Read the Book, See the Movie: Part 2
As film technology has evolved, so have the genres of science fiction and fantasy, which strive to depict new worlds from their creator’s imaginations. Fantastic literature has provided plentiful material for filmmakers since the earliest days of the silent era, with Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, serving as the basis for one of the earliest adaptations, by Edison Studios in 1910. Her groundbreaking work was subsequently filmed many times, most famously in 1931 with Boris Karloff. Other works of fantastic fiction regularly adapted since the silent era include Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), first filmed in 1902 as a short film by Georges Méliès, and L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which inspired several versions before the most famous incarnation by MGM in 1939, starring Judy Garland.
The advances of special effects have allowed films to depict environments and characters that would have been difficult or even impossible in earlier decades. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy saga, The Lord of the Rings, was first published as three books in 1954 and 1955 but was not translated to the big screen until years later. The series was first adapted as one film, in a 1978 animated feature directed by Ralph Bakshi, and then as an Academy Award-winning, three-film series from 2001 to 2003 by director Peter Jackson.
The prominence of film franchises has made science fiction and fantasy films more popular than ever among worldwide audiences. The Harry Potter series, created by author J.K. Rowling, shares records for both the highest-grossing series of films and four of the fastest-selling books in history. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which originated with a dream the author had about a vampiric romance in 2003, consists of four novels that also broke sales records in the United States.
"A Clockwork Orange"
Published in 1962, the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is an example of dystopian literature, a type of science fiction depicting an oppressive future often overrun by governmental control. While the book’s predecessors include such classics as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), this particular story was distinguished by its use of a fabricated language called Nadsat by its teenage anti-hero, Alex, who wreaks havoc with his gang of "droogs." Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation was released in 1971, and the film, which ignited immediate controversy while garnering four Academy Award nominations, was voluntarily withdrawn from distribution in the United Kingdom by Kubrick in 1974, in a ban that lasted until his death in 1999.
Did You Know?
- The book was first filmed loosely by Andy Warhol as the 1965 film "Vinyl."
- The novel was initially published in the United States without its final chapter from the British edition, which has Alex giving up his violence-loving ways of his own volition. Kubrick’s film contains the conclusion of the American version.
- Malcolm McDowell returned to science fiction in 1979 with the romantic thriller "Time after Time," in which he starred as popular real-life author H.G. Wells pursuing Jack the Ripper into modern-day San Francisco.