Classics and Movies

I don't get it. Pride and Prejudice, the new film with Keira Knightley, is out in theaters this week. Don't get me wrong, Keira is stunning in the film and the cinematography looks scrumptious. But how many times can we remake the same story? TV movies, mini series... Just last year there was the "Bride" & Prejudice remake with the equally gorgeous Aishwarya Rai.

That brings me to the question: Why do people keep adapting the same classic novels to the screen? Are some stories more cinematic than others, or are filmmakers so out of ideas? Or do people simply love these stories so much they don't mind seeing new productions with new actors -- kind of like how different orchestras play the same pieces of classical music? Or are these stories so popular that the films are guaranteed to make money?

And what are some of the most adapted-to-screen stories out there? lists at least 8 or 9 Pride & Prejudices. A few weeks ago Isaw a remake of Oliver Twist. I think they're remaking To Kill a Mockingbird now. Of course, there was the Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds and Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this year.

I wonder, when will they start making my novels into movies over and over and over and over again? How long do I have to be dead first?

Or when will they remake Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? Hopefully after Daniel Radcliffe becomes a juvenile delinquent first.


J. D. F. said…
You ask a lot of good questions in your post, but let me ask you one: Why does Hollywood seem to ignore coming of age stories or botch anything that's not safe and classic?

Tom Robbins's Even Cowgirls Get The Blues? A bomb. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas? OK, but should have been much better.

Coming of age stories/memoirs like Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius languish in pre-production hell before they go into turnaround and are never heard from again. A film adaptation of Catcher In The Rye? How about A Confederacy Of Dunces? Haven't seen either yet. And good adaptations of the Beat writers stuff? I'd like to see some Kerouac on the screen, though when it comes to Wm Burroughs, props to Cronenberg for Naked Lunch.

The powers-that-be in Tinseltown seem to like anything over 100 years old. Perhaps we should be thankful that movies like The Hours (Virginia Woolf was the classic anchor in that one) and Neverland (Barrie and his creation Peter Pan) get made at all. But it does sure seem like Hollywood is playing it safe these days.
Ray Wong said…
I think the big studios want to play it safe and stick to what they think would make a buck or get them the prestige (then make a buck). Coming of age stories have to be exceptional to get their interest, and yes, many of them don't make a buck. Smaller and independent studios tend to be more open to taking risks. For example, last year's Sideways was a pretty good diversion. And there are coming of age books made into movies in the past 50 years: To Kill A Mockingbird, Stand By Me, A Home at the End of the World, to name a few. It is peculiar that Catcher in the Rye was never made into a film -- is it because the protagonist is not that likable? Not sure.

But with tickets sales and attendance down, and competition from TV, DVDs and the Internet, big studios are playing safe, churning out substandard movies that people don't want to see -- do we see the irony, the vicious cycle here? It's up to the Indies to make things happen, but sometimes they don't have the backers and money to buy the rights of these books and some are difficult to make on a small budget (such as the Kite Runner). The safe bet would be making something that is already in the public domain. Just a thought.

Dawno said…
On remakes - there's something to be said for casting classics with the current generation of actors. Aren't the studios also trying to get a new generation of movie goers interested? I wonder if there's not just a teensy bit of curmudgeon (and I don't mean you, Ray!!) lurking inside when I hear "Why remake that movie? Judy Garland's portrayal can't be surpassed." Yes, maybe it's laziness and conservative but maybe it's also a way to introduce classics to young viewers? But I don't know much about what goes on in the studios so I'm probably wrong.
Ray Wong said…
Personally I love watching a classic with yesterday's stars like Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago. There's just something about movie classics and I am by no means a curmudgeon. However, I can see why we want to recast a classic with today's fresh stars such as Keira Knightley, or Tess with Natasja Kinski (in the 80s). And with today's new technologies, a great film could definitely draw a new crop of young viewers (e.g. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). A modern update could also be very refreshing, as long as it doesn't betray the original. Nothing wrong with encouraging young people to read the classics either.

But I also see a lot of remakes that make me feel like Hollywood is running out of ideas. And these remakes are not done well at all (who needs another crappy remake of the Three Musketeers?) Still, 9 remakes of Pride & Prejudice? That's a little much.

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