Today, it seems, is adaptation day. Or, at least, the day I’m finding out about pending adaptations that were announced Tuesday.
According to Entertainment Weekly, The Jim Henson Company is adapting Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men into a feature film.
This is–IMNSHO, naturally–a brilliant move, albeit one with a couple of potential pitfalls.
Wee Free Men is not, as the EW article, suggests “Discworld‘s introductory novel”. It is, however, the introduction to the Tiffany Aching subseries of the Discworld novels; a set of works aimed explicitly at a YA audience. A film version–a good film version–could bring a whole new generation of fans to Terry Pratchett’s writing. And there are enough Tiffany Aching books in the series to allow for multiple sequels without stretching on for so long that the filmmakers risk descending into self-parody.
But there are those danger points. Henson has shown they can mix puppetry and live actors to good effect (see Labyrinth, for instance). But I’d be concerned if they went with an all-Muppet approach a la The Dark Crystal. Maybe they could pull it off, but I’m pessimistic enough to hope they don’t try.
More worrisome is the question of how the script will treat the titular Nac Mac Feegles. The joy of the characters comes directly from their reckless disregard for their personal safety coupled with a default assumption that an unplanned, all-out attack is the answer to any problem. Add their unrestrained use of creatively salty language, and any scene featuring them quickly reaches levels of chaos not found in this universe since the Big Bang.* Cleaning up their language or moderating their behavior in the name of “protecting the children” from bad influences would absolutely destroy them, both as foils for Tiffany’s peculiar brand of common sense and as characters in their own right.
* Remember Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladdin? Lock him permanently in manic mode, give him an impenetrable accent, a vocabulary that would would make Queen Victoria blush (if she could decipher it through that accent), shrink him to six inches in height, and multiply him by twenty. That’s the Nac Mac Feegles.
Fingers crossed–but on the whole, I’m optimistic about this partnership.
The other announcement comes from The Hollywood Reporter. According to their “Exclusive” piece, Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels are being adapted for TV.
I’m dubious at best.
Keep in mind that this is not the first time a video adaptation has been mooted–in particular, I recall a planned animated film of the first book, Nine Princes in Amber in the late ’70s–and the idea keeps popping back up. As far as I can tell, none of the attempts have made any significant progress. And let’s not forget that the producers don’t even have a writer in hand to do the adaptation yet, much less an agreement with a TV outlet (though the production company’s multiple ties to AMC suggest who they’ll likely approach first).
On the other hand, the choice to shoot for TV instead of a movie or series movies is a good one. Splitting the ten books across several seasons gives plenty of scope for a faithful adaptation. The story’s extended intra-family intrigue and the need for some spectacular effects demand a very cinematic approach. Game of Thrones has demonstrated that a TV show can be made with that orientation. Maybe they can pull it off.
Then there’s that third thought: the producers in question are Robert Kirkman and Dave Alpert of The Walking Dead fame. I don’t know if that bodes well or poorly for Amber: I haven’t seen The Walking Dead in any of its incarnations, but what I’ve heard doesn’t fill me with happy thoughts about how much reverence they’re likely to pay to the source material when given an opportunity to go for shock value or artificial tension.
Done well, Amber would make spectacular television. Done poorly, well, the cancelation notice might find us in prophetic sympathy with the first novel’s opening words: “It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.”