From World War 1 classics to Young Adult thrillers, this year is packed with film adaptations of great reads. We list 12 to look for along with our predictions for how readers will fare at the movies in 2015.
1. Paper Towns
Release Date: July 24th
The Premise: High schooler Quentin Jacobsen has been in love with the mysterious girl-next-door, Margo Roth Spiegelman, for years. Near the end of their senior year, Margo invites Quentin on a midnight adventure. But just when he thinks their relationship might have a chance, she disappears. Quentin becomes consumed in his search for Margo, which eventually involves his best friends and a cross-country road trip, using clues she left behind.
The Outlook: Paper Towns is vintage John Green: entertainingly heartfelt and bittersweet. While lacking the gigantic emotional hook of last year’s hit The Fault in Our Stars (also a Green novel, for those of you living under a rock), the friendly banter and sense of adventure in Paper Towns should translate well to the screen. In addition, Green’s rabid fan base means the movie should do well at the box office.
The Verdict: Promising.
2. Dark Places
Release Date: August 7th
The Premise: At the age of seven, Libby Day survived the massacre of her mother and two sisters. Her older brother, Ben, was put in prison for life based on Libby’s evidence. Now 31 years old, Libby has spent decades trying to forget what has been famously nicknamed “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” That is, until she becomes involved with a secret society convinced of Ben’s innocence. Libby is forced to walk backward into her past in order to answer the question of what really happened to her family that terrible day.
The Outlook: Dark Places possesses a coarse, raw feel to the narrative that could be powerful onscreen. Like last year’s wildly successful adaptation of Gone Girl, it plumbs the depths of darkness in the human heart. It’s up for debate whether or not the gory, at times nonsensical plot details will overwhelm the movie’s larger philosophical questions. But the fabulous Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks and Chloë Grace Moretz headline a promisingly strong, mostly female cast.
The Verdict: Intriguing.
3. A Walk in the Woods
Release Date: September 2nd
The Premise: Bill Bryson’s ode to the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods is part modern travel classic, part humor writing à la Mark Twain, part paean to environmentalism. Having recently returned to the United States after 20 years in England, Bryson decides to hike the AT from South to North with minimal physical preparation and a lot of reading up on what to do in the event of a bear attack (answer: no one really knows).
The Outlook: Robert Redford stars as Bryson, accompanied by the ponderously unfit Stephen Katz, portrayed by Nick Nolte. Funnywoman Kristen Schaal plays the fabulously obnoxious hiker Mary Ellen. Despite a strong cast, the movie received “meh” reviews at its Sundance screening in January.
The Verdict: Skip it?
4. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Release Date: September 18th
The Premise: Having conquered the Maze, Thomas and the rest of the Gladers must endure a second test conducted by WCKD (World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experimental Department): crossing a desert on foot with minimal supplies. They face scorching heat caused by solar flares that have destroyed the earth while confronting herds of Cranks—humans infected with a zombie-like virus called the Flare.
The Outlook: Along with last year’s Divergent, The Maze Runner broke the “YA movie curse” and did well enough at the box office to justify a sequel. Dylan O’Brien of Teen Wolf fame leads the cast as Thomas.
The Verdict: Come along for the ride.
5. Victor Frankenstein
Release Date: October 2nd
The Premise: The 19th-Century novel riffs on John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and presents a philosophical exchange between Frankenstein’s monster, with his all-too-human heart, and Dr. Frankenstein himself, who denies all culpability for his creation.
The Outlook: Just in time for Halloween comes yet another remake of Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror tale. This version focuses on the doctor’s assistant, Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe. The film explores Igor’s own history and his connection to Dr. Frankenstein. (Incidentally, Igor never appears in Shelley’s novel; the role was created for Bela Lugosi in 1942’s Son of Frankenstein and has been part of popular mythology ever since.) James McAvoy plays Victor Frankenstein, and Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) also stars. Strong performances by the cast could elevate the potentially hokey plot.
The Verdict: Might be worth watching.
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Release Date: November 20th
The Premise: If you haven’t already read the Hunger Games series, now is the time. In the final—and bleakest—installment of the series, Katniss and company take the rebellion directly to President Snow and the Capitol.
The Outlook: Given that this is the last movie in the Hunger Games juggernaut, with each film financially outperforming the previous one, Mockingjay – Part 2 should do well at the box office. What will be interesting is how the role of Gamemaker and Capitol rebel Plutarch Heavensbee is handled, given that Philip Seymour Hoffman had not yet finished recording his lines before his death.
The Verdict: Don’t miss this one!
7. The Martian
Release Date: November 25th
The Premise: Andy Weir crafts an against-all-odds story of an astronaut marooned on Mars who uses a rare combination of pluck ingenuity, and mechanical know-how to survive alone on the red planet. The book is a nailbiter: suspenseful, humorous and the ultimate underdog story.
The Outlook: On the heels of Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian is yet another film depicting the perils of space. Screenwriter Drew Goddard, executive producer of the acclaimed Netflix series Daredevil as well as some episodes of Lost, knows how to spin out a tense plot for his audiences. The cast is populated by a host of stars including Jessica Chastain (who also starred in Interstellar), Kristin Wiig, Matt Damon, Sean Bean and Donald Glover.
The Verdict: Should be a thriller.