My son wants to go to the cinema this weekend with his pals.
He’s got to the age where he’s happy to pay to sit in a cold auditorium, his shoes sticking to the soft-drink-soaked carpet as he struggles to concentrate on a loosely-plotted, CGI laden, convoluted storyline over the sound of cola slurping, sweet-wrapper rustling and ringtones.
After years of sitting through countless animated features of widely varying quality, I’m quite happy for him to go to the cinema without me.
We did see the new Star Wars movie as a family the other week, the first few minutes of which were accompanied by periodic cussing from a drunk the staff had seen fit to allow in.
The man’s outburts were unsettling for several reasons: his language, which was bluer than the sky over the sun-soaked beaches of Malibu: the violence of execution, which was threatening and sporadic, meaning we’d have a few moments of unnerving, distracting peace waiting for the next explosion of filth (which, if it isn’t a thrash rock band name, should be): and finally, the fact that apart from the light from the screen, it was darker than a sewer in a power cut in there and the man was sitting close behind us.
So rather than wondering where Luke Skywalker had got to and why Chewbacca had aged better than Han Solo, I was left wondering if (a) the lunatic in the darkness was capable of physical violence as powerful as his verbal violence and if so (b) whether he had smuggled in a knife /machete / meat cleaver or any other such weaponry and was prone to the occasional blood-soaked rampage.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away
is probably not the opening JJ Abrams had in mind.
Fortunately, after ten minutes or so of this, someone overcame their natural English reserve, and got up to complain that disurbingly screamed obscenities and beloved family sci-fi francises don’t mix and the gentleman in question was removed.*
There’s nothing as landmark-y being screened at the moment, but if the lad is off to soak up some multi-plex block buster nonsense, the other half and I were hoping to watch a film too – favourite being Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear and left for dead in The Revenant. Personally, I feel he deserves no less for Titanic – I have a long memory, people.
After seeing the book of the Leo vehicle in the supermarket today, and knowing that the boys will likely be watching Goosebumps, I wondered how many of the current top ten movie offerings at my local cinemas are based on books.
The answer was:
The Big Short : based on a non-fiction account of the econimic crisis by Michael Lewis.
The Revenant : Michael Punke’s fictonalised account of a frontiersman’s fight for survival.
Thirteen Hours : Mitchell Zuckoff’s non-fiction account of the Battle of Benghazi.
Goosebumps : based on the kids’ horror fiction series by R.L.Stine
Room : based on the prize winning novel by Emme Donoghue.
The 5th Wave : based on the YA sci-fi novel by Rick Yancey.
6/10 – that’s a big chunk.
Now, this is the first time I’ve done this, so it could be that in a fortnight, they’ll be no book-inspired offerings. But I doubt it, for I’m sure we’ve all noticed the feed-through.
The Hunger Games, the Harry Potters, the Lord of the Rings movies – innumerable D.C and Marvel offerings – all have started out as paper and ended up celluloid, or code, or whatever format it is filmmakers use these days.
What can we aspiring authors learn from this?
Well, that filmmakers and movie studios don’t like to risk their bucks and reputations on untried ideas and would rather writers and publishers did it first. And that if you write a book that’s at least semi-successful you’re quite likely to get a film deal out of it.
I also wonder to what extent authors now write with cinema in mind.
Maybe they don’t do it consciously. But now we’ve had several generations who have grown up with TV and cinema filling some of the imaginative voids in their heads, is it possible NOT to imagine the framing of a scene, the score, the special effects?
Come on, writers. What do you think?
*The person who got up and complained wasn’t me, of course. It’s possible I would have sat there for 2 hours 15 minutes, tutting loudly as the man’s screaming grew more frenzied, only grumbling to a staff member after said loony had laid about me with his blade of choice.