Contenders for film awards flood theaters in November and December, and this year several adaptations of children’s books will be joining the race. Roger already mentioned Ender’s Game, which opened November 1st (I wholeheartedly agree with him both about the Orson Scott Card controversy and the love of Harrison Ford); several other upcoming films are noteworthy for their children’s book connections.
The Book Thief (author: Marcus Zusak; U.S. film release: November 8th):
I’m not a fan of Zusak’s book, but after seeing an advance screening of the film, I think I’ll give the text another chance. While English stage actor Roger Allam’s interpretation of Death’s voice was a bit too jovial in the beginning of the film, by the end his occasional voiceover was just as I’d imagined while I was reading. I was thoroughly impressed by the performances of Emily Watson as Rosa, Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann, and newcomer Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg. But it was the bright performances of the two young stars (Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger and Nico Liersch as Rudy Steiner) that really captivated me. Though it’s a somber, quiet two-hour film, there are still plenty of humorous and uplifting moments. A subtle score by John Williams rounds out this moving World War II story that at its heart focuses on the power of books and words. I cannot recommend this film enough.
How I Live Now (Meg Rosoff; U.S. limited film release: November 8th):
I love Rosoff’s novel, and since this adaptation stars talented young actress Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) as protagonist Daisy, my fingers are crossed that the limited-release film will be showing in the Boston area.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins; November 22nd):
It’s no surprise that everyone is talking about this book-to-movie adaptation, given the success of the first Hunger Games film. Actors including Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee) and Jena Malone (Johanna Mason) join the already star-studded cast for this second installment (of four) of the bestselling trilogy. I know what I’ll be seeing Thanksgiving weekend — go Team Peeta!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (J. R. R. Tolkien; December 13th):
Director Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth with his second Hobbit film. Was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) too long, and in it not much happened? Yes and yes. Was it beautifully shot and impressive on the big screen? Yes and yes. Will I sit through the next two installments? Absolutely. While the grandness of Jackson’s vision worked well in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seems a bit of overkill to make three films (the final installment, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, releases in 2014) from the single Hobbit book. However, the trilogy format allows Jackson to include material from Tolkien’s appendices, a welcome addition for fans of his imaginary land. Jackson’s films generally garner some award nominations in the technical categories (have you seen that dragon?!), but if nothing else, we’ll get to see Legolas the elf return (hello, eye candy Orlando Bloom!). And as a Sherlock fan I will rejoice at the onscreen reunion of Watson and Holmes: Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins takes on the dragon Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Saving Mr. Banks (December 20th):
This biopic covers the life of P. L. Travers and the making of the film adaptation of her novel Mary Poppins. It has some real star power behind it, with Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney — hence the advance award buzz about it. Perhaps a Horn Book office outing is in order before the holidays!
Children’s book adaptations (maybe not all award contenders) released earlier this year include Beautiful Creatures, Oz the Great and Powerful, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Tiger Eyes. I’ve already got my sights set on next year’s Seventh Son (based on The Spook’s Apprentice), Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars, The Giver, Home (based on The True Meaning of Smekday) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) and 2 (2015). Which upcoming film adaptations are you most excited about seeing?