With all the recent book movies, I thought this might be a good topic to address. Ender's Game is coming out at the beginning of November, Catching Fire later on (eep!), movies are being made out of Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, etc, etc... So let's talk about it!
One of the big issues oft discussed in the literature world is these book-movie adaptations. We really like to complain about them. And sometimes, book movies do give readers legitimate reason to complain, simply because they just stink. The problem is that a lot of readers seem to evaluate the worth of a book movie based entirely on its accuracy to the book's plot, characterization, and even details. I know people who refuse to go to book movies simply because they are never satisfied with them. And that makes me really sad.
Movies aren't books, that's the thing. Movies are their own story.
When you do a book-movie adaptation, the director/producer/writers and even actors are all focusing on creating a story in a much different media form than what a book on paper is. This necessitates change. Change that will reflect what characters are thinking or feeling in a visible/audible way. Change that cuts out lots of detailing and exposition that would only bog down a medium that is all about forward motion. Change that strengthens a central point/symbolism/etc that the director/writers/producer want to stress. Change is inevitable, and every reader, I think, knows this at heart. However, when they go to this movie for something that's so dear to them, it becomes hard to think clearly about the actual movie story.
But movies aren't just for the readers, movies are for people who can't or don't read. They need a story that's set up for them too.
Yes, there are really bad movies out there. Admitably I'm not super picky, but I know when something falls way flat, which sometimes happens with book movies. That's not so cool. But when people start going nuts about even small details that are changed, that's when it gets over the top. A good story is a good story, and as a writer, I'd be OK with any good story a screenwriter/director could get out of my works.
So here's some thoughts about a few different book movies and people's responses to them.
I didn't really think much about the issues with book-movie adaptations until Eragon came out. That was my seventh grade year. A bunch of us went on a kind of field trip, and I was with a couple friends. I quite liked the movie. It wasn't by any means as full as the book but it was generally well-done, I thought. The mistakes thatI thought actually affected the storytelling came with how Arya was presented and with their failure to set up any further movies. Other than that, it seemed very good to me. My little brother loves this one.
But my friends, who had also read the books, were angry. Very much so. I found that... strange, and I still do to this day, hence this post. Their reaction to the plot differences seemed useless to me. Why argue over something that is really a different story?
That was the day I learned about the issue of book-movie adaptations, and the first time I ever heard someone swear off book movies.
By then, the fifth Harry Potter movie was out, and I had caught up on the entire book series. For the first time, I was able to look at book movies for the series and see the comparative nature between the book and the movie as a medium. And yes, I saw the differences, and yes, I heard people complain. The series as a whole is admitably rough movie to movie.
But the story is preserved, and the entire thing very well told, in its own way. This, naturally, benefits from the fact that J.K. Rowling, uniquely, was allowed a fair amount of control over the movies. Most authors don't get any control. There was only one part of the entire movie series I wish had not been removed, and that was the character revealing scene with James, Lily, and Snape in the fifth movie. Even with that, the fifth movie was one of my favorites for a very long time. It even helped me to enjoy the book more!
The Hunger Games movie? Overall, not too bad. Lots of people complained about it, especially the shaky cam and some of the casting choices, but I wasn't bothered by either of those. I feel the movie was overall effective. My complaint was with how ineffectively they depicted both Peeta as a character and his and Katniss's evolving relationship. This can slightly be explained away by the fact movies cannot express characters' inner turmoil as well as books. In order to show Katniss's state of confliction, it had to be much more obvious that she had feelings for Gale. Still, I thought they overdid that just a little, and they didn't really show Peeta at his best.
I did find it amusing, when my mom saw it, how many details she was able to catch that were wrong. That's the kind of thing that I see as ridiculous, but she wasn't particularly hating on them. She just pointed them all out: the trees being the wrong kinds, Buttercup being the wrong color (yeah, that was honestly weird), etc.
But really, The Hunger Games was a good movie, despite deviating away from the book. There just better be way more Peeta in Catching Fire!
Honestly, it's hard for me to watch book movies with people, because even though I may love them, I know people are going to complain if things change from the book. So when The Host came out and was not only good, but also very true to the book, I breathed a sigh of relief. No complaints for a movie that is right on with the book plot.
Yeah. It is nice when a movie doesn't deviate, I'll admit.
But I stand by my previous point. Books and movies are not equal. If everyone would just accept that fact, and look to these adaptations as almost a new story, a different kind of story, it'd be much easier for us all! Evaluate them for themselves, not for the book--or at least try.
Thanks for reading, guys! Come back next time for a post on taking criticism.
What are your thoughts on book-movie adaptations? Which did you hate? Which did you love? What books do you think should be made into movies?
Images via IMDB.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. Basically, stories are my life.
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