Adaptations

One of the TV events of the winter that I was looking forward to has come, gone and mostly left me cold. Oh it was pretty to look at for sure, and had some good moments. But overall, even though I only dimly recall the books, I was not terribly impressed by Scifi’s Earthsea miniseries. I remember being scared out of my wits when I read The Tombs of Atuan. LeGuin’s prose wove a dread heaviness for the labyrinth beneath the temple that stayed with me for a long time (over twenty years now), even though I’ve forgotten the details of the story. The same place in the series, was brightly lit by torches. the accomplishment of memorizing its twists and turns minimized to a simple formula. Where was the dread?

I think the only part of the show that I found remotely scary, was the Gebbeth, and only in parts at that. I’m beginning to agree with a comment I read on a board about adaptations of books for the screen. Every time a new one of a favorite is announced, fans get all excited. They flock out to see if if it’s a movie, or glue themselves to the TV if it’s a mini-series. When it’s all over, we come away largely disappointed. Likely because every person has a slight different conception of the text covered in the books, but also because what resonates in text, doesn’t always resonate on film.

And yet, we still throw ourselves excitedly at new adaptations, jabbering about them endlessly and holding out hope that -this- time the film-maker will ‘get it’. I think I can count on one hand the number of successful adaptations I’ve seen, and for the most part, they were not fantasy/scifi books. In fact, to this day, I think my favorite adaptation of a novel for the screen, is To Kill a Mockingbird which, in my opinion, managed to capture not only what happened in the book well, but also drew out the characters well and the overall atmosphere of the town. It lives and breathes on the screen as well as it does in my mind while reading the book.

I guess that’s where the hope comes from – that it has been done before. It just seems that doing it for my particular favorite genre carries a whole load of extra difficulties with it. I’m still hopeful about the live action version of The Last Unicorn that is in the works. I may be setting myself up for another mad dash against the rocks of disappointment, but the hope just won’t die.