Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book-to-Film Adaptations

Sometimes, books become utterly phenomenal - so phenomenal that they get their own film adaptations. Of course, those who read a certain book and go see its film adaptation have specific expectations and are sometimes let down. This is natural; it has been occurring over and over again for years.

As a reader, I understand. Ever since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire hit the box office, I have seen each and every Harry Potter film on opening day. That, my friends, is a commitment. It is a marriage. Plus, I've seen numerous other book-to-film adaptations in between Harry Potter films, making me unable to go see much other movies since movie theatres overcharge their candy and popcorn. (Now that I think about it... the last time I saw a movie that wasn't based on a book at the cinema was in January of 2011...) Anyway, the bottom line is that I've seen a lot of book-to-film adaptations and I've also seen a lot of really strong reactions towards them. Unfortunately, people experience everything from their "favorite part" to "that thing" being excluded, and I'm here to address that.

First of all, let me offer some advice. If you want to be satisfied with a book-to-film adaptation of a novel you read, treat the book and the film as two entirely different matters. Judge the books as a book as a book and the movie as a movie in itself. Do not reread the book the night before you see the movie, you're just setting yourself up to be disappointed, because no adaptation will ever be perfect in comparison to the book. Books are always better, and everyone knows that, so why expect anything else? Am I saying that your disappointment is all your fault? No, I'm saying it might be partially your fault, but on a more indirect level.

Not only will this help you feel better about the adaptation, but it will also help you see the movie for itself. For example, some people were irritated that some good parts of The Help were not included in its film adaptation. This is understandable, but some said that this movie was awful because of that. Not to burst anyone's bubble, but that's not how you're supposed to judge a movie. Obviously, you can take that into consideration, but you can't just lable a movie "bad" just because it was different than the book. You can say it was a bad adaptation if you really believe so, but a film must be taken for itself. Talk about the acting, the visual effects, or the film score when you talk about a movie; leave your comparisons for discussions about how well it adapted the novel.

Since I'm in the book-to-movie spirit, here's a list of some of the film adaptations I've seen of books I read, accompanied by my thoughts about them as far as being good adaptations as well as taking the movie for itself. And believe it or not, it is possible to like a movie that didn't do the book justice.

Lord of the Rings, based on the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien - I thought these film adaptations were as perfect as could be. Who cares that the beginning of The Two Towers was included at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring's adaptation? Who cares that the end of The Two Towers was featured at the beginning of The Return of the King's adaptation? At least it was accurate! Even the romance that was added in from Tolkien's other work seemed to benefit these films! These movies were amazing in that sense as well as the great acting, breathtaking film score, and award-winning special effects.

Harry Potter, based on the series by J.K. Rowling - Is it possible not to love these movies? I'll admit I was disappointed in the adaptations for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but even then nothing about the movies themselves were bad. Other than that, these adaptations definitely did the books justice.

The Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins - Of course, the book was better, but I loved this film adaptation! Not only was it accurate, but the wonderful performance by Jennifer Lawrence made it even more intense. To be honest, I didn't even think that was possible, but it was. Really, all of the actors did a superb job, so if you were one of those people spreading racist slurs about the actor choices of Rue and Cinna, not only are you being exponentially rude, you are also completely missing the point. These actors were chosen because they are amazing and brought these characters to life the best. Color doesn't matter.

The Help, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett - Both the book and the film made me cry, and I think I actually cried more during the movie. Although some parts of the book that I deemed important were left out, everything else was so good I didn't care. All of the characters were so vividly portrayed... It's really no wonder Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.

To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the book by Harper Lee - This is where my attitude seems to drop off. Though it was a good movie, the book blows it away. I got so much more emotion out of my reading experience, but this movie wasn't bad in itself. I just think that the feel of the book wasn't converted to script quite as easily. Even taking the movie for itself, I got a good moral out of it, but it wasn't the most interesting film ever. However, I LOVE Gregory Peck. He became Atticus Finch, I couldn't picture anyone better. In fact, I say this movie can never be redone because no one will ever play his part as well.

The Shining, based on the book by Stephen King - This movie is a classic and one of my personal favorites. Eeriness and suspense themed the film very well, and Jack Nicholson made people fear him forever. No one will ever successfully look as crazy as him - ever. In his case, he's the Gregory Peck of this film; he owned it. And yet, this adaptation was a flop. I saw a mini series adaptation of this book that actually did the plot justice, but I still didn't like it as much as Jack Nicholson's masterpiece. Sometimes, it doesn't matter if it's a good adaptation, being a good movie is enough.

Twilight, based on the series by Stephenie Meyer - The adaptations of these books are suitable, give and take parts that are more potent in writing that simply could not be made in film. Though these books get a lot of harsh remarks, I can say much worse things about the films. My problem with them? They're so corny. If you've read the books, they're cute little additions to enjoy alongside them, but I don't really see how they can be likeable otherwise. Sure, they're kind of fun, and they don't stray too far from the books... But so corny.

Blood and Chocolate, based on the book by Annette Curtis Klause - Just about every werewolf fan knows this book, and anyone who expected a good adaptation was disappointed instantaneously. This movie is absolutely nothing like the book. The plot is different, the outcome is different, characters' last names are different, characters are different, relations are different... This movie was really just based on the concept of the book. But honestly, I don't care. I love this movie even though it didn't do the book justice at all. The differences were likeable to me, and its film score remains one of my personal favorites.

So, there's my two-cents on this matter. Many many more film adaptations are to be released quite soon, of which I am anticipating:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith)
Catching Fire (based on the novel by Suzanne Collins)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Breaking Dawn Part 2 (based on Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer)
The Host (based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer)

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