This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is adaptations of classic literature. I've got some experience in this area so this one should be pretty straight forward. I did use to read (abridged versions of) classic novels when I was younger, yet another way I wasn't like others in my class. I think there was even a period where I actually wanted to go into politics and outlaw any form of modern literature because I didn't like the fact that nobody else could see what I was seeing in these books. There is just one catch, which is that I can't do poems or plays. Fortunately, poetry is probably my weakest subject when it comes to literature, and the only classic playwright I really know all that well is Shakespeare, so this isn't all that much of a problem.
Now there might be some dispute over what precisely can be considered "classic". I've gotten into a few debates myself over whether Lovecraft counts as "classic literature" or not (for the record, he does), but when people think of classic literature, they often imagine authors such as Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy. Not very many people would think of science fiction, but there are several classic authors who were known for their contributions to the genre. Since I imagine this will be the less obvious route, let's look at three adaptations of classic science fiction stories by one of its founding authors, Jules Verne.
A Trip to the Moon (1902)
How could we discuss adaptations of classic literature and omit one of the earliest examples? Georges Méliès famous A Trip to the Moon is actually a combination of two early science fiction novels: Verne's From Earth to the Moon and H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon. From Verne's novel it borrows the idea of travelling to the moon in a giant canon, while its vision of the Lunar surface (particularly the presence of "Selenites") more closely resembles Wells' vision. Méliès' film is often considered historically significant for several reasons, most notably for being one of the earliest known films to tell a story (even if the "story" is little more than an excuse to show off his then-revolutionary special effects) and one of the first science fiction movies.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
This 1954 adaptation of the Jules Verne classic is one I'd not only call one of Walt Disney's finest achievements, but in general one of my all-time favorite films. It is very unusual for Disney, being a family film at its core but also not being afraid to go into more adult territory when it needs to. Most Disney films have a clearly defined hero and villain, but here there is a greater moral ambiguity not normally seen in their work (the conflict occurs between four men, but all of them have understandable motives, goals, and feelings, so in a way they are all relatable if for different reasons). It also contains some incredible underwater cinematography, spectacular model work, and Kirk Douglas singing! What's not to love?
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
There have been a few attempts to adapt Jules Verne's famous novel about a scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of the Earth's core, but this version was the first and it is definitely the best. Of course, that's not saying much considering that this is the only adaptation of the book that is actually a good movie in its own right (don't even get me started on that atrocious 3-D interpretation back in 2008, and as if that weren't bad enough the filmmakers had to go and make a sequel butchering another Verne classic, The Mysterious Island). Once again, James Mason returns to lead an expedition into the unknown with three companions (and a duck). There are some changes made, most notably the presence of a villain and an added female lead (though for once it actually works, probably because they actually gave her character depth and strength instead of just trying to force in a romance), but it is probably the closest anyone has ever come to capturing the essence of Verne's original vision.