer parts for actresses. Sex and action and special effects, woo!

  • Wren

    I’ll third the calls for an honest-to-god adaptation of “The Dark is Rising” – although I almost think I’d rather see it as a TV series or miniseries.

    Also, I’d love to see a kids show based on Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, by someone like the BBC who could do justice to it. Or her Circle of Magic books. Because that would be awesome.

  • Mo

    I’m still waiting for a good live adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.

  • Stephen R Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. And Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, although they are so saturated in literature I’m not sure it would be possible to move them to film. Would be interesting to see someone make the attempt, though.

    Thanks to FF, btw, for tipping me to Jasper Fforde. This blog is where I first heard of him, can’t remember where now, but I’m on the third book (The Well of Lost Plots) and thoroughly enjoying them.

  • I’d love a reboot of His Dark Materials (read, boot the hell out of the director and the writer of the screenplay, which happen to be one and the same), and make the plot as dark as the book. This is a gorgeous film, wonderful CGI on the daemons, and it HAD such potential. Completely wasted.

    One of my favorite series is Tanya Huff’s Blood series, and damned if Lifetime didn’t screw the pooch on this, too. Removing characters, making people all nice and hetero (Huff’s characterization of gay and bi individuals is pretty darned subtle, but evidently way too racy for Lifetime). Gah! To think Lifetime got this franchise…

  • Oh, gee whiz, Orangutan! Anything by Christopher Moore! Yes! Why haven’t we seen anything yet? Maybe Moore knows what jerks could do to his work.

  • Anne

    Miles Vorkosigan is high on my list too – but I was thinking Elijah Wood as Miles. He’s getting a bit old for it though… I too avoided “The Seeker” based on the awful trailer and would love to see it done properly.

    Not a book series, a graphic novel series – “The Sandman” books by Neil Gaiman would be an utterly gorgeous series of films if they were done properly.

  • Orangutan

    @bats: Actually, not long after I typed that, I learned that the film rights to Practical Demonkeeping have been sold… to Disney. Yes, of all the film companies out there, DISNEY got Practical Demonkeeping, and have been sitting on it. :( And A Dirty Job has been purchased by Chris Columbus’s 1492 Productions. I’m not sure how I feel about that…

  • Peter Dinklage IS Miles Vorkosigan! Him being short is only the bonus,because dudes, his face is actually how I imagine Miles looks…talk about serendipity. James Cameron or Ridley Scott would have to direct, natch.

    I’d love to see Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, but that would have to have a Rome-like budget and people who understood what an undertaking it would be.

  • Squrrox

    I’d like to see Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels — Gormenghast, Titus Groan and Titus Alone — faithfully adapted. There was a BBC adaptation with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Steerpike … but the videotape, set up to record for posterity, failed me.

    Now that I think about it, practically speaking, I think they should just concentrate on the first two. The third is markedly different in tone and content, originally envisaged to be part of an extensive cycle. For other fans reading this, check out the short story “Boy in Darknesss”, which deals with a Titus-esque character, although he isn’t named. It holds a special place in my cultural medicine bag.

  • Squrrox

    However, I’d like the powers that be to stay away from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. There are visual books, which naturally lend themselves to adaptation. Discworld? Not so much.

  • D

    Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
    Also, David Gemmel “White Wolf” series, and Garth Nix “Abhorsen”. I hope I spelled that right.

  • D

    Sorry, I meant Drenai series

  • Tony

    CS Lewis’ sci-fi trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength

  • JoshDM

    As a follow-up to my long (currently pending moderation) post, it’s a shame movie executives ignore the works of Alan Dean Foster, considering his prior work in film and adaptations.

  • JoshDM

    Looks like I might not get un-spam-blocked (or MAJ’s in London, etc.)

    My suggestions, which have yet to anyone else mention, are:

    Joel Rosenberg’s “Guardians of the Flame” series, to stop before the books that do not focus on the other-worlders.

    Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “World of Ethshar” series, as a series of semi-unrelated tales.

    Robert Asprin’s “Myth” series, as long as it can end conclusively and prior to the books that came out after his bout with writer’s block.

    and finally,

    Alan Dean Foster’s “Spellsinger” series, ending with “Time of the Transference”, and ignoring the next-to-last “Son of Spellsinger”, which is not that good, and possibly the final one that I haven’t read, but only because “Son” turned me off the series.

  • Heather

    Stephen R Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. And Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, although they are so saturated in literature I’m not sure it would be possible to move them to film. Would be interesting to see someone make the attempt, though.

    Thomas Covenant would make my Dad very happy (I keep meaning to read them). I have ‘The Eyre Affair’ on my bedside cabinet at the moment, on the recommendations of several people. I think the conceit could work (particularly if you could perhaps use some of the perceived ‘classic adaptations’/the actors in them for it). Not having read the book just yet, I don’t know how it work – although I admit to enjoying ‘Lost in Austen’, so it could work.

  • Actually, not long after I typed that, I learned that the film rights to Practical Demonkeeping have been sold… to Disney. Yes, of all the film companies out there, DISNEY got Practical Demonkeeping, and have been sitting on it.

    Words fail me.

    I must confess that after seeing what Hollywood did to Stephen King’s The Running Man, I’m no longer that eager to see a movie adaptation of any book I like–no matter how cinematic.

    That said, I too would be curious to see if what could be done with the Kelley Armstrong books, the Jasper Fforde books, and of course, the Christopher Moore novels. Plus, Terry Pratchett’s Nation–which I just read last month–has potential. It’s not set in the Discworld Universe, so adapters don’t have to worry about translating that world into cinematic terms, and it’s quite moving to boot. (But then it’s a Terry Pratchett book, so of course, it is.)

    I can mention more books but for now, I prefer to keep my fingers crossed concerning the titles I’ve already mentioned.

  • amanohyo

    The geeky teenager in me would love to see a series of three movies based on Moorcock’s first six Elric books. Done right, they’d be violent and trippy and disjointed and guaranteed to lose tons of money. I can imagine it directed by Alfonso Cuaron with Paul Bettany or some skinny asian martial artist (in “whiteface”… heh, heh) in the main role, or with a much smaller budget I could see it animated in a style similar to Aeon Flux.

    But the snooty adult in me doesn’t want any of the series I like adapted into movies, because I’ve never seen a movie that came close to the power of… imaaaagination…*traces a rainbow in the air*

  • Althea

    Oh, my heart leapt when I saw that mention of the “Out of the Silent Planet” trilogy! Oh joy, oh visions. That would be a trip and a half.

    By the way, with regard to the Kelley Armstrong books, my nomination seconded by “Tonio Kruger”, I have always seen Natasha Henstridge in the role of Elena the only female werewolf, and wish they’d get on with it before she gets too old.

  • Pat Mustard

    Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, although they are so saturated in literature I’m not sure it would be possible to move them to film.

    Ditto on Jasper F, although I think his ‘Nursery Crime’ series would translate better to screen (& find a more ready audience & be easier to market)than ‘Thursday’. Although they affectionately send up as many literary conventions/cliches as his main series does, they actually do work on a basic level as the very police procedural/whodoneit/detective-noir stories they’re designed to subvert. Particularly the first, ‘The Big-Over Easy’ – Humpty Dumpty: Did he fall or was he pushed..? Brilliant.

    Not a book series, a graphic novel series – “The Sandman” books by Neil Gaiman would be an utterly gorgeous series of films if they were done properly.

    Ditto on this, too, although I’m not sure justice could be done to it as a film(s) (no more than you could do justice to the stories-within-stories of ‘1001 Nights’ on the big screen); perhaps as a TV series? My greatest fear is that the ‘JLA’ references/cameos which appear in the first volume or so would be seized upon, emphasized & it would mutate out of all recognition into another ‘superhero comic’ adaptation.. (It would be fun to see who they cast as Lucifer, though..).

    Alternately, I would dearly love to see Gaimen’s ‘Death’ series crawl out of the development hell it’s resided in for so long (updates, anyone?). It would probably work better as more rounded, stand-alone narrative, featuring a more audience-friendly (ironically) and sympathetic central character (Death is the Sandman’s sister, for those non-Gaimen freaks out there). The Schoolboy in me always kinda pictured Fairuza Balk in the role..

    However, I’d like the powers that be to stay away from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

    Seconded (although I would pay to see Mr A Rickman as the Patrician). However, sticking with the above theme, how about that adaptation of Pratchett & Gaimen’s ‘Good Omens’ they’ve been teasing us with for so long? Again, anyone picked up anything from the rumour mill?.

    I understand Temeraire has been optioned, though, and it’ll be awesome to see.

    I’m chomping at the bit to see what the Grand Wizard, His Excellency Sir Peter Jackson OBE, does with these too (optioned the first 3 in the series, I think). Anyone heard where they fit into his schedule post-Lovely Bones? I always pictured the central (human) character as Russell Crowe-ish, but maybe that’s just the Master & Commander connection..

    Finally (at last!), on the subject of battles, spectacle & Sci-Fi, how about Eric Flint & David Drake’s alternative-history ‘Belisarius’ series? Not in the same literary league as some of the above, but a cracking good and exciting read, all the same.

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