Thursday, September 14, 2017

So many books would make better movies than a gender-swapped "Lord of the Flies" - a ReaditTorial

Once again it looks like a book-to-film adaptation has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

William Golding's savage novel "Lord of the Flies" is about to get the gender-flip reboot-till-it-bleeds Hollywood treatment, with a female cast (don't worry, I'm sure they'll work a 'token' middle aged white male in there somewhere).

Internet reactions to the news ranged from "Lord of the whuh?" to "What the hey, Girls don't even HAVE flies!" to "Here's a zillion other novels out there that would make a better movie".

It's with that last thought that we'll stick for this editorial, and also stray away from the path a little to talk about some of the biggest movie franchises of recent years - and movies that have become lauded as classics, usually featuring highly in any top 100 rundowns any commercial channel sees fit to trot out as authoritative from time to time.

Franchise is the key word here. Hollywood, particularly the big studios and even some of the smaller independent ones, rely on happy little folk returning to the box office again and again for something that's mostly identical to what has gone before, with one or two tweaks here and there.

With few exceptions, it seems that most summer blockbusters are falling into a serialised formula that fails to spark much in the way of inspiration or imagination, pandering instead to popcorn-fed folk who just want to see the latest bangs, booms and CGI wizardry rather than worry too much about storytelling.

Perhaps then this is the reason that the books that we book folk would LOVE to see turned into movies actually never will. As crass and ill-judged as rebooting Lord of the Flies with a full-on gender-swap sounds, it's almost a safe choice for movie audiences who will be looking for three core things from such a flick. An idyllic setting far removed from the world we know, a gloriously gorgeous cast of stick thin model-like girls (I cannot wait to see how they cast "Piggy" in this - anything over a size 8 and I'll be genuinely surprised) and of course a smidgeon of uber-violence and over-the-top bloodletting.

It'd be ridiculous to make such predictions this early on in the production but keeping a close eye on IMDB as the cast is announced (nothing so far, but that's assuming they even stay with the same title - I would not be at all surprised to see that as the first thing changed) I'm willing to lay even money on at least two or three of those predictions (plus of course the middle aged white dude thing) coming true.

Elsewhere in book-to-film adaptations that have been baking my noodle, I'm still completely baffled why we're getting a "Ready Player One" movie instead of a "Snow Crash" one. Spielberg's treatment of RPO is all but out of the blocks and ready to make your ears hurt with over-the-top combat sequences, CGI wizardry and of course the main bit everyone will be watching it for, a ton of in-jokes and pop culture references that probably go beyond what the book managed (I make no secret of the fact that I thought RPO was bitterly disappointing after all the hype).

Snow Crash was in development, but looks like it's been quietly moved to a siding while the bigger, bolder, brasher movie hits the theatres first. Which is a damned shame because (IMHO) Snow Crash is not only the better book, but would definitely make a far better movie if Joe Cornish can somehow miraculously string it all together.

Book-to-movie adaptations will always be hugely divisive. I always think back to a line from an old X-Files episode where The Smoking Man blandly states "I'd rather read the worst book ever written than watch the best movie ever made", a quote that I'd mostly stand by if it wasn't for those odd diamonds in the rough, movies that have stretched far beyond the original material's storytelling and scope. Sadly I feel that there are now so many atrociously bad decisions going on in the movie world that we're way too far beyond being able to trust that any new book to film adaptation won't still have a board of overfed shareholders in whatever massive communications company is fronting the cash for it really controlling the artistic direction of a project anyway.

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