Yet there's no doubt it was a wonderful spectacle and a thrilling experience, and probably What Cinema Is For at the end of the day: madcap escapism and wonder. I found myself profoundly moved it, actually. The effort and skill put into its creation just has to be admired.
Anyway, a few weeks ago a friend emailed me about it and tabled an interesting proposition - namely, that if nothing else Avatar has demonstrated quite clearly that filmmakers can now make anything they want. There are no constraints anymore - technology has improved to the extent that the only limit left is imagination (setting aside acting and writing, of course). He then asked what fantasy or sci-fi books I would want to see made into films, given that they patently could be, and put forward a two-part adaptation of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun as the one he'd most like to see.
Here are mine.
- The Scar by China Mieville. I have my doubts about China. He's a little like the Quentin Tarantino of the literary world: he has all the talent, imagination and technique that a writer could want, and he can craft fantastic scenes, but there's something missing, some necessary ability to put together a really compelling story. The Scar is his one book that comes closest to being a genuinely good story as well as a great spectacle, like Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's one movie that works beyond just being cool, and it's the one I'd most like to see made into a film. (Though I have no doubt the bathetic ending would have to be Hollywood-ised somehow.)
- The Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. There are parts of it that are totally ludicrous, and the main character is Ralph 124C 41+ with the serial numbers filed off - there's nothing he can't do, from seducing a mother and a daughter in the same day to pulling off impossible manouvers in his ship three times before breakfast. But it's a great read and an interesting idea and every single scene is something that would look absolutely amazing on the big screen.
- The Silmarillion, of course. I don't think this ever would be made into a film, because there just isn't a way to make it work on the big screen for non-Tolkien fans. It would be like trying to film the Bible. But that wouldn't stop me wanting to see it if somebody decided to make it.
- The Chrionicles of Amber, in all five parts. This was probably the most unfilmable of books once upon a time - before the CGI available today, how could anybody have possibly filmed Rebma, or the fight on the staircase to Kolvir, for instance? But now it's possible. Aside from that I think the films would almost write themselves; Zelazny was one of the most consistently entertaining writers of the last 100 years. The only question would be who would play Corwin. For some reason I think Clive Owen would be a good fit.
I'm also tempted to include The Lord of the Rings but without Orlando Bloom, and The Magician's Nephew, the one Chronicle of Narnia I just can't foresee being made into a film but the one with the most interesting ideas.