Slight change of plans. Turns out, the planned “So You Want to Adapt a Story” is far more involved than I expected. That will come next week. Enjoy the round up of adaptational news in the meantime.
What could have been: Hayao Miyazaki wanted to make a Pippi Longstocking movie in 1971.
Concept art for the work has come out. The only thing stopping the adaptation was Astrid Lindgren, Pippi’s creator, saying no. Studio Ghibli just didn’t have the world renown in 1971 that it has today.
2014, the Year of the Bomb?
Of the fourteen potential major failures coming in 2014, twelve are adaptations and remakes. Of note, Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Japanese light novel, All You Need Is Kill. If Divergent and The Maze Runner both do poorly, this could signal the beginning of the end of Young Adult novels being adapted. Guardians of the Galaxy is a wild card. Marvel is taking a huge risk, but, as Steve put it, what has Marvel got to lose?
Sin City sequel and TV series on the way.
The Weinstein Company is getting Robert Rodrigues and Frank Miller to create Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is expected out August 29 next year, with a TV series to start afterwards. Meanwhile, the company is also working on a ten part miniseries based on the theatrical adaptation of the Stephen King novel, The Mist.
Two versions of 50 Shades of Grey adaptation to be released.
The first will be rated R. The second will go for the dreaded NC-17 rating. The problem with NC-17 movies is that there are few theatres willing to screen them. 50 Shades might be an exception, but there could be issues when someone who was expecting the R version sees the more explicit NC-17. The producer also said that she doesn’t want the film to be seen as “mommy porn”, which will be a neat trick considering that the original book is exactly that. Filming has started, with Vancouver, BC, standing in for Vancouver, Washington.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone to be adapted.
The first of a trilogy by Laini Taylor, the YA novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone is being adapted by Universal. The novel originally came out in 2011; the adaptation has no release date yet.
Cats may be next Broadway musical adapted to film.
Andrew Lloyd Webber confirmed that Universal is working on the adaptation. Cats itself is an adaptation of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Main challenge is convincing the audience that people dressed as cats and signing is worth seeing, but the stage version also had that issue.
Veronica Mars due out March 14, 2014.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign that saw the movie funded in under twelve hours, Veronica Mars will hit the theatres next March. Most of the core cast has returned for the movie.
Also out March 14, 2014, Need for Speed.
Electronic Arts teamed up with Dreamworks for the adaptation. The video game series focuses on street racing, and includes police pursuit as part of the challenge. Each game in the series has a different focus, giving a bit of room for the movie to work with.
Warner Bros/DC may have a low-budget series of movies.
Three lesser known titles, Suicide Squad, Team 7, and Deathstroke may get lower budget movies, in the range of $20-40 million. The lower budget may reduce audience expectations and allow for a decent return. DC just needs to avoid looking desperate compared to Marvel’s approach.
MTV to adapt Shannara.
MTV’s network decay continues, but this time, it’s not a reality series. The former music network will be adapting Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, hoping to jump on the fantasy bandwagon led by A Game of Thrones. The advantage with Shannara is that twenty-five books have been written, so there’s no chance of the TV series catching up and overtaking. Brooks himself is involved in the project.
Heathers to run Off Broadway.
The 1989 movie, Heathers, has been adapted as a musical slated to run Off Broadway beginning March 17, 2014. The original was a dark comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, where the two took revenge on a clique of mean girls all named Heather.
NBC to air Rosemary’s Baby miniseries.
NBC continues to ride the adaptation train with the announcement of the four-hour Rosemary’s Baby miniseries. The miniseries will go back to the original book of the same name by Ira Levin.
The Sound of Music Live! a sign of things to come?
Still on NBC here. The live musical broadcast garnered ratings for the struggling network, leading to the confirmation that there will be another musical for next November. Which one has yet to be decided. The Sound of Music Live! may have brought in an audience in part from novelty and in part for the potential train-wreck it could have been.
Sony takes a page from Marvel Studios.
Sony announced that they will be producing two Spider-Man spin-offs, Venom and The Sinister Six. Both movies will focus on Spidey’s rogues gallery. No dates for either production start or release were given.
Animated Anne Frank in the works.
The Diary of Anne Frank is being turned into an animated feature, with the blessing of the Anne Frank Fonds Basel, the foundation created by Frank’s father. Ari Folman, director of Waltz with Bashir will direct and will have full access to the foundation’s archives.
The Naked Gun to be rebooted.
Paramount is looking to reboot The Naked Gun, with Ed Helms to fill Leslie Nielsen’s role of Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective-Lieutenant, Police Squad. David Zucker, one of the original creators, is on board.
Disney to create series based on animated villains.
Descendants will look at the lives of the teenaged offspring of Disney villains. The live-action work will premier in 2015.
Next week, “So You Want to Adapt a Story”.
News has broken about NBC remaking the murder mystery series, Murder, She Wrote. This time around, Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role in The Help, will star as Jessica “J.B.” Fletcher, mystery writer and angel of death*. A few changes are being made to the series, beyond having an actress younger than Angela Lansbury was when she played Jessica. First, instead of the main character being a widow who wrote mysteries to supplement her income and getting a break, the new JB Fletcher will be a hospital administrator in her day job. With Jessica having a regular job, she won’t be able to travel around as much as in the original series. Second, Jessica will be a self-published author instead of going through a publishing company. This reflects the huge changes in the publishing industry since the original series left the air.
The usual question when anything is remade is, “Why do a remake?” In this case, NBC is still rebuilding after the fiasco of moving Jay Leno to a 10pm time slot, losing five dramas including the long-running Law & Order. NBC is still rebuilding, trying to regain the lost audience, a tough chore when the options available are almost boundless. The network has already cancelled one remake, Ironside, after three episodes, replacing it with Dateline for the most part in the time slot**.
The difference, though, between Ironside and Murder, She Wrote is familiarity. The original Ironside starred Raymond Burr, who was better known for Perry Mason. The old series, while falling one short of having 200 episodes over eight seasons, never received much syndication beyond the 70s; Murder, She Wrote lasted twelve seasons with 284 episodes, plus came out when syndication was far more established with the 500 channel cable line up looming. Murder, She Wrote had a larger impact, and, having ended its twelve season run in 1996, is better remembered. NBC may be counting on people wondering about the differences between the original and the remake to get a decent number of viewers for the pilot episode.
There will be complaints. With the Internet and social media, people have many places to vent about a series sight unseen. There are three areas of contention that I can see. First, Jessica has a day job. The original series was more an anthology series featuring whodunits, and with JB Fletcher being a successful author able to live off her royalties, there was no need to anchor her to any one location. If one episode needed her in LA one week and the next week’s show needed her in Miami, the script writers could hand wave her being in both cities as being on a book signing tour. Or she could visit friends and relatives anywhere in the world*** for any number of reasons. The new Jessica Fletcher, though, has a day job – hospital administrator. The new Jessica can’t gallivant around the country. Being self-published, she can’t yet live off her royalties. Book tours would either be self-funded or virtual. However, being at a hospital means that she would see the bodies that come in, giving her a chance to notice that the odd death isn’t of natural causes. This also means that, in a large enough city, she’s not going to be the harbinger of death. In the original Murder, She Wrote, everywhere JB Fletcher went, someone died, to the point where people could call her Entertainment’s most successful serial killer.
The second area of contention is the choice of actress in the new series. As mentioned about, Spencer is an Oscar winner. However, Angela Lansbury was much beloved in the role. It may be difficult to separate her from JB Fletcher. I’d have called it unremakable, alongside Columbo, for the same reason; the lead character and her actress have become one and the same to many viewers. Spencer will have to bring her own interpretation to the character and hope that people are willing to accept her version.
The third issue is tone. Remakes tend to go in one of two directions, the comedic approach or the dark and gritty approach. The original Murder, She Wrote was light fare. Sure, there was at least one body per episode, but to have a murder mystery, there needs to be a murder. At the same time, Jessica made the rounds, talking to suspects and investigating the crime scene, giving the viewers a way to solve the mystery alongside her. The end reveal showed the clues, letting viewers know that there wasn’t anything pulled out of thin air. The new series needs to keep the mystery aspect, keep the viewers following for clues. The level of gore might be raisable, thanks to shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and still remain light entertainment.
This isn’t to say that the show will be bad. Nothing has been filmed yet. The show can still succeed or fail on its own merits. NBC needs to have a deft touch with the new series, to bring in fans of the original, while still satisfying new viewers. Best of luck!
* Everywhere Jessica went, someone died. Her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine, was probably happy to see her leave for a book signing; it gave the townsfolk a breather from waiting for the next murder.
** Also coming up in the Ironside timeslot, a live version of The Sound of Music.
*** World being, for the most part, the Lower 48 States with maybe a detour into Canada. Maybe.