With all the recent movie adaptations of books, 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 movie adaptations. We really like to complain about them. And sometimes, the movies do give readers legitimate reason to complain, simply because they stink. The problem is that a lot of readers seem to evaluate the worth of an adaptation based entirely on its similarity to the book's plot, characterization, and even details. I know people who refuse to go to movie adaptations 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 medium.
When you do a movie adaptation, the director/producer/writers and even actors are all focusing on creating a story in a much different 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 detail and exposition that would only bog down a medium that is all about forward motion, change that strengthens a central point 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 a movie that adapts something that's so dear to them, it becomes hard to think clearly about the actual movie story.
Movies aren't just for the readers, though; movies are for people who can't or don't read. They need a story that's created for them too.
Yes, there are really bad movies out there. Admittedly, I'm not super picky, but I know when something falls way flat, which sometimes happens But when people start going nuts about even small details that have been changed, that's when it goes over the top. A good story is a good story, and as a writer, I think I'd be okay with any good story a screenwriter/director could get out of my works.
So here are some thoughts about a few different book movies and people's responses to them.
I didn't really think much about this issue 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 liked the movie. It wasn't as full as the book, but it was generally well-done, I thought. The mistakes that I thought actually affected the storytelling came with how Arya was presented and with their failure to properly set up future movies. Other than that, it seemed good to me. My brother loves it.
But my friends, who had also read the books, were furious. 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 first time I ever heard someone swear off movie adaptations of books.
By then, the fifth Harry Potter movie was out, and I had read the entire book series. For the first time, I was able to look at the movies for the series and compare the book and the movie as a medium. And yes, I saw the differences, and yes, I heard many complaintsn. The series as a whole is admittedly rough movie-to-movie, probably because of the varying directors.
But the story is preserved and well-told in its own way. It 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 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 long time. It even helped me enjoy the book more!
The Hunger Games movie I thought was, 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. 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 that movies cannot directly reveal characters' inner turmoil the way books can. In order to show Katniss's state of conflict, 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. She pointed them all out: the trees being the wrong kinds, Buttercup being the wrong color (yeah, that was honestly weird).
I just hope there's way more Peeta in Catching Fire!
It's hard for me to watch movie adaptations with people because, even though I may love them, I know people are going to complain if things are different 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. There are 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 identical. If everyone would just accept that and look to these adaptations as almost a new story, a different kind of story, it'd be much easier for us all!
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