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FROM PAGE TO SCREEN: CHOCKY (2010)


 

Steven Spielberg has picked up the movie rights to British author John Wyndham’s science fiction novella Chocky . . .

Chocky would be familiar territory for Spielberg. After all, it is about a boy and his . . . you guessed it . . . alien friend. But if you think that the great bearded one is going to remake E.T., then think again. In Chocky (the alien’s name, not the boy’s) the alien is an eleven-year-old boy’s imaginary friend. When the boy’s adoptive father discovers the boy arguing aloud with his imaginary friend, the father suspects that “Chocky” might not be your normal imaginary childhood friend and has the boy (named Matthew) checked out by a psychologist friend he knew from his university days.

According to the psychologist it would appear that Matthew is “possessed” - for lack of a better word - by a benign alien presence. Obviously both parents dismiss this possibility, but when Matthew miraculously rescues his younger sister from drowning (Matthew can hardly swim) they take him to a very prominent psychologist for a second opinion. The very prominent psychologist tsk-tsks the very possibility of Matthew being some “invaded” by an alien spirit from a distant galaxy, but then Matthew mysteriously disappears, seemingly the victim of a kidnapping. It would appear that shadowy government agencies may be taking an unhealthy interest in Matthew’s unlikely claims . . .

Clocking in at a mere 153 pages, Chocky is a slight book. It is also on the talky side and the only action (Matthew and his sister’s near drowning and Matthew’s kidnapping) is recounted by characters in the book and is never part of the direct narrative. People only talk about the near drowning, and the narrator (the story is told from the point of view of the father) never describes it himself because, well, he wasn’t present when these events occurred. Any faithful adaptation of the material would result in a dialogue-heavy, low on action drama – the sort of low-key thing that might have been acceptable in the pre-Star Wars 1970s or as a made-for-TV movie (it was actually made into a British TV series back in 1984). But this is Steven Spielberg we’re talking about here and today’s M-TV addled, attention deficit audiences.

"It's K-PAX . . . but with kids!"

If Chocky is going to be made into a blockbuster vehicle for Steven Spielberg then the action and the storyline will have to be padded considerably to allow room for a John Williams soundtrack and some ILM special effects. Only problem then is that then we’re left with . . . The Last Mimzy. Yup, 2007’s kid-friendly opus about two young siblings developing special powers after coming in contact with an alien artefact that caused hardly a blip at the box office. And what if Spielberg goes for a more dramatic and less flashy approach? Well, then we will have K-PAX, but with kids.

Whoever has to adapt Chocky will have a major rewrite job on their hands. Chocky is typical of the time and milieu in which it was written. John Wyndham, better known for his other science fiction efforts such as Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned), was born in England in 1903. It shows. The dialogue is staid, and the societal attitudes are on the archaic side. Spielberg would no doubt want to update the material to modern-day USA suburbia which means that the entire novel would have to be overhauled. But the point remains: why? While one knows what it is Spielberg sees in the material, the truth is that any resulting movie would probably seem over-familiar to anyone who has seen Last Mimzy, K-PAX or E.T. (which had its own share of shadowy government agencies) for that matter.

Point is that Chocky simply isn’t that interesting a book . . .


 



 

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