Sunday, March 13, 2011

Public domain favorites a safe bet for Hollywood

Hollywood likes to market movies that have pre-sold audiences, which is why you see so many remakes and sequels coming out of Tinsel Town these days.
It’s also why Hollywood dips into free-to-use works in the public domain for inspiration. With tens of millions of dollars at stake, Hollywood studios want to minimize their risks. So they make movies based on TV shows, comic books, toys, theme park rides and now even popular board games like “Battleship” and “Monopoly.”
Director James Cameron (“Avatar” and “Titanic”) recently decried this trend in an interview.
“Everyone in Hollywood knows how important it is that a film is a brand before it hit theaters,” Cameron said, according to Movieline. That’s OK for Spider-Man or Harry Potter, but the supposed franchises are getting ridiculous, he said. “We have a story crisis. Now they want to make the Battleship game into a film.”
GeekTyrant made a similar argument bemoaning the fact that Universal wouldn’t green-light a daring movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s horror novella “At the Mountains of Madness,” but wants to make another movie based on the video game “Doom.” (Also see EW story.)
GQ hit a lot of these same points in its article “The Day the Movies Died.”
Media companies see public domain works as a safe bet because they are easily recognizable properties. Even if they use only the title and basic story as a starting point to creating an entirely new work, they’re still benefiting from the free-to-use public domain property. Recent examples include “Gnomeo & Juliet” (loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”), “Beastly” (based on “Beauty and the Beast”) and “Red Riding Hood” (inspired by the traditional folktale “Little Red Riding Hood”).
Here are some more current examples:

‘Jane Eyre’

The latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel “Jane Eyre” (1847) stars Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) and Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”). The movie opened in theaters Friday.
The 2011 film version of “Jane Eyre” joins at least 22 other movie and TV adaptations of the novel.
More adaptations of classic literature are on the way, including the works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Shakespeare adaptations

Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his movie directorial debut with Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” the tragic tale of a Roman soldier. The film co-stars Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. It’s expected to be released in U.S. theaters in November. (See articles in EW and GeekTyrant.)
In pre-production now is a movie version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that will give the story a science-fiction thriller spin. Due out in 2012, the movie, called “Henry5,” is slated to star Michael Caine, Derek Jacobi, Ray Winstone, Vinnie Jones and Gerard Depardieu. (See GeekTyrant and IMDb.)

Dickens adaptations

Director Mike Newell is working on a big-screen version of the Dickens classic “Great Expectations.” It’s set for release in 2012, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney’s Marvel Entertainment is coming out with a comic book this spring that gives Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” a zombie twist, according to Agent M. The comic book is called “A Zombie Christmas Carol.”

‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which adds zombies to Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice” is still in line for a movie adaptation. The last word was that director Craig Gillespie was circling the project, according to New York magazine.

To be continued.

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