'The Book Thief' and 7 Other Risky Book-to-Movie Adapatations
In just a few short weeks, the long-awaited film adaptation of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak's bestselling novel, will be released. Only a handful of reviews for the movie are in so far, but they're promising; Variety called it "solidly engaging" and "quietly effective," and with a Nov. 15 release date that's right in Oscar territory, it's a definite possibility to make an appearance come awards season.
We're thrilled that the movie looks so good, but for a long time, the thought of one of the most beloved books of the last decade being made into a movie — and possibly ruined — was frightening. The Book Thief is an incredibly unique book that, although filled with movie-ready moments, has a charm that we figured might only translate well on the page. We're all for seeing our favorite novels come to life, but not at the cost of losing the elements that made them so special to read. For more on The Book Thief and seven other book-to-movie adaptations that had or have us worried, read on.
Image: 20th Century Fox
'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak
The Book: Published in 2005 to enormous acclaim, a dozen awards, and a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than 230 weeks.
The Concern: Most of the praise was for the novel's hugely original structure, which featured Death as the narrator. Would that come off cheesy in a movie?
The Movie: To be released on November 15, 2013. Early reviews are good, but there's too few of them to tell what the general consensus will be. English actor Roger Allam voices Death.
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky
The Book: A 1999 coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky that's become a cult favorite over the years, Perks tells the story of Charlie, a "wallflower" who befriends two seniors during his freshman year of high school.
The Concern: Perks is an epistolary novel, meaning that the entirety of the book is told in the letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous stranger. It's also a deeply language-driven book, with Charlie's thoughts and emotions acting as the main content.
The Movie: Released in 2012, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky from his own novel. The movie received nearly unanimous praise for perfectly capturing the book's unique voice and tone.
'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green
The Book: The most heartbreaking book you'll ever read. Cancer sucks.
The Concern: Much of TFIOS is about the lead character's obsession with a fictional book made up by John Green, and the book-within-a-book concept rarely goes over well on-screen. Also, the novel's main strength comes from Hazel's whip-smart, confessional inner dialogue.
The Movie: To be released in June 2014. Filming just ended, and if the excitement of frequent set-visitor John Green is any indication, the final product has real potential of being just as wonderful as the book. Our fingers are crossed.
'A Series of Unfortunate Events' by Lemony Snicket
The Books: A critically acclaimed, hugely successful series written by Lemony Snicket, the pseudonym for Daniel Handler. The story follows the lives of three siblings who frequently battle their cousin, the abusive, manipulative Count Olaf.
The Concern: The books are actively narrated by Snicket, meaning that he inserts himself, and members of his fictional family, into the story. In addition, the books employ a sharp, sarcastic tone that's hard to translate on-screen.
The Movie: Released in 2004 to middling reviews and major disappointment from fans. The movie, which combined plots from the first three books of the series, tried to replicate the active narration, but failed to capture the unique charm of Snicket's writing and the books' trademark dry humor. The film was a box office success, but plans for a franchise fell through.
'The Giver' by Lois Lowry
The Book: One of the most-beloved and frequently challenged books of all time, Lois Lowry's dystopian novel is a staple on middle school curriculums.
The Concern: The book's plot centers on a 12-year-old, Jonah, who receives memories of past generations. It's filled with flashback-like sequences, and many scenes consist solely of Jonah laying down on a table as memories are inserted into his mind.
The Movie: After more than 15 years of development hell, The Giver movie is finally becoming a reality. Filming is currently underway, with a 24-year-old actor playing Jonah. The change in the character's age is a big one, since Jonah's innocence is so crucial to the plot, but Lowry has given it her blessing.
'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
The Book: A he-said, she-said thriller that messes with your mind and keeps you on your toes all the way to its shattering conclusion, Gone Girl was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for eight consecutive weeks.
The Concern: Gone Girl's entire plot is based around inner monologue, as well as the diary entries of one of its lead characters. Movies have dealt with twists and turns for decades, but the warp speed of Gone Girl's surprises, while perfect in print, might make for a tiresome film.
The Movie: Scheduled for an October 2014 release, right in time for Oscar season. It has a respected director, a talented cast, and and a script by the book's author, but expectations are already enormously high.
'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold
The Book: Published in 2002, Alice Sebold's novel about the aftermath of a teenage girl's rape and murder became that summer's runaway bestseller.
The Concern: Bones is narrated by a dead girl. Slightly problematic.
The Movie: Peter Jackson's adaptation received negative reviews, with critics calling it "cloying" and "cheesy." The performances of the cast, primarily Stanley Tucci as the serial killer who murdered Susie (Saoirse Ronan), received praise, but the script and direction didn't fare nearly as well.
'Unbroken' by Laura Hillenbrand
The Book: Laura Hillenbrand's non-fiction tale of the extraordinary life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian-turned-POW, has been on the bestseller list for more than 125 weeks.
The Concern: There are many elements of Unbroken that are practically made for the movies, but Zamperini's story spans several decades, making it harder for a film to succeed without losing the audience's focus to CGI or historical settings.
The Movie: After more than 50 years of attempts to bring Zamperini's story to the big screen, it was announced in 2012 that Angelina Jolie will direct from Hillenbrand's book. The adaptation will be released on Christmas 2014.