Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thoughts On: Book-to-Movie Transitions

With all of the talk about books becoming movies, or books that have recently become movies, I think this is a topic we've all been thinking about a little. There have been pretty poor adaptations in the past (looking at you Eragon and Percy Jackson) some that were alright, but not enough to make my crazy about them (Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and some that I really enjoyed (The Hunger Games). And of course a couple that I adore (Lord of the Rings). As well as a whole bunch that hit different parts of the scale.

With all of the poor adaptations, I think it is pretty reasonable to be apprehensive. I mean, we've all weathered some really poor adaptations. I can be pretty forgiving of some flaws in book-to-movies, but others I just can't stand.

I'm not really a die-hard true-to-the-book sort of person. Changes are going to be made. They have to be made, because books and movies are fundamentally different ways of telling a story. Sometimes something that I love in a book wouldn't translate well on the screen. I understand if actors don't look exactly as they are described in the book. You can only get so close to how someone looks in a reader's head, and I completely understand that. However, I feel like there is a need for actors to fit with there characters. If the characters are twelve, do not make the sixteen (Percy Jackson), since it can have quite an effect on their development arc. I'm of two minds about appearance things. If an aspect of someone's appearance is mentioned frequently, or acts as a distinguishing characteristic, it should stay the same. That said, I think it is more important to stay true to who a character is fundamentally. I think character is also one of the most important aspects in whether or not the film is a good adaptation or not.

I am also of the opinion that setting is something that you should try to stay pretty true to, since characters interact with it on a regular basis, and it is something that makes a movie a visual masterpiece if done right. Especially in the fantasy genre. There are some seriously beautiful fantasy sets out there. Setting and props create an atmosphere, and they can convey how much work was actually put into the film. Unlike with character, which is hugely actor-dependent, props really are a team effort and are a really big contributor to the atmosphere and overall realness of the scene. The amount of effort that can go into designing a set is incredible, really, and like I said before, results in some really beautiful sets.

Also, a shout out to all YA fantasy book-to-movie adapters. Don't decide what the audience wants. You're alienating a lot of people by deciding everything has to be primarily romance and no backstory. If I hadn't read the book for most of the adaptations I've seen recently, I would be really confused as to what is going on, since you haven't given any thought to the world-building, which is kind of important in fantasy, sci-fi, and urban fantasy especially. Some of us are there to watch our main characters save the world, not angst over their pitiful romantic lives for a full two hours. (And yes, I understand that, depending on the book, there may be a great deal of brooding involved, however, this is one of those things that works better in a book where we actually see the thoughts of the character. Watching someone stare moodily at a wall for five minutes doesn't usually mean that much to an audience.) If there is romance in it, keep it, but don't throw away all of the other aspects just so our love interests can stare into each others eyes when they really should be doing something that moves the plot along. You only have two hours. Use them well.

I think that is it for me. I'll just conclude that I am all for adaptations. I love seeing books realised in a visual medium. I just like to see it done well.

Let me know your thoughts on books becoming movies. What is your favourite/ least favourite film based on a book?


  1. I have different expectations for film adaptions of books, so I'm with you--some changes HAVE to be made, and sometimes following a book too faithfully can actually be the movie's downfall. I usually go in with low expectations, though, because they are such different animals that it's best not to get hopes up to high!

    This is actually the subject of our November discussion post on The Midnight Garden, so I'll expand a little more on this then. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I think going in with low expectations is probably safest, especially since they are so different.

      I follow The Midnight Garden on my feed reader, so I'll look forward to the discussion.