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
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 . . .