Friday, January 9, 2015

Film Friday: 3 Book-to-Film Trends for 2015

Every year, film publications, blogs and fans trot out a most anticipated movies of the year list. While I love reading those as much as the next guy or gal, this is the year those lists seem particularly ridiculous. We're getting a new Star Wars, an Avengers sequel, two Pixar movies and a Jurassic Park reboot? Game, set, match.

However, in the world of book-to-film adaptations, there seem to be three key trends this year.

1) Public domain titles are here again
Hollywood loves books and stories that are in the public domain because no one has to purchase film rights and they have a built-in audience. When studios are consistently making $100 million-plus tentpole event films, movies based off pre-existing stories that have already done well in front of an audience are seen as safer risks. This year, we have Cinderella (March 13), Pan (July 24), Victor Frankenstein (Oct. 2) and The Jungle Book (Oct. 9).

All four of these films have top-notch talent attached, but they also come with some baggage. Early word from both Cinderella and The Jungle Book indicates the previous Disney classics are being used as the film's respective templates, even down to songs and minor characters, rather than the original stories. Not much is known about Victor Frankenstein at this point, except that it stars Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. Pan is essentially an origin story to The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, Peter Pan, and has great talent both in front of and behind the camera.

2) Young adult adaptations will still be big
Among the headliner films set to debut in 2015, Katniss Everdeen's adventures will come to a close in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Nov. 20). Other young adult titles next year include The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Sept. 18), the second part of the Maze Runner trilogy and Paper Towns (June 5), a romantic adventure based on John Green's book. The latter film is being made by the same team that made Green's bestseller The Fault in Our Stars into a box-office smash. Of course, Shailene Woodley returns as Tris Prior in The Divergent Series: Insurgent (March 20).

Young adult novels can become pop culture phenomenons (Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight) with big-budget blockbuster adaptations. Word-of-mouth among teens is unbeatable in creating buzz for a film, especially with the advent of social media. Consider that The Fault in Our Stars made about $125 million Stateside and $180 million overseas — all on a $12 million budget. It helps that author John Green has his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, but teens are one of the strongest demographics in terms of social media engagement, reading and moviegoing at theaters.

3) Survival stories are back in style
In an era where two to three superhero movies are being churned out each year, survival stories are great ways to put ordinary people in extraordinary, and dare I say, super-heroic situations. Director Ron Howard, no stranger the genre, is back with an adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 National Book Award Winner In the Heart of the Sea (March 13), the story of the whale ship Essex and an encounter that would inspire Moby Dick. Later in the year, when Oscar campaigns traditionally start, Everest (Sept. 18), The Martian (Nov. 25) and The Revenant (Christmas) will be ready to hit theaters. Everest, based on Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air, tells the tale of the 1996 Mt. Everest expedition that went horribly awry. The Martian, about an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet, and The Revenant, a Western tale of revenge are both based on fictional works, but have survival themes in them. The former is being directed by Ridley Scott while the latter is being helmed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who is earning raves for his work directing Birdman, a likely Best Picture candidate at this year's Academy Awards.

Admittedly, this group of four is the one I'm looking forward to the most. In the Heart of the Sea is my most-anticipated movie of the spring and the other three are high on my watch and read list. If my best books of 2014 list was any indication, I love stories of people overcoming challenges, whether it be true-life stories like Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat or fictional tales like The Rosie Project.

Other high-profile book-to-film adaptations this year include Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb. 14), The Longest Ride (April 10) and Me Before You (Aug. 21), as well as an untitled Whitey Bulger film based off the book Black Mass (Sept. 18). While they have not been given a release date yet, adaptations of The Light Between Oceans and A Walk in the Woods are expected to hit cinemas. A House in the Sky and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk could also find their way into theaters in late 2015 as well, though those are both unconfirmed.

Is there a book adaptation you can't wait to see on the Silver Screen this year?

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