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Bringing vampires & witches to life

Last updated on: December 11, 2009 14:02 IST

Bringing vampires & witches to life

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There's no room for the ordinary in a fantasy. And therein lies the secret of its universal appeal.

Here, everything is possible, from talking lions and magical wizards to encountering unique creatures like hobbits, munchkins and oompa-loompas.

Books of this genre weave an imagination so strong luring filmmakers to create masterful visuals and meticulous understanding of its adventure.

With the big screen version of Stephanie Meyer's second installment of the Twilight saga, New Moon, hitting the Indian screens on December 11, here's looking at other significant Hollywood adaptations of popular fantasy novels.

Twilight

Grabbing the best-seller spot in The New York Times and USA Today wasn't enough for Stephanie Meyer's schmaltzy four-part romance (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn) between a stunning mortal and sexy vampire.

The nauseatingly popular franchise continues to flourish after the handsome duo of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart pitched in to play the iconic characters, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

Besides turning them into international heartthrobs overnight, the excessively blogged/twittered/reviewed/written about series is breaking records with its phenomenal run at the box office.

With its third part, Eclipse slated for a summer 2010 release, we are far from done with the Twilight fever.


Image: A scene from Twilight

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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If ever there's an award for Best Tribute Ever, Peter Jackson will be it's sure shot recipient.

The ardent filmmaker brings Middle Earth to life with his magnificently detailed adaptation of JRR Tolkien's celebrated trilogy (Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, Return Of The King)  about a hobbit's journey to Mount Doom to destroy Sauron's evil ring of power with much assistance from fellow hobbits, wizards, elves, dwarves and warriors.

Besides earning a glorious place in the pages of cinema, the epic went on to grab 17 Oscar wins in totality.


Image: A scene from Return of the King

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The Wizard of Oz

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In this 70-year old screen version of L Frank Baum's novel, Dorothy (played memorably by Judy Garland) a 12-year old Kansas farm-girl and her pet dog Toto find themselves in the middle of a series of unplanned adventures in the whimsical, wonderful land of Oz.

Their quest to meet the famous Wizard of Emerald City, to find the way back home introduces them to enchanted creatures like a Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.

An all-time musical classic for all ages, The Wizard of Oz highlights one truth like no other, 'There's no place like home.'


Image: A scene from The Wizard of Oz

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The Chronicles of Narnia

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Out of C S Lewis' seven novels in the Narnia series, two have been adapted by Disney into major motion pictures -- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.

The Pevensie brood -- Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter -- discover an alternate world through the entrance door of a magical cupboard, only to realise they are the chosen ones to rescue Narnia from its various troubles.

Led by an army of chatty beavers and the regal Aslan, they free Narnia from the cold, ruthless White Witch in the first part while helping the titular character of Prince Caspian lay claim to the royal crown in the second.

Up next, 20th Century Fox is at the helm of the third film in the series -- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader -- set for a December 2010 release.


Image: A scene from The Chronicles of Narnia

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The Harry Potter series

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Even though J K Rowling has wrapped up the series, the Harry Potter fever is far from over.

And so every time the world's best loved young wizard hits the marquee, the excitement just doubles up.

While six novels (The Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince) have already made history on celluloid, the final book -- The Deathly Hallows is scheduled to release in two parts in November 2010 and July 2011 respectively.

While there's still some time before we can visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and catch Harry, along with best mates Ron and Hermione in action, trying to combat Lord Voldemort's violent schemes, it's amazing how besides making household names of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, the novel and its movie version have pretty much revolutionarised the fantasy genre.


Image: A scene from Harry Potter

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The NeverEnding Story

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Disillusioned by his friends and father, a young, imaginative boy takes refuge in books. Little does he realise he'll soon become a part of one, namely Fantasia and save it from 'Nothing'.

In doing so, he encounters extraordinary characters like the boy-warrior, Atreyu, his dog-like dragon, Falcor, and a child-woman empress.

Director Wolfgang Peterson's wonderful narrative adapts only half of German author Michael Ende's book, which later spawned two sequels as well.


Image: A scene from The NeverEnding Story

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Stardust

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Director Matthew Vaughn adapts Neil Gaiman's marvelous fairytale about various odd parties -- a young lover, a terrifying troika of witches and squabbling princes in pursuit of a fallen star, a luminous maiden in fact, for varying reasons.

Interestingly, actresses like Anne Hathaway and Sarah Michelle Gellar were in contention to play the afore-mentioned star. Romeo & Juliet's Claire Danes eventually bagged the part.


Image: A scene from Stardust

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Mary Poppins

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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Try saying that in one go.

Julie Andews did and it won her an Oscar trophy for Best Actress. The actress, literally, pops out of the sky to play nanny to Mr Banks' restless tots in Mary Poppins.

Even though her fun 'n' friendly temperament in the musical is nothing like the stern heroine of P L Travers' stories, much to the author's chagrin, the film's frothy soundtrack and whimsical tone continues to regale viewers till today.


Image: A scene from Mary Poppins

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The Princess Bride

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William Goldman's 1973 novel has it all. Romance, action, adventure, magic and comedy, you name it.

The writer pitched in to do the screenplay for director Rob Reiner's interpretation of The Princess Bride.

Following a story told within a story format, The Princess Bride deals with a young girl who believes the man she loves to be dead and gets engaged to a haughty prince only to be kidnapped by three oddball characters.

While not a blockbuster success at the time of release, the Robin Wright-Carl Elwes starrer boasting of a Mark Knopfler score has attained cult status over the years and is regularly featured in every list constituting top fantasy/romance.  


Image: A scene from The Princess Bride

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Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

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For an audience not too familiar with Gene Wilder's take on the quirky chocolatier Willy Wonka, Johnny Depp stepped in as a amusing reminder of what makes Roald Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory an all-time delight.

After winning the golden ticket, Charlie Bucket and his grandfather head inside to tour the mysterious yet marvelous chocolate filled world of Willy Wonka, not to mention a life-time supply of candy.

It's the ultimate childhood fantasy told with a lot of visual wizardry and trademark Tim Burtonisms.


Image: A scene from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

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The Others

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As books itself Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, Philip Pullman's The Dark Materials: Northern Lights (screen title -- The Golden Compass), Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's The Spiderwick Chronicles, Jay Russell's The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and Christopher Paolini's Eragon enjoyed good readership and a fairly faithful following.

Unfortunately, the big screen adaptations of these fantasies failed to match the wild imagination or vivid prose of their source.


Image: A scene from The Golden Compass

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