Hollywood continues to mine the bookshelves in their quest for new and creative storylines. Over a dozen upcoming releases are adaptations of books. These “literature-inspired” films range from thrillers envisioning dark, future worlds to historical tales, emotionally intense coming-of-age stories, wild comedies and intense literary novels.
Dystopian themes remain popular. In Darkest Minds, adapted from a novel by Alexandra Bracken, a disease has killed 98 percent of America’s children. The survivors, who have developed superpowers, are placed in internment camps. The story unfolds as 16-year-old Ruby escapes her camp and leads a group of teens on a desperate run from the government.
In the outrageously inventive Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, London has become a machine, capable of moving great distances and overwhelming (eating) other cities. Teenagers Tom Natsworthy and Hester escape the city and must run for their lives through the wreckage left behind in this monstrous world and also confront a terrifying new weapon.
Annihilation, adapted from a science fiction novel by Jeff VanderMeer, creates a much different but equally nightmarish world. It follows a group of military scientists as they enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.
In the near-future world of Ready Player One, based on the book by Ernest Cline, we follow unlikely hero Wade Watts as he uses his gaming skills and knowledge of 1980s pop-culture trivia to find clues left by billionaire James Halliday. The clues will lead him to the truth about the Oasis, the online virtual reality platform within which everyone on Earth is living.
For lighter fare, there is Where’d You Go, Bernadette from the book by Maria Semple. In this smart, hysterical “dramedy”, a family is in crisis after the disappearance of its brilliant, misanthropic matriarch. Bernadette’s 15-year-old daughter, Bee, does everything she can to track her mother down. In the process, things get messy as both mother and daughter make important discoveries.
In Crazy Rich Asians, from the book by Kevin Kwan, New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young. She envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One is that his childhood home looks like a palace. Two is that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars. And three, he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
In a more serious vein, Little Stranger, based on the novel by Sarah Waters, is set in postwar rural Warwickshire. Dr. Faraday, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. The Georgian house has been home to the Ayres family for over two centuries. The once impressive mansion is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, and its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society. There is also something sinister about the house and its occupants, as Dr. Faraday discovers in this haunting tale.
In The Girl In the Spider’s Web from the book by David Lagercrantz, we return to the world of Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and crusading editor, Mikael Blomkvist. When Blomkvist receives a call from a female hacker who claims to have information vital to the United States’ security, Blomkvist reaches out to Salander for help. Together they are drawn into a ruthless underworld of spies, cybercriminals, and government operatives.
As in past years, several new movies are based YA novels, including Love, Simon, adapted from the book, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens’ Agenda by Betty Albertalli. The story follows sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier. Simon is being blackmailed. If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will also be jeopardized.
In Monster, from the New York Times YA bestseller by Walter Dean Myers, we follow the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy being charged with robbery and felony murder for being the lookout during a lethal armed robbery. The movie wrenchingly explores how one single decision can change a whole life.
Hollywood often turns to acclaimed literary novels for plot ideas. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, has been described as a “captivating story of strength and frailty, love and imprisonment, and an inspiring tale of transcendent romance”. The movie stars Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe.
Acclaimed poet Sylvia Plath wrote only one novel, The Bell Jar. This grim autobiographical story follows Esther Greenwood, a brilliant, beautiful and talented young woman, as she experiences a mental breakdown. The Bell Jar masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s inner world and reveals the pressures to conform to society’s expectations that likely contributed to Plath’s suicide at age 30. The film adaptation features Julia Stiles as the troubled Esther
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shafer and Anna Barrows, was a huge hit a few years ago, especially with book clubs. The story is mostly set on the island of Guernsey, just as Britain is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War. Writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met?
And finally, The Alienist based on the book by Caleb Carr, has been made into not a movie, but a TV series. The Alienist takes us back to the moment in history when the modern idea of the serial killer was born. The series follows the efforts of a team of farsighted investigators working frantically to solve a string of hideous murders in late 1900’s New York.