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The Book Thief: Watch the movie's moody new trailer
Markus Zusak's acclaimed novel, which follows a young girl in Nazi Germany, is on its way to the silver screen

If you didn't know The Book Thief was based on a popular novel, you'll know it within five seconds of the movie's new trailer. This glimpse of 20th Century Fox's adaptation of Markus Zusak's acclaimed book of the same name goes way, way out of its way to play up its ties to the popular YA novel, with a title card describing the book as "breathtaking" and "brilliant" even before the credit for the studio comes up.

What makes The Book Thief such a big deal? Zusak's original story — which follows a young German girl who steals books during public burnings at the height of the Nazi regime — is the rare book that was just as eagerly embraced by readers and critics, with a smattering of awards and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for 230 consecutive weeks.

But despite the novel's acclaim, the upcoming film adaptation is a tricky proposition. For one thing, the story rests on the shoulders of a relatively untested young actress: Sophie Nelisse, a 13-year-old girl with just two credits to her name. And fans of a book as beloved and acclaimed as The Book Thief tend to be very picky about anything less than a slavishly faithful adaptation. Done poorly, The Book Thief could wind up like The Kite Runner or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close — two highly anticipated adaptations that were greeted with shrugs by critics and audiences alike.

Then again, 20th Century Fox is coming off the back of a major success with last year's Life of Pi, for which Ang Lee won Best Director at the Academy Awards. Let's hope the studio has channeled some of that same magic for The Book Thief when it hits theaters next month.

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticOutside Magazine, and Think Progress.

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