In the years following the blockbuster success of the Harry Potter movie franchise, Hollywood’s been churning out film after film based on kid’s fantasy books. Interestingly, the only sci-fi adaptations I can think of are City of Ember and Jumper, (changed significantly from the YA book). Yet there seemed to be a million middle grade fantasy adaptations. I’ve seen almost all of them (I love seeing how they adapt things) and thought I’d offer my thoughts in a big round-up. Let me know if I’ve missed any, or if you agree/disagree with my grades!
The Golden Compass: One of my favorite books of all time, so I was bound to be disappointed. The effects were great, and it was generally well cast/acted, but the pacing and writing were way off. Plus, they cut out the ending (one of the best endings ever!). Still, it was a thrill to see my favorite characters up on the screen. B-
The Spiderwick Chronicles: A strong cast (Freddie Highmore, Mary Louise-Parker), some cheesy effects and a good sense of fun. I think I liked it about as much as the books. B-
Eragon: I’ve gotta admit, I’ve never read the series. Not really my thing. The film version did little to tempt me. It boils down to a standard quest with character after character we’ve seen before. C-
Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: One of the few adaptations that I liked better than the books. It’s all about the visuals here, which were more Burton-esque than most recent Burton films. Squeezing the first three books together was a good choice. Snappy pacing. A-
The Thief Lord: My favorite Funke book, and (I’d imagine) the easiest to adapt. It’s a low-budget straight-to-DVD, sure, but it has its charms. The Thief Lord costume is pretty ridiculous, but it was cast well. B+
Percy Jackson: Or, the cliff-notes version… if those cliff-notes featured huge deviations from the book. As a film in its own right, I enjoyed it a lot, though I can understand how fans of the book would be quite annoyed. And although the cast represented significant changes from the book, I thought they had nice chemistry. B
City of Ember: I devoured this book in an afternoon, absolutely glued to it. The movie version gets the mood right and the cast was great, but for some reason it all felt too anticlimactic. Was it because I already knew the ending, or was it a pacing problem? C+