Before I ever cracked open a comic book I read the great authors of yesteryear. Works from Dickens, Dumas, and Wells filled my shelves. Each novel was a treasure trove of unique characters, touching emotion and intense action. They opened my mind to new ideas and thoughts while telling me an entertaining tale. Sometimes films today rely too heavily on effects and visuals instead of story. That is why I think it is important to tell these classic tales through film. It gives audiences a taste of how great a 200 year-old book can be. I'm going to walk you through nine books that deserve a film. I don't mean just any adaption...I mean a faithful, accurate depiction of the original story. Let's get started, shall we? Here's number nine:
9. Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
It's the beloved tale of a man, his submarine and a battle against the expansion of mankind. This would almost fall into the steampunk genre because of the time period (Electric lights had been introduced only a few years before). The most famous tech in the story is The Nautilus. The submarine is fitted with large glass windows, electric lights, and a steel skeleton unlike anything Well's readers had seen. Our cast is eclectic, ranging from psychotic despot (Captain Nemo) to outlandish rogue (Ned Land). Due to the war that Nemo wages on the upper world, the themes to this novel are quite deep. There are many connections to the Odessey, and also the oppression of India by the East India Company. Nemo, being of Indian descent, sees himself fighting the same war his ancestors fought. It's a battle between nature and science, man and beast, and humanity against the earth it lives on.
While there have been fourteen movie adaptions of the book, only one has come close to the source: Disney's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea from 1954. A few films have tried to modernize the idea, but that shouldn't be the case. This story is special because of its period technology and setting. It doesn't need adaption, but a good telling of the story.
8. Count of Monte Christo (1844-1845)
The man who brought us the Three Musketeers wrote another book...one that I think is far better. Count of Monte Christo takes us through the life and tragedy of Edmond Dantes, a sailor who was accused of a crime he did not commit. A tale of revenge, forgiveness, and letting go of the past, Dumas takes the reader through a maze of treachery and deceit, ending with the desctruction of three entire families. There are prison escapes, sword fights, political intrigue, and romance.
Thirty-two times has the Count appeared on-screen, and he is set to appear again in a David Goyer film. The most famous adaption was released in 2002 and starred Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce, but did what a book-based movie shouldn't do. It took liberties. They messed with the story and dumbed down some of the themes. I hope that we see a solid adaption that deals with the heavy themes that are in the novel.
7. Beowulf (approx. 800)
Beowulf is a monster hunter who becomes king in the oldest Anglo-Saxon epic poem. It's a pretty straight-forward plot but is one of the oldest Scandinavian tales known to man. Though the story itself may have mythical beasts and fake deities, the culture of the ancient Vikings is artistically portrayed in this story. Why wouldn't I consider an epic like Gilgamesh? Honestly, it's just too weird. Like I said with Beowulf, it's a straight-forward, simple story, and sometimes that's best.
The concept of this epic has been adapted countless times. A more famous version was Antonio Banderas' The 13th Warrior (but based more on a Michael Crichton book). Imagine a film steeped with ancient Nordic culture, and narrated in the poetry it was written in. To my knowledge, such a film adaption does not yet exist.
6. Moby Dick (1851)
Considered to be the "Great American Novel", Moby Dick has lived up to its nickname. It's perhaps the first novel that comes to mind when American Literature mentioned. In it, Melville weaves a story of a madman in search of an unnattainable object. Though two-thirds of the book is detailed accounts of whaling procedures, the story itself is intriguing. The themes of brotherhood and the futility of chasing after impossible things make up for all the boring parts.
Moby Dick actually hasn't had many film adaptions, and no accurate ones in recent times. Because of the current trend of "survival films", this novel would have great success. Not only do you have the battle against the whale, but also the battle against the elements of the seas. The book was written in part to shed a better light on whaling. While I don't agree with that, the story itself is so strong and so enjoyable that it would still make a great movie.
5. The Phantom of the Opera (1909-1910)
These next few are some of my favorite novels of all time, and this is no exception. Though better known as an Andrew Loyd Webber musical, the book by Leroux is no less impressive. You have a monstrous angel who falls in love with a beautiful girl, and finally learns what true love is. This comes after a lot of murders though, so it's not a total loss. This book is part horror, part psychological thriller, and part romance.
Like I said, the musical is a famous (and faithful) adaption, as was the 1925 Lon Chaney silent film. There was a disastrous rendition of the musical in 2004 (but we won't talk about that). But I don't want an adaption of the play, but the book. Because of its serial format, Phantom of the Opera isn't the deepest novel on our list, but the story is still gripping and emotional. And thanks to its horror-like qualities, it would appeal to a wide range of audiences.
4. A Princess of Mars (1917)
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Yes, this is a John Carter of Mars book. Trust me when I say that this novel and its sequels were much better than the Disney movie. In fact, they could even rival Star Wars for depth of characters, rich world, and epic battles. Star Wars even took inspiration from this series! The first story follows a Civil War veteran and his quest on a hostile planet as he rises in power and prestige. Again not as deep as others, but that was the style. It was the beginning of science fiction, and the first "sci-fi epic".
Only the one movie has been made from the series, which I find to be a slight crime. Perhaps we've advanced too far to enjoy a fantasy sci-fi, or Star Wars and Star Trek have cornered the market. John Carter's world is such a rich and gorgeous universe, and yet it can't grab hold in today's society. I mean, how cool would it be to have Star Wars mixed with Lord of the Rings set in the 1870's? Perhaps we'll see an adaption in the future that does the novels justice.
3. Don Quixote (1605, 1615)
Miguel de Cervantes
El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha is considered to be the greatest piece of Spanish literature. Cervantes created a brilliant parody of both the current king and the "knights-errant" stories that tried to romanticize the Middle Ages. Though it pokes fun often, it is serious when it needs to make a serious point. It doesn't hurt that the two main characters are so lovable. Even if Quixote does tilt at windmills, you can't help but cheer for his quest to fight for justice, and Sancho is the Samwise Gamgee of the story and embodies true friendship.
Another "book to musical" story, this satire has been made into a few movies, but never anything well known. Perhaps this is due to the period humor, or the complex themes that don't seem to translate into film as well as the themes in other novels. It still is a classic that would be so enjoyable to watch on-screen, and would do well as a comedy, I believe.
2. The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
Robert Louis Stevenson
The first six months of publication saw forty thousand copies sold...and this was in the 1880's! Stevenson spins a tale of human nature: a psychological battle between man's morality and his demons. Jekyll is the inspiration for characters like the Hulk, and Two-Face. This story delves deep into the mind, and goes to some dark places. It's not a story for the feint of heart.
Over 123 film versions have been made (not including parodies and stage or radio performances) since motion film was introduced. This tale appeals so much because it's a horror story, psychological thriller, mystery, allegory, and gothic all in one. Much like Phantom of the Opera, this isn't a happy tale, but a dark and gritty account of the worst side of mankind. While not everyone's cup of tea, this story is one of the greatest novels of the late 1800's, and deserves a good movie.
1. A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
This may well be my favorite novel of all time. Dickens wasn't always the most succinct writer, but this story may be his most powerful. It revolves around the time of the largest French Revolution. We see Sydney Carton start as the drunken bum with no hope go to the sacrificial hero. Social justice, light versus dark, and the idea of redemption to those who seem lost are the main themes of this novel.
Only seven films have been made for this book, with the last one starring Peter Cushing in 1980. Like much of Dicken's other adapted works, it almost needs to be a mini-series because of the complexity of the story line. Even so, A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most beautiful stories ever printed. To see characters like Sydney Carton come alive on-screen would be a dream come true.
I apologize for the length of this article, but these are things that I love. These stories are beyond description, and I would love nothing more than to see them on the silver-screen. I hope that with the release of Michael Fassbender's Macbeth next year we will see a return of classic novels to the silver screen. Did I leave any books out? Let me know in the comments! And, if you've never read one or any of these, I encourage you to check them out for yourself!