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Is Graceling the next big fantasy book-to-movie franchise?


Many of the top films in recent years have been adapted from books or comic books. We have seen this in every genre, but most notably in the fantasy, YA, and sci-fi genres, and the results have been staggeringly successful, for the most part.

All of the Harry Potter novels were successfully adapted for the silver screen. As well as the novels in the Hunger Games franchise, and the Twilight series.

Other novels and franchises have aimed towards replicating this success but have missed the mark. The Divergent series, adapted from Veronica Roth's YA series of the same name, debuted at the box office in 2014 successfully, but failed to secure lasting support from fans from the first to the last movie installment. The Dark Tower movie, an adaptation of Steven King's the The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger novel also tried to establish its own fantasy franchise, but because of creative miscalculations, a poor movie product, and similarly a bad showing at the box office, the chances of this franchise continuing seems grim.

With so many of the previously mentioned franchises either finished or likely not to continue, this all clears the way for one novel to make it's claim as the next big fantasy novel adapted for the big screen, Kristin Cashore's Graceling.

Graceling is a YA and fantasy novel published in 2008, and was received with much praise by critics. Without going into the specificities of the story, the novel is set in a world in which some people are born with the ability to master some skill, their grace, hence the name of the novel. The protagonist battles her way from one kingdom to another to investigate a mystery, she also grapples with coming of age issues. If this all sounds familiar, it is, as anyone who reads fantasy or YA is aware some literary circumstances or issues are commonly seen. Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter also had journeys, and while doing them they similarly dealt with coming of age problems, but because Cashore is such a talented worldbuilder, her characters and world still feel exciting and fresh.

A quick visit to IMDB reveals that Graceling is already being made into a movie, and the screenplay is being written by Kristin Cashore and Piers Ashworth. This hopefully means that 'Graceling the movie' will be out soon.

Even with all the strengths Graceling has as a novel and potential movie property, it still has a few potential obstacles in its transition into a movie worth exploring.

First, Cashore and Ashworth will have to find a way to make Katsa an accessible character on screen. In the novel Graceling, Katsa is an introvert similarly to how Katniss Everdeen is one in The Hunger Games. An introvert protagonist in literature can work because as readers we are privy to the thoughts and emotions of the character, but in movies we lose that first person insight. Notably, in the first The Hunger Games movie, Katniss' introvert tendencies was not an issue because of the action, but as the series went into its second and third installments, the character seemed more and more distant to not just the other characters but to the viewer, and creative decision or not it simply makes for a less engaging watching experience for the viewer.

Secondly, Graceling is a journey with complex ideas and characters, and as such it needs to be given the proper film runtime and budget to tell it's tale. The movie adaptations of The Mortal Instruments series and the The Dark Tower franchise both failed for similar reasons. Anyone who read the The Mortal Instruments series knows how amazing the books are, and many were thrilled when it was released as a movie. But, the movie failed to capture the magic of the novels because it was rushed. The movie unfolds well for about three fourths of the movie, and then it does such a haphazard job at finishing up the story. All the work, tension, suspense, and interest built up gets ruined. The same is true for The Dark Tower movie, the pacing was noticeably rushed, logically studios like shorter films because you can play them more times per day and that in other words equals higher ticket sales, but this strategic decision resulted in a movie that felt flat. In contrast, this is why Game of Thrones works so well as a TV series. As a movie Game of Thrones likely would have not worked because its simply too much story to tell in a normal movie runtime. Whereas as a TV series the story can unfold and can be properly taken in by the viewers.

Thirdly, the issue of sex in Graceling can be tricky. In Graceling, Katsa explorers her sexuality in a refreshing way to the YA genre it belongs to. Cashore does not make her protagonist sex exploration a moralistic issue-she is simply growing up and curious. When marketing this story to a younger demographic like teens, this might prove to be troublesome as parents won't be crazy about this side to Katsa's story. On the other hand, they might take even more issue with the use of rape in Graceling, which is used more than once to inflict harm and manipulate characters. Could such a a sensitive topic prove to be too much to market this to teens as well? Graceling did not have the success other novels, not nearly as well developed or written of the same genre, and one key reason why is because it seemed more adult than its competitors. Perhaps, the production company behind 'Graceling the movie' should bypass any thoughts of a PG-13 rating, and go all the way with it, even if it means a rated R rating. Similarly, Game of Thrones is also a fantasy novel that also has rape scenes in both the novel and TV series, but they seems to be able to do it for the most part because the series is made for adults.

Adapting a novel into a movie is no easy feat, some stories need the right production team to ensure the movie adaptation maintains the true spirit of the book source. Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass was also highly anticipated as a movie because the novels had been so vividly exciting and controversial, but somehow the movie failed to capture the novels magic. Hopefully, Cashore will ensure the screenplay does her novel justice, and for anyone who has not read Graceling-do it-because it might just become the next big fantasy movie franchise hitting a screen near you.

[Image: Harcourt/Kristin Cashore]