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From the Page to the Screen – Book Adaptations [2020]

by Tom Ashford

While the film and television industries have always loved adapting a good (or even rubbish) novel, they’ve really stepped their game up over the past few years (as mentioned by an article included in this week’s Weekly Write-Up). Instead of coming up with a new IP, many studios are content with using somebody else’s story (if they’re not just making a sequel or a reboot, that is).

Not that I’m complaining – I’m always excited when something I’ve enjoyed on the page is transformed into a visual experience. Of course, I’m often disappointed afterwards too.

Indie authors have provided studios with an even greater pool of properties to choose from. Andy Weir’s The Martian was famously made into a blockbuster by Ridley Scott. The Fifty Shades of Grey books became an international success. And even Netflix dove into sites like Wattpad to find stories to make into teen rom-coms (The Kissing Booth).

Traditionally published authors haven’t been left out, of course. I’m pretty sure Stephen King has had more of his books adapted into films over the past few years than the average author could ever write in their lifetime.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at just a sprinkling of the literary properties coming our way over the next twelve months.

The Witcher (Netflix)

Okay, so this one is already out – but considering how fresh it still is in most people’s minds, I’m going to count it anyway. The Witcher was originally a series of Polish fantasy novels (think Game of Thrones crossed with Lord of the Rings) by Andrzej Sapkowski, but the franchise was made even more popular by a trilogy of video games.

Hopes were high because leading man, Henry Cavill, is a massive fan of the games. However, reviews haven’t been super kind – one described it as like watching somebody else play the video game over their shoulder.

The Outsider (TV)

That’s right – there’s another Stephen King adaptation on the way! The Outsider is one of his most recent books, about a man who’s arrested for a horrible crime and yet insists he’s innocent. It’s got a great cast, and the first episode airs on January 12th on HBO.

But that’s not the only one of Stephen King’s books coming our way, of course! There’s also The Stand – a post-apocalyptic epic set after the world has been ravaged by a mystery virus. And there are no doubt some more films in development too, but it’s too easy to lose track of those.

Locke & Key (Netflix)

And if you still need your King fix, don’t worry – his son, Joe Hill, has a story being adapted too! Based on Joe’s series of comics, Locke & Key is about three siblings who return to their ancestral home only to find three magical keys… and a demon that wants them for itself.

His Dark Materials (TV, Season Two)

The first book in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Northern Lights/ The Golden Compass, has already been made into a popular BBC series. The sequel to that book, The Subtle Knife, is being adapted for the show’s second season, due to air in 2020. Hopefully interest in the series will hold and a third season will adapt the third and final book, The Amber Spyglass – a 2007 feature film was not so lucky.

The BBC has lots of great adaptations in the pipeline, coincidentally. Along with a series loosely based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books featuring The Watch, they’re filming Normal People, and The Luminaries (adapted from Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel).

Little Women (Movie)

Another property already out but still fresh for 2020 is Little Women – a wonderful (and wonderfully reviewed) book adaptation that’s been largely snubbed during the awards season. If you haven’t seen it yet, hurry up. One of the characters in it is writing her first book.

Artemis Fowl (Movie)

The first two books set in the eight-book Artemis Fowl universe will be released as a movie in theatres this summer, directed by none other than Kenneth Branagh. It follows a genius kid called Artemis Fowl (of course) who goes looking for his father, who has mysteriously disappeared. It was in development hell all the way back in 2001, but since Disney bought the rights it seems have been put back on the right track.

Dune (Movie)

That’s right – a Dune movie is finally being made! Denis Villeneuve is directing both this film and the sequel (the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert is being split in half, IT-style) and the cast is insane – Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellen Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem… well, you get the picture.

The book’s premise is odd, the 1984 David Lynch is really odd, but if there’s a man who’s up to the job, it’s the director of Blade Runner 2049.

Emma (Movie)

It’s not the only classic novel being adapted this year (there’s also The Personal History of David Copperfield), but Emma may look one of the most promising. Adapted from the Jane Austen novel of the same name, it stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Bill Nighy, and is a comedy drama. It comes out February 14th (UK) and 21st (US).

The Invisible Man (Movie)

Universal gave up trying to create a shared horror universe after the critical and commercial failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating a standalone feature loosely based on H.G. Well’s novel. Elizabeth Moss stars as a women tormented by an invisible force she believes to be her (supposedly dead) ex-boyfriend.

Needless to say, there are dozens and dozens more book-to-television and book-to-movie adaptations on the way – many of which most people probably don’t even the original source material. If I’ve missed out one that you’re looking forward to, leave it in the comment section below.

And don’t forget all the superhero films and TV shows. They’re all based on comic books, so that counts… right?

Tom Ashford

Tom Ashford

Tom Ashford is a professional copywriter, author of numerous dark fantasy and sci-fi novels, and the Head of Content at the Self Publishing Formula Blog. His books include the Blackwater trilogy and the Checking Out series.

He lives in London with his wife, in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. Find out more about Tom here.