I was all excited when I heard that there is a film adaptation of Susan Cooper’s "The Dark is Rising," but also apprehensive. Disappointment is inevitable when they make a movie out of a favorite. But the more I read, the sadder I am. As I have advised other people about film adaptations in the past – if we go I need to remember that it may be a cracking good movie, as long as I realize that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the book. Kind of like the last "Godzilla" remake. It was a great monster movie. It had nothing to do with Godzilla, and once you let go of that, it was a great monster movie. So I need to give it a chance on it’s own merits.
I’m not going to rant about what they’ve done to the plot. If anyone else cares, there are many, many other people on line doing that. I’m a little baffled about how they can take out all the Arthurian elements and think they’ll be able to do the rest of the series, but then, they managed to make all three of Ludlum’s Bourne books having taken Carlos out. To lift a quote out of a blog I scanned ""A joke among the journalists covering The Dark Is Rising set visit in Bucharest over the last couple of days was that the movie has only changed three things from the Newberry-winning novel on which it’s based: they’ve changed the lead kid’s nationality from English to American, they’ve changed the lead kid’s age from 11 to 14, and they’ve changed everything that happens in the story."
I adore these books. Have for years. The fact that they’re "children’s books" doesn’t stop me from re-reading them with pleasure every few years. As a matter of fact, I’ve read my copy of "The Dark is Rising" until the back cover has fallen off. They’re great books, and they would have made great movies just as they were. What a shame.
Which leads me to a philosophical question: when adapting an existing piece of literature for film, why is de rigueur to "update" it? Ludlum’s books were stunning, and set what, 30 years ago? Why did they *need* to be updated to be set in the current decade? Cooper’s books are set in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s era. Why did that need to be changed? Will the movie-going public really not go to see a movie that’s not set in our "now?" When Disney did Narnia they held to the book’s setting of England during the blitz, AND they retained the characters’ English nationality. I didn’t notice that those issues affected the box office take. I can’t believe that culturally we are provincial to the point where we won’t go see a movie whose protagonist is an English boy, and whose setting is 30 years ago. At least, I hope not.