Welcome to a new series of articles based on books that I have read that I feel deserve to be given the adaptation treatment onto the big, or small, screen. Not content to just throw a title out there, I have decided to dig a little bit deeper to think about the style, how best it would be delivered to the hungry audience, who would direct and who would be the stars.
Without further ado, Welcome to the Book2Film Series……..
With BBC Two’s very good effort at adapting China Mieville’s The City and The City I have been wondering what books would I like to see being made into a film or TV series, who would star in it, who would direct and what would it look like?
To kick things off I’m sticking with me old China (Mieville that is) and his incredible first introduction to the Bas-Lag world, Perdido Street Station (2000).
Set in and around a sprawling metropolis of New Crobuzon, multiple species live alongside each other in this mish-mash urban space, with differing class structures and lifestyles on show everywhere. I would say that this book is kind of fantasy mixed with some steam-punk, throwing in some mythical creatures causing mayhem and a little bit of a mystery to be investigated as well.
In an interview, Miéville described this book as:
“basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it’s an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind!
Plot[From Amazon which barely touches the surface of this novel]:
The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rivers are sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night. For more than a thousand years, the parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast array of workers and artists, spies, magicians, junkies and whores. Now a stranger has come, with a pocketful of gold and an impossible demand, and inadvertently something unthinkable is released. Soon the city is gripped by an alien terror – and the fate of millions depends on a clutch of outcasts on the run from lawmakers and crime-lords alike. The urban nightscape becomes a hunting ground as battles rage in the shadows of bizarre buildings. And a reckoning is due at the city’s heart, in the vast edifice of Perdido Street Station. It is too late to escape.
I think trying to get this book and all it’s richness to fit into a single film would be a push so I would lean towards it being best as a TV series, or mini series of possibly 8-10 episodes, as there is so much source material (867 pages worth) and it is all good stuff and just to move around the city would prove beneficial and enriching to the viewer, taking in the different views, areas and species.
The beauty of Perdido Street Station is that it is only the first novel that takes place in the Bas-Lag world. Subsequent novels, The Scar and The Iron Council would fit into this creation nicely to continue the story in future seasons (which may or may not come up in this series….)
This is a hard one as the book varies in tone from what I remember: from science-y experimentation to dark creature feature, police-state clampdowns and mobster dealings. It all really revolves around New Crobuzon as this multi-cultural environment but then you layer on the extra elements mentioned above.
The tone would have to be fairly mature as there is a lot of complexity and quite out-there ideas being thrown around and, of course, the violence and death involved throughout is important to the plot and I wouldn’t want to have to compromise on getting the feeling right! Also in terms of the style/genre, the distinct lack of anything decent in the steampunk genre would allow this to flourish if done right. It would probably fit into the fantasy genre, but not in a Game of Thrones way but more of a modern fantasy world (with some weird thrown in there for good measure) that doesn’t quite fit into Sci-Fi.
Utilising previous films/work as a basis for what this is going to be like: Alex Garland or, before he went wayward, Ridley Scott. Or Ana Lily Amirpour.
Garland did such a great job with Annihilation (another great book by Jeff Vandermeer who is another proponent of weird fiction), creating the rich world of Area X and incorporating a number of great, fully fleshed out characters, and he’d be able to do the same here with a large cast (see below) involved in various measures throughout. His writing is strong and his direction has been superb so far in both Annihilation and Ex Machina. He’d do a great job with this.
Scott is a much more experienced director and has previous in creating rich worlds and some memorable characters. The scope needed to do this book justice would fit in nicely with some of his epic film making and he isn’t shy of delving into some more out there genres. It is a shame that his last couple of films have been woeful.
Ana Lily Amirpour would be another option. Her wild and wonderful films have a life of their own and is certainly on top of creating the type and style that she wants. A Girl Walk Home Alone at Night is a masterclass of stylish film-making and genre bursting, whereas The Bad Batch was violent but classy and both were not a little bit weird – a pre-requisite for any China Mieville work! The more I think about this choice, the more excited I become. Inspiration hits!!
Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a human scientist, dabbling in all fields but obsessed with his pet theory of “crisis energy”.
Craig Robinson: Usually known for his comedic work, he put in a great turn as Ray Heyworth in Mr Robot, giving a more serious performance and I think that would definitely work well here, playing Isaac as a larger than life character
Yagharek, an exiled and de-winged garuda from the Cymek Desert.
William Fichtner / Lance Reddick: Both of these guys normally play principled, upright characters and Yagharek is a serious, no nonsense garuda (bird-man type creature). I can’t really decide which one I would have in this but both would be excellent choices!
Lin, Isaac’s lover, and a khepri (human form with a insect-like head) artist who is commissioned by the gangster Mr. Motley to create a sculpture of his form.
Another tough choice, needing someone of diminutive stature but still confident and outgoing enough to stand up for what she believes in.
Eili Harboe: Harboe was just mesmerising in Thelma. I think she would do a great job here, especially thinking about her physical performance throughout Thelma.
Elizabeth Olsen: Olsen took on a great role and was fantastic in Wind River but she also has the action side of things from her Marvel films to count on as well.
Lupita Nyong’o showed her action side in Black Panther and The Force Awakens to add to her more serious work in 12 Years a Slave (in which she was outstanding). Anything with her in is going to be elevated.
Derkhan Blueday, a middle-aged journalist and seditionist, co-editor of the underground newspaper Runagate Rampant.
Paddy Considine: He is a tremendously versatile actor, doing both serious and comedic roles with aplomb. As the dual role Blueday he could get to show both these sides. Recently seen in Journeyman putting in a harrowing and emotional performance.
Lemuel Pigeon, Isaac’s contact with New Crobuzon’s criminal underworld.
Tom Hardy: Enough said really. This guy is fantastic at the moment but even just in terms of his TV performances in Taboo and Peaky Blinders he shows the aspects needed to portray Pigeon with humanity yet an edge that the criminal side would require.
Mr. Motley, New Crobuzon’s most feared ganglord. He has altered his body many times through remaking, into an amorphous collection of body parts and appendages.
Tim Roth: His star has waned a bit since his peak but he continues to put in worthy performances across TV and film roles. He also has that ability to channel fury and rage under the surface that would fit in well with the character of Mr Motley.
Have you read Perdido Street Station? What did you think of it and how would you adapt it for the screen? It’d be great to hear your thoughts and choices for this one.
Which books would you like to see adapted, if you had the choice and the chance to create it?