Remember the days when book lovers used to leave movie theaters bemoaning the bad films they just saw and wondering why filmmakers just didn't adapt their favorite novels? Well those days are seemingly long gone, especially for speculative fiction fans, what with the huge surplus of genre films that are currently being adapted to film and television. Now the reader's attention can be turned toward enjoying the films...and picking it apart for not staying true to the source material.
Here's the latest roundup of genre films readers should familiarize themselves with before they hit the film screen.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Before you write off The Giver by Lois Lowry as "just another young adult dystopia" (à la The Hunger Games), know that not only does this novel predate Suzanne Collins' best-selling series by 15 years, but was also the winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, honoring the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. And make no mistake with that claim either; the themes that this story deals with are thought-provoking for any reader, regardless of age.
The Giver features a seemingly utopian society where war and poverty have been eliminated. The reality, of course, leans more towards dystopian since harmony is achieved by suppressing individuality and knowledge. But the past is not forgotten. So-called "Givers" of knowledge pass the society's history to a select few. The novel is about a 12-year-old boy, positioned to become a Giver, whose sudden enlightenment threatens the fabric of a complacent society.
The film is set for an August 2014 release date. Entertainment Weekly has posted some pictures from the production of the film adaptation, which stars Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Australian newcomer Brenton Thwaites as his young apprentice.
The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
If you asked fantasy fans to pick their favorite fantasy book series that's ripe for adaptation, it's likely that the Shannara series by Terry Brooks would be very high on their list. Started in 1977 and currently comprised of 26 novels, the series has something for everyone. Shannara is set in our world, but it takes place thousands of years after a chemical and nuclear holocaust called the Great Wars has destroyed civilization. In the aftermath, a medieval state developed and magic re-emerged to replace science. Humans and other races live in what used to be North America, but is now called the Four Lands. As the novels progress, science starts to become more advanced. The stories focus on the Shannara family, whose descendants are empowered with ancient magic.
It's been reported that MTV is developing a television adaptation of the Shannara books. Iron Man director Jon
Favreau is set to direct the drama series which will be written by Al Gough and Miles Millar, the creators behind television's Superman soap opera, Smallville. The first season of the potential series will actually be based on The Elfstones of Shannara, the second book in the original Shannara series.
All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
A mainstay of science fiction is military sci-fi, a sub-genre that focuses on members of the military service and the combat in which they engage, usually off-planet and usually against aliens. Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill certainly qualifies as military science fiction. It's a futuristic story told from the perspective of Keiji Kiriya, a new recruit in the United Defense Force, Earth's only defense against the invading Gitai aliens, a hostile race looking to terraform the Earth for their own use. Keiji is killed on his first raid...but inexplicably wakes up the day before the battle to fight again. This process repeats, with Keiji stuck in an apparent time loop, re-experiencing his death and re-birth, each time retaining some knowledge from before, his skill growing. But will it be enough to defeat the alien invaders?
News of a film adaptation is no guarantee that a project will ever hit the screen, but this one is a sure thing. The trailer for the film has already been released. Re-titled Edge of Tomorrow, the studios thought they'd get a jump on the October 2014 release date. And why wouldn't they? It stars a mech-suit-wearing Tom Cruise in the lead role. The films tag line says all you need to know about the central science fictional conceit: "Live. Die. Repeat."
London Falling by Paul Cornell
Paul Cornell's London Falling is equal parts police procedural and urban fantasy. It's about four police officers working in London who are quite familiar with the workings of the city's criminal element. Or so they thought. While investigating the mysterious death of a mobster, they are exposed to a bizarre artifact that gives them a powerful ability called the Sight. With this ability, they can see the true evil lurking around London, and it's not altogether natural. Soon, the four policemen are tackling London's previously unseen supernatural element, and in particular an ancient witch whose method of operation leans toward child sacrifice.
Author Paul Cornell announced that London Falling has been optioned by a U.K.-based television company. His announcement includes the warning that this is still in the early stages, meaning that the rights were purchased but production has yet to begin. Even so, it’s easy to imagine that an urban fantasy–based detective TV series has the potential to be very entertaining.
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Despite what you may have heard, science fiction fans are not over-protective of their genre. In fact, we will be the first to make fun of it. One of the oldest running gags in science fiction circles is about the original Star Trek television series and how any crew member wearing a red shirt who beamed down to planet was destined to die. (A lot of them do.) This running joke is indeed the central premise of John Scalzi's satirical novel, Redshirts. The story takes place in a Star Trek-like future where newly assigned ensign Andrew Dahl realizes something is amiss. Specifically, Dahl notices that the ship’s planet-side missions almost always result in the death of low-ranked ensigns while the captain, science officer and handsome Lieutenant move about largely unharmed. Redshirts is a lighthearted novel that works on a meta-level as it pokes fun at the genre without being condescending to its fans.
Word is now out that Scalzi's Redshirts is getting a limited television series run on FX. It is expected that the television show will maintain its humorous, respectful approach to poking fun at the common TV sci-fi tropes: The author himself is signed on as Executive Producer.
I, Frankenstein, mentioned in this column last year, has hit theaters. As much as the graphic novel on which it was based was adored, the box office is sadly underperforming. You may want to consider this film a future rental.