Saturday, November 15, 2014

On When Books Are Made Into Movies

One of the biggest gripes in the fandom and writing community (both of which often coalesce) is when a book is adapted into a film. Many books have been adapted into movies such as the Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, Inkheart, The Thief Lord, Twilight, The Lord of the Rings, Divergent, Eragon, A Wrinkle in Time, The Railway Children, The Hobbit, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Maze Runner, I Am Number Four, Harry Potter, Ender's Game, The Host, Les Miserable, and the Guardians of Ga'Hoole to name a few.

There are two sides taken in the matter: the ones who love the film version and the ones who hate it with a flaming passion. During this war between book loyalists memes such as the ones above and below are created.

Many of the books I've listed above I've read before the films, some I've seen the film first then watched the film later and others I've just seen the film. I'm going to go out on a limb here and be the one who believes often the aforementioned memes aren't true.

1.) It's Never Going to Be Exactly Like the Book - When you go into a movie theater at the early showing so pumped to see your favorite book, like, ever made into a movie you need to keep this in mind or you're automatically going to hate it.

It's never ever going to be completely perfect. No matter how loyal the film is there are going to be some scenes, characters, or details that just aren't going to make it in the film because ...

2.) It's 400 pages in 120 minutes - The screenwriters have to take a four hundred page book (that's the average size of a YA novel) and convert it into approximately a two hour film. Just the fact that film is a different form of art counts in the fact that some things aren't going to make it. For one, thought process can't be shown in the same way in film as it can be in a book.

With every detail included, the movie would be way too long and a lot of it would include the characters just sitting and thinking. This is why characters like Tom Bombadil (The Lord of the Rings) and Madge (The Hunger Games) didn't make it or fluff scenes like Chuck's prank on Gally in the Maze Runner couldn't be fit in.

Keeping film and novels being two different art forms in mind, therefore some things that worked perfectly in a book won't work in a film. In the Hunger Games novel, Effie's dress at the Reaping was bright green and in the movie, it is pink. Why is this? Because the the green in the film would've made her look like a clown and wouldn't have worked with the gray color scheme. Because of the fact that film is a visual medium it didn't work.

Filmmakers are artists just as much as authors. All of them aren't out to crush the book in a proverbial wine press to produce a few million bucks. Many have a genuine passion to make the movie as loyal as they can and it seems like the movie overlords are catching the drift that those are the films that become the most successful.

Directors such as Peter Jackson (The Hobbit trilogy and the Lord of the Ring trilogy), Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, the Mockingjay Part 1 and 2) read the books themselves and tried to be as loyal as possible when creating the films. Some even work with the authors such as Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, J.K. Rowling or the next best thing like C.S. Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham.

Unfortunately they couldn't work with C.S. Lewis, gosh darn it. Death and all that rot.

Then again sometimes diverging from the author can help because ...

He's just so cute. ^ ^
3.) Screenwriters Can Fix an Author's Mistakes - Oftentimes writers make big no-nos in their stories. There are rules to writing like there are rules to football and sometimes writers break them, and it just isn't good quality. A lot of these mistakes made in older books such as in The Lord of the Rings would not be accepted in publishing houses today. They're the books that end up in the rejection pile.

For example: Suzanne Collins did not have enough description many times in the Hunger Games. I was often blind to the setting in many scenes. James Dashner's pacing needed a little stepping up in areas and he did a lot of telling of emotions in the Maze Runner. J.R.R. Tolkien infodumps galore in all of his novels, and in the Hobbit he didn't develop the dwarves very well except for Thorin. In Cornelia Funke's Inkheart (I read this book after seeing the film) she had a huge plot hole concerning the Inkheart book in the novel.

But in the movie versions all of these things were mended. Because it's a movie the surroundings in the Hunger Games have to be shown. By rearranging some of the scenes the pacing was fixed in the Maze Runner. Peter Jackson took special care to make each dwarf individual in the Hobbit, and by making Mo find the book in Inkheart instead of already having it filled in that plot hole.

Many different things made these books famous: the plot, the characters, breakthrough concepts, and so on. In the film, these things are often made to shine where in the book the writing flubs can clutter it. No author is perfect, but that doesn't mean their story isn't still awesome.

Except Twilight. I'm not sure how that one got famous. The writing and concept is just yuck. I didn't even read the books I just watched the movie to get a solid opinion.

I still didn't like it.

Moving on!

What it all boils down to is ...

4.) Does the movie have the book's soul? - In the end, it boils down to when you sit down and watch that movie do you feel the same way you did when you read the book? Are the characters how they were described in the book (Yes, Annabeth in Percy Jackson must be blonde)? Are the settings as close as they can be (I was a bit disappointed the Dauntless headquarters in Divergent wasn't closer)?

Is the plot as close a possible (*slaps director of Percy Jackson and the Olympian the Lightning Thief's hand*)? Does it have the same themes (The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings films perfectly captured this)?

When a movie has all these qualities at least give it a chance. Movies like The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings all emanate the passion put into them by directors, the actors, and the rest of the production team. These are the movies that blow people away.

Conclusion - Though many of the time these four points are true, unfortunately I will admit there are some movies that failed miserably to meet these standards. Eragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and The Last Airbender (Yes it was from a show, but same concept) were some of those.

Eragon and The Last Airbender were just all around horrible, writing, music, casting, everything. They didn't feel the same as in the book/show. Both of the Percy Jackson movies are good, but not when you compare them to the book. I think of them as an alternate universe of the books ... where Hades is a rock star.

In the end, just because some rotten eggs like those are released doesn't mean you shouldn't give the others a chance. A good portion of the time the filmmakers did the best they could to make the film something the fans would love. They're people too. So go to the theater with a gaggle of friends, sit back, splurge on popcorn, keep an open mind, and enjoy the show.

What is your favorite movie adapted from a book? 

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