It was inevitable, and probably overdue, that the vivid works of Margaret Atwood would be turned into an HBO mini-series. They’re just too robust for a single two-hour film, but too lush for the days of network TV yore. One of the most acclaimed writers of the last quarter century, Atwood has spent her lustrous career weaving strands of genre fiction into her ambitious novels.
Released during the Reagan Era, Atwood’s dystopian classic Handmaid’s Tale slips sly feminist critiques into a work of austere horror. Her spectacular, Man Booker-winning The Blind Assassin, which collates novels-within-novels, newspaper articles, and an articulate, darkly funny narration by a cantankerous old woman, takes overt science fiction and fantasy motifs and laces them throughout a tragic tale of familial disintegration and sexist oppression.
But those novels would be mighty difficult to adapt for a visual medium, especially Blind Assassin, given its preoccupation with the written word and Atwood’s postmodern tinkering. Her MaddAddam trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam), however, is perfectly suited to a prime time, uncensored mini-series. A sprawling work of speculative paranoia, the trilogy depicts a post-apocalyptic world of intrepid survivors, hybrid creatures (wolvogs, pigoons, rakunks), and humanoid things, all wrapped in a fiendish critique of western capitalism. There are gated communities kept separate from the moiety of “pleeblands” that protect the privileged, who got fat off of the success of corrupt multinational corporations.
The trilogy is being adapted for television by Darren Aronofsky, aka the most depressing filmmaker currently working. Aronofsky, a rare, studio-backed auteur, is responsible for Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan, and most recently Noah, and he’s a fascinating, potentially great choice to translate Atwood’s work into a visual medium.