It was definitely one of the stranger trends in literary history in a very long time: take some of the most famous names in history (literary or otherwise) and plunk them down into adventures with zombies, vampires, or sea monsters. Walk into any book store and these titles are lining the shelves (even Anna Karenina got a cyber-makeover), and it's all because of one man: Seth Grahame-Smith. So it was just a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking because Tinseltown loves it when someone has already done their work for them, and here were a big pile of 're-imanginings' right at their fingertips. So deals were struck: it all began when Natalie Portman signed on to star in the film adaptation of Smith's Austen first mash-up, 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombiez' (though she has since dropped out). Now we have news that Tom Hardy is in the running for 'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter' and I had to ask myself: forget worrying about casting, should we even be making these movies in the first place?
But before you roll your eyes and scroll away, let me be clear: this isn't a rant about how movie versions of books are genetically inferior, nor are these the demands of literary purist. Nope, this is just a discussion about whether these books -- which even as novels have received their fair share of criticism, are destined to become this generation's 'Billy the Kid vs. Dracula.' Or even worse; they just turn out to be plain old bad movies.
There's just an intangible quality to the written word that what can work on the page that just looks silly on the big screen. Which is a problem that both of these titles have; it's one thing to read the words Abe Lincoln, vampire hunter or imagine Elizabeth Bennett taking on a cadre of ninjas, but it's another thing to see the big guy in the stove top hat swinging a stake or chicks in empire waist gowns hacking and slashing. Granted if you're making a comedy, it isn't a problem. But I don't think that's what Fox and Lionsgate have in mind.
Which might seem a little grim for fans of honest Abe and Austen, but I was never one to give hope, so here are some reasons why these books could be great, or a complete disaster on the big screen -- hey, I never said I wasn't a realist.
'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'
Why it could be great: Maybe it's because I was never a purist when it came to Austen's classics, but sometimes all that simmering rage was just a little too hidden for my tastes. Yes, I get it: women's agression had to be draped in veiled meaning, but sometimes you just wanted to shake Elizabeth and yell: "For the love of God, just say what you mean!" But that won't be a problem in Smith's story because these gals are badass with a capital 'B'. I guess when you have The Bennets facing off with the undead, there isn't going to be much room for subtle innuendo -- which for this modern girl is a dream come true.
Why it could be terrible: Part of what made Austen's works classics of literature was her eye for the society around her and much like her characters themselves revealing huge truths about life and gender in the smallest of details. Throwing Zombies into the mix really doesn't do much more than that. Sure, they're there, but what's the point? After I finished reading Smith's take on The Bennett sisters, I realized that as cute as the idea of Regency period ladies dispatching Zombies with a Katana was; it was a joke that wore thin pretty fast, and a movie could easily suffer the same fate.
'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'
Why it could be great: This book is a much tougher sell believe it or not. It's one thing to mess around with fictional characters but to turn a beloved President into an ax-wielding bad boy out for revenge is another thing. But I guess if Tarantino can rewrite the history of WWII, we can let Timur Bekmambetov have Honest Abe taking out some vamps.
Why it could be terrible: I've already addressed the 'silly' factor, but this one is really off the charts. Considering most people's knowledge of history is pretty shaky to begin with, do we really want to confuse the issue by turning the Emancipation Proclamation into a vampire control measure?
But like any good discussion, it can't be all one sided, so I'll turn it over to you out there: Will Seth Graham Smith's mash-ups make for good (maybe even great) movies?