Note: This one has actually been sitting on my computer since November. Kind of got lost…but I found it and decided to post while it was still mostly relevant (And at least a little true).

I feel like talking about movies. Specifically movies that are based on books.

It can be a fan’s dream…or worst nightmare. I know that often I’ll be reading a book and think, “Hey, this would make a kick-butt movie.” Plus, I love to see my favorite stories leap off the page. At the same time, for every good/amazing movie version, there is an equal amount of bad movies. Some are horrendous. Some are merely blah. It seems like it is often hit-or-miss when a book is being turned into a movie. After all, a book can contain a LOT more information than a measly movie can. They’re having to fit a four-or-more-hour read into two and a half hours of screen time (sometimes). Things are going to get cut, things are going to get changed. You may find yourself at the Parthenon in Tennessee battling the hydra a book early.

Now before some people start griping about the all the book-movies gone wrong, which leads to “How could [insert author] have let this happen” let’s remember this: When a writer signs a publishing contract and becomes a published author, they typically sign away the movie rights during that process. And I don’t think that it takes author involvement to make a great book-movie (though it certainly may help). After all, J.R.R. Tolkien wasn’t around to see his Lord of the Rings trilogy get movie-fied, but it was an amazing set of movies.

I’ve come to realize it’s not about getting every scene and snatch of dialogue on the screen. When I think about some of my favorite movie adaptations, it’s about more than that. Think about:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • The Princess Bride
  • Holes
  • Pride and Predjudice (the Colin Firth version)
  • The Passion of the Christ (okay, maybe that one is based on four books)
  • The first two of the new Chronicles of Narnia

These are some of my favorite movies. I love them. I adore them. In the case of LOTR (and probably soon-to-be Hunger Games) I go stark-raving crazy over them. And it’s not because they are exact replicas of the original work. Heck, my favorite Princess Bride scene isn’t even in the book. They are amazing because they capture the spirit of the book. Ally Carter puts is beautifully when she talks about the possibility of aging up the characters in her book, Heist Society: “I for one would rather have an actress who has Kat’s same spirit than someone who only has Kat’s same age.” She makes the case that even if they age the characters into their early 20s for the movie, it can still be the same story and still have the same experience as the books and that is what she is most concerned with. For more about her thoughts on the possible Heist Society movie you can start here. (Can we get a “Heck, yes” to a Heist Society movie, by the way)

I’m not looking for every scene to be in the movie when I go see it. I’m not looking for a movie that follows the plot of the book exactly. Some books just don’t make good movies on their own. Take, for example, The Two Towers. Do I love LOTR? Yes. Once upon a time, did I read the trilogy every year? Yes. (Should I get back into that habit? Yes.) Which book was the hardest for me to get through? The Two Towers. I mean, as long as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were in the picture I was riveted (can you guess who my favorite characters were?). And then you got to Frodo and Sam and I remembered that I knew how it ended and went all, “Eh. I’ll get to it.” LOTR fan fail, I know.

The Two Towers is mostly walking and a little bit of fighting and some great dialogue between the Elf and the Dwarf. Walking, dialogue and a tiny bit of fighting do not make an amazing movie. Had they followed the book as Tolkien wrote it the movie would have like the bargain brand paper towels on a Bounty commercial.  Instead, Peter Jackson took a little artistic liberty and gave the fans a teeny taste of the action to come at the end of the movie. Big gamble? Definitely. Did it pay off? yes. As did saving the Shelob scene for The Return of the King. After all, we’d just been through the climax of the movie at Helm’s Deep. To add the scene in Shelob’s lair would have taken away from everything we’d just been through. Plus, it created a serious sense of anticipation for those who knew what was coming (and I guess for those who didn’t). Don’t believe me? Look it up online, I’m sure people have written dozens of articles to this effect. What worked so well for Peter Jackson is that he was first and foremost a fan. And he recruited fans. And they were all concerned with creating a movie that would stay true to the big picture of the LOTR books, not just the tiny details. (Though they did great with those, too.)

You cann’t going to please everyone. There are going to be people whose favorite scene is an obscure one or not imperative to the over-arching plot. People like me who were disappointed that most of the Eowyn/Faramir scenes did not make it into the theatrical editions (that was, however, my only disappointment). But for the most part, I think that LOTR fans world-wide ended up with a movie that lived up to their expectations. For me, at least, LOTR was one of the very few movies that I feel the movie was a good as the book.

Have I had some serious disappointments when it came to movie adaptations? Yes. Eragon and the first two Twilight movies being among them. These are the kind of movies that make me worry when I hear another one of my favorites is being translated to the big screen. Now, usually I enjoy the movie, but still think the book is better. Occasionally, I’ll like the movie better than the book (that list includes all of two movies, I think).

But, no matter how awful I think the movie is going to suck, I still feel  that a true fan must see it at least once and form their own conclusions (even if you wait till it’s in DVD form). That’s why I went to see Eclipse and why I went to go see Ella Enchanted, despite the weirdness of the trailers. In both cases I was glad I had gone. Eclipse turned out to actually be a good interpretation of the book (IMO) and Ella Enchanted, while nothing like the book, was a fun movie and I do enjoy watching it every now and again. This is why I plan to go rent part two of the Deathly Hallows as soon as I can, despite what my HP fanatic friend says about how much it stinks. Even if he’s right (and we do have different opinions about how to accurately transform a book into a movie) and I end up feeling indifferent or hating it, I need to finish it just to be able to say that I have. (Anyone feel me there?)

So, does this mean that I am worried about what they’ll do with Hunger Games?

Nah.

They’re taking the time to cast the right people and I’ve found that when a director takes the time to make sure that the actors are right, then they’ll make sure the movie is right as well. Not that anything but time will tell, however, I’m hopeful and I’ve yet to see anything that worries me. A word of advice though, don’t reread Hunger Games right before the movie comes out. You will spend the whole movie thinking about how this detail is different and how they left out that line. I did this once, never again. I’m planning to reread a couple of months before so that it will be fresh, but not so fresh that every difference has neon lights pointing to it.

So what about you? What have been some of your favorite (or least favorite) movie adaptations. Why? What was it about the movie that made you (dis)like it?

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