I don’t know what it is about this year, but it seems like no one wanted to adapt anything this year… other than comic books anyway. This is the most dismal class of adapted screenplays I can remember, I kept looking and looking through my master list of movies seen this year and in order to find my five nominees I needed to include a movie that wasn’t even in my top twenty favorite movies of the year.
- Gone Girl: You don’t often see authors writing adaptations of their own work, but Gillian Flynn was perhaps uniquely qualified for the job due to her work writing about film at Entertainment Weekly before she became a novelist. Her book is… a little unbelievable at times in its mystery novel twists, but she does a really good job of selling it and also found ways to inject her book and movie with provocative themes that elevate them in a number of ways.
- Inherent Vice: I find reading Thomas Pynchon novels to be a fairly difficult task so I can’t imagine how hard it would be to adapt one of the damn things into a two hour and a half hour movie. That degree of difficulty is a big part of why Paul Thomas Anderson’s script is on here, but it’s also here because of the film’s consistent wit and its ability to craft interesting and memorable moments and bits of dialog.
- A Most Wanted Man: John le Carré novels have been adapted many times before and will probably continue to be adapted well into the future. This film wasn’t the best adaptation of his work but it did retain a number of interesting ideas from it. It creates an interestingly hard boiled character and puts him in the middle of a complicated but never unclear espionage mission. It all leads up to a rather thought provoking ending which kind of disappointed me at first but has stuck with me in an interesting way.
- Wild: Cheryl Strayed’s nonfiction account of her cross-country trek was probably not the easiest material to adapt into a feature length film, but the famous English writer Nick Hornby seemed to be up to the challenge. While he maybe over-did it with the flashback structure, he nonetheless found all the right anecdotes from the Strayed’s adventure and managed to craft them into an episodic narrative that really seemed to hold together well.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: Given Hollywood’s obsession with franchise filmmaking the ability to contort one’s mind to accommodate sequel after sequel has increasingly become a necessary skill for screenwriters. This latest entry of the X-Men franchise is a particularly good example of finding tricky ways to correct previous franchise mistakes in order to keep a series going. By using the famous “Days of Future Past” storyline the film was able to use elaborate time travel mechanics to bring two generations of X-Men together for a particularly exciting adventure.