Storydome: Fight Training

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

You’ll be able to spit nails, kid. Like the guy says, you’re gonna eat lightning and you’re gonna crap thunder. You’re gonna become a very dangerous (movie)…

I know, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay isn’t a movie – yet. The script has been in development for more than five years, but I recently read an article that said there was a rumor that, once again, someone was going to try make a movie out of this novel. If that is the case, then this movie will have to be a serious contender to even stand a chance against the Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

This week I do something special in my blog post. I’m going to take the lessons learned from Storydome and create a how to guide, to make this movie the best it can be.

One Story enters and Two leave when The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay steps into Storydome Fight Training.

The Contenders

The Book
Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Author: Michael Chabon
Published: 2000
Pages: 639
The Movie

It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead.

I was only introduced to the work of Michael Chabon a couple of months ago when I read his novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Soon enough I decided I wanted to read much more of his work, so I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Then I read it again, and then again for a third time. Within a month I had read this novel, about two young comic book creators growing up in the Golden Age of comics, three times and I can honestly say that it is the best novel I have ever read. Why? Because Chabon gives his readers both style and story.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is such a fun read because of Palahniuk’s very unique writing style. Whereas Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River pulls you in because of Lehane’s ability to tell a great story. In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Chabon does both better than Palahniuk and Lehane.

With that in mind, how do you make a movie that gives you the best of Chabon’s style and story? By reading the Storydome and paying attention to what I’m about to say.

First lesson learned from Storydome: No Photocopies.

The least successful movies were the ones that tried to go scene-for-scene with the books. Remember that the nature of the novel lends itself to giving its audience more because the novel doesn’t have any time constraints. A movie has two hours, more or less, to give its audience a story that they will love, but if the movie tries to do exactly what the novel does it winds up feeling like a mere shadow or at best a summary of he novel.

How do we apply this to Kavalier and Clay?

Cut out the first two sections of the novel almost entirely. The novel is divided into six sections, and the first two cover Kavalier’s escape from Nazi occupied Prague and the creation of The Escapist, Kavalier and Clay’s comic book hero. If the movie opens at the end of the second part of the novel, where the boys are first pitching their comic to a publisher, than the audience can get everything they need from that scene. It is such a great scene in the novel, and it will translate easily to the screen. In that scene the audience gets a pretty good feel for who the two main characters are. Sam Clay is pitching the idea and has more of a mind for business, while still, at the same time, being a dreamer. Joe Kavalier’s refusal to change the cover of The Escapist punching out Adolf Hitler shows that he is both idealistic and stubborn. Not only that, it’s a scene that will hook the audience from the very beginning of the movie by giving the audience a look at the who, the what, and just a taste of the why.

Second lesson learned from Storydome: Less is More.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is definitely an epic novel. The novel takes place over a span of fifteen years and in that span the reader is taken on a journey equal to that of The Lord of the Rings, not in content, but in character growth. If the movie tried doing that, it would also have to be a trilogy, but character-based dramas don’t really lend themselves to trilogies, so the movie would have to cut back the timeline. If, instead, the movie were to truncate the timeline to about 5 years, with the first half taking place while the boys are working for Radio Comics, and the second half taking place five years later, after Kavalier has returned from war, then the movie would be able to create its own story that is no less entertaining than the novel. Certainly there can be scenes that aren’t set within that space of time, but the bulk of the story needs to take place within a much shorter timeline than in the novel.

Third lesson learned from Storydome: Summarize with Style.

Some amount of summary is unavoidable, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. If the movie simply chooses to give the audience a photocopy of a scene, than they have chosen the wrong way – they have also ignored the first lesson. But, if they instead apply some cinematic storytelling by saying less and showing more, than they have chosen the right way. Really, summarizing with style is dependent on the director and it is best explained using Fight Club. Fincher’s movie does involve a lot of summary of the novel, but the movie is still more enjoyable than the book. The best way I can explain what I mean is this: Watch a movie on mute. Could you follow the story? Did you know what was happening? Did you enjoy it? Fight Club gets a yes to all three.

How can we apply this to Kavalier and Clay? It would definitely be more difficult because there aren’t any real action scenes, but it is still possible to tell a story visually without any heavy action. I think it would have to be done in a way similar to Slumdog Millionaire, where the story is told around another event that is still related to the story. In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, have the story being told by Sam during an interview or something when he is much older. This allows for the story to bounce around more believably, and it allows for some of the more dramatic scenes of the story to be intercut with some humor from the interview. It is a style that may not be completely original, but it is the most effective way to tell this story.

While we’re borrowing Slumdog’s way of framing a story, why don’t we go ahead and borrow their director as well? I think I’m going to start the rumor that Danny Boyle is tapped to direct The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

If the movie can avoid photocopying, practice “less is more,” and summarize with style then it can step into the Storydome eating lightning and crapping thunder and it may stand a chance against the novel. But probably not.

Is there a book that you would like to see made into a movie? Tell me about it in the comments section and let me know how you would make the movie a Storydome contender.

I’ll be back next week as the Paul Newman classic, The Hustler, steps into the dome.

— Tim Fitzpatrick, Editor

Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.

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