A little while back I wrote something angry about how much the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film adaptation sucked. And while I stand staunchly by that, I have to concede a little bit that Hollywood doesn’t always fuck it up. At least, not to the point of H2G2.
1. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy
Walking. So much walking. And talking about lineage. Which sounds boring, but if you’ve read the books, you’ll know it’s not. Not at all. There’s also cave trolls and creepy giant squid things and mountains and armies and fighting and lava and big fiery eyes and wizards and Gollum and hobbits. And dwarves! I learned so much about dwarves in those books. And then Peter Jackson came along and said, “Hey, let’s do some films based on these books, but we’re going to leave out Tom Bombadil, just to piss off Veronica.” But besides the fact that he left one of my favourite fringe characters out of the first film, Jackson did a superb job bringing three of the best books ever written to the silver screen. The casting was perfect, the decision to film in New Zealand was perfect, the post-production was great, the music gives me chills -still- every time I hear it. Anyway, enough of this; onto the next!
2. Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island
The film itself came and went without much fanfare (“Oh look, Scorsese’s using DiCaprio again.”), although it did make a pretty respectable amount of money. But I believe it’s one of the most fantastic adaptations ever done: right down to the dialogue, how the characters act around each other, the look and feel of the 1950s, the creepiness, and the dream sequences. I make a point of reading Shutter Island whenever I remember to; it’s genuinely a brilliant, well-written book, and Scorsese wields the plot twists like a frigging ninja wields a pair of nunchucks. If you haven’t seen this film, go watch it now, but be prepared to have some weird dreams. Not that it’s scary; it just…fucks with your head a little bit.
3. Chuck Pahlaniuk’s Fight Club
A big fat “DUH” right here, folks. And really, if you haven’t read Fight Club, you haven’t really lived. I remember the first time I read it, I put it down when I was finished and actually said, “Holy balls,” to my empty room. The film is perfect, ’nuff said. One of my all-time favourites. Seriously though, read the damn book. Everyone needs to read at least one incredibly violent, fucked-up novel in their life, and if it’s not Battle Royale, it had damn well better be Fight Club. Don’t talk about it, though.
4. Koshun Takami’s Battle Royale
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Battle Royale is possibly the most insanely fucked-up, unbelievably violent pieces of film to ever go global. It’s like The Hunger Games, only it’s Japanese, so it’s automatically way better. Basically, the government kidnaps a whole class of ninth-graders, gasses them, brings them to an island and makes them fight to the death. They’re each given a survival pack that has some supplies and one weapon in it, which can be anything from a gun to a frying pan. There’s this one crazy chick with a crossbow… yeah. It’s nuts. The only kid in the film you’d probably recognize (unless you’re into Japanese cinema) is Chiaki Kuriyama, who played Gogo in Kill Bill vol. 1. And true to form, she plays one of the more, uh, unbalanced characters. Anyway, everything ends in bloodshed in this film; I don’t even want to think of how much cornstarch and food colouring they went through to achieve the effects. Although, it’s Japan, so something tells me it’s probably like, baboon blood or something. For, y’know, authenticity. Anyway, the book is gratuitously violent and so is the film, so get it out of your system and read/watch immediately.
5. Ian Fleming’s Dr. No
So you’ve got your spy novel (which was, incidentally, a script for a television show before it was a James Bond book), and you read it and go, “Hm, that’s pretty good, this might make a decent film!” Well, apparently that’s what Terence Young thought when he decided to direct it (well, not so much ‘decided’ as he did ‘agree to do it because Cubby Broccoli wanted a Brit’). And for the first ever James Bond film, it was fantastic, although I’m a huuuuuuge Bond fan, so I may be slightly biased. Along with Connery, we’re introduced to Swiss actress Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder (whose lengthy Wikipedia page describes her as a ‘sex symbol’), and Quebec-born actor Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No (whose Wikipedia page is considerably shorter and lacks a picture). This film is a milestone: it marks the beginning of the longest-running (and one of the most popular) film series in history. It stuck to the book pretty spot-on. And it was my first Bond film, which is probably why it’s my favourite. AND, I swear I’m not putting this one on my list because I have a crush on young Sean Connery. I swear.
6. Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
Here we go again with a bit of the old ultraviolent, this time with the surprisingly short, yet no less shocking A Clockwork Orange. The film, starring Malcolm McDowell, sparked controversy and outrage with its 1971 release, very much along the same lines as Battle Royale. The highly described acts of sociopathic behaviour in the book are lifted almost verbatim and plopped into the film, which is part of what makes the film so good. Plus, it’s directed by Stanley Kubrick, so you just know it’s going to be chock full of violence and mind-fuckery (thanks mum, by the way, for letting me watch this as a child, along with The Shining and Full Metal Jacket; I’m surprised I’m not a damn serial killer). The way that beating up an old homeless man is described in the book and the way Kubrick brings that horrifying act to life on screen is such a spine-tingling, unsettling thing that it makes you think Kubrick may be ever so slightly unbalanced. Hell, it makes me think I’m a bit unbalanced for genuinely liking the film. And that’s what makes it great: Alex’s tyranny, and then his utter helplessness as he’s brainwashed and eventually nearly killed by the same group of people he used to hang around with, is one of the most honestly-told fictional stories I’ve ever read.