It’s strange to think we might be in a world where there are people who haven’t seen a Black Beauty movie. Anna Sewell’s novel was a runaway smash hit when it was published in 1877, and has been adapted to the screen no fewer than four times. This most recent adaptation takes the story, we all know and love and transplants it from the United Kingdom to the United States, and from 1877 to 2020.
What makes a classic story a classic story though is that you can tell it any way you want, and adapt it to any time you want, and it will still teach you the same lessons. Black Beauty has always been more than just a simple story of a boy and his horse, and the ideas of kindness and loyalty that the book originally championed are still here in this new adaptation.
There’s a fine line that adaptations of novels have to walk. Leave too much in and you risk your movie becoming plodding and boring. take too much out and you risk dumbing down or losing a theme or moment or sub plot integral to that story. Nowhere is this more clear than with Young Adult novels. Because they are generally fairly easy to follow in the first place the smallest choice a director makes can have drastic consequences for the movie you are making.
Case in point, Divergent is a movie that I am sure is based on a good book that discusses and explores interesting themes, but the movie itself glosses over all of this to tell a pretty by the numbers story about a girl in a not-that-dystopian future.
With Harry Potter and Twilight being over (at least until someone figures out how to wring more cash out of them) we’re going to be hit with a whole slew of new young adult books being turned into movies. Here’s another one.