Ever been to see a film that happens to be based on your all-time favourite book? Ever walked out of the cinema feeling crushed? Are film adaptations quite frankly an abomination?
Directors more often than not will royally screw up a perfectly decent book whilst trying to translate it to screen. But some aren’t half bad. This article debates the pros and cons of the film adaptations and the book/film crossover.
Books are wonderful things; the feel of pages, the musty smell, the thrill of a shiny new cover. But seeing your favourite book on the big screen can be bittersweet. It’s great that authors have the chance to see their creation dramatised, also opening the story up to an entire new audience who would have otherwise ignored it. But there are many pitfalls along the Hollywood red carpet for a story to fall into.
Pros of turning a book into a film
Wider Audience – Let’s face it, there is a large percentage of the population who would rather eat glass than pick up a book. But stick it on the big screen and suddenly they’ll all come running. Who knows, maybe some of them will bother to buy the book after all.
More Accessible – Sitting down to watch a movie takes far less time and effort than having to wade through a novel. Especially when said novel is something like one of the classics. Even I – a self confessed bookworm – would prefer to veg out countless times in front of Bride & Prejudice than bother more than once with the original.
Gives a Different Perspective – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens is rather dark and depressing, but add in a load of puppets and it suddenly becomes a far more cheerful affair. Sometimes a director’s vision of a book can open up a whole new interpretation.
Promotes the Author – J.K.Rowling was relatively unknown (in global audience terms, not in readership terms) till the HP movies came along. Now she could write her shopping list on a piece of toilet paper and it would sell. It’s not always just, but it does help those who created the book in the first place.
Cons of turning a book into a film
Personal Interpretation – The director’s’ vision of characters will invariably not match up to your own. I had to turn off Inkheart ten minutes in because the idea of Brendan Fraser being Mo just wasn’t working for me. So rather than ruin a childhood book, I preferred to not watch.
Logistics – There is no way a director can fit everything that happens in the book into the movie. It just won’t happen. And because of that, things do get missed out. Or some things have to be altered slightly to make them more screen-friendly. Eragon, Lord of the Rings and any of the Harry Potter movies being prime examples of this. And comic book fans will recall how the deep and many-levelled From Hell by Alan Moore got turned into a cheesy horror skit starring the normally wonderful Johnny Depp – it’s logistics, I tell you.
Time to play leapfrog – Often the book is only used as a reference, a jump off point for a director to do their own thing. The second Princess Diaries film was totally ridiculous when compared to the series, bearing little relevance other than featuring the same characters. Die hard fans will, nine times out of ten ,get really ticked off with these spin-off movies.
Popular Demand – Movies often get altered to cater to what the public wants. New Moon is reported to be far more Edward-centred than the book; otherwise fan girls would bomb the director’s house.
The Hollywood Effect – The worst thing a director can do to a book. It ranks up there with digging up one’s ancestor, dancing with their dead corpse, dressing them up as a sailor then parading them around town on a donkey. It just shouldn’t be done! Directors sometimes get a bloody stupid idea in their head to take a perfectly decent book and completely destroy the ending so it’s more family-friendly. The Golden Compass is a prime example of this. Why, why oh why did they let Roger live?! (Any Philip Pullman fans will know exactly why I sob so [Ed note: Yes, yes we are. Yes, we do.]).
Converting a book to a film is tricky business. It manipulates the author’s message and pisses off fans no end. But in some rare cases it can enhance the book to an entirely new level. I guess it all depends on the director, and how much the director’s imagination matches with the author’s. But when it comes to future films, I think I’m just going to hedge my bets and not bother. Too many loved stories have been ruined by a botched movie to bother. And I guess that’s a wrap.
Lights, camera, action!
V for Vendetta stood a chance of upsetting a vast number of comic fans. But those that loved the graphic novel liked the film.
One director’s personal vision saw A Christmas Carol vastly improved with muppets.
We are yet to find a person who doesn’t think that LOTR was absolutely bloody amazing.
Bride and Prejudice? Acha, as they say in India (That means, among many other things, ‘good’).
New Moon – plays fast and loose with Edward’s character.