Discussion: Do You Like Book-to-Screen Adaptations?

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Confession time: as well as being a book and word lover, I am a major movie fan. Particularly movies with stunning visual effects that transport you into a world where the impossible is possible and leave you wondering how those clearly impossible things on the screen looked so real.

As a fan of both books and movies, you would think that I would be a fan of book-to-screen adaptations, as they are the crossover of two things that I love, and you would be right. I’m one of those people that sees an awesome movie trailer and digs up the book before watching the movie because to me there’s something special about watching the book world I created in my mind while reading come alive on the big screen.

However, while I usually enjoy book-to-screen adaptations, I’m more than well aware that there are plenty out there who don’t share my enthusiasm for that particular category of movies.

Now let me take a moment to clarify something: there have certainly been some particularly horrific adaptations that completely massacred their book parent, like this disaster. Of those, I am not fan, and I complain about them just as loudly as the other horrified readers.

I think the reason, however, that I tend to enjoy book-to-screen adaptations for the most part, is that I don’t go in expecting the movie to be exactly like the book. I understand that elements are going to be cut, and that sometimes elements that I really enjoyed or thought were particularly special are going to be altered or removed altogether. That’s the way it is, and to expect anything otherwise would be setting myself up for a massive disappointment.

The difference, is that unless there are enormous, plot-altering, character-destroying changes, I don’t let it destroy the rest of the movie for me.

For example, I just recently saw Warm Bodies, and I have to say that I enjoyed it. Was it exactly like the book? Hardly—in fact, they altered the ending in a way that I can’t say I was too fond of, however, the spirit of the book was still there. R’s witty internal commentary and the zombie-love awkwardness and the dry humor was reflected in the movie, and I loved watching a book that I enjoyed unfold before my very eyes.

Had I been counting scenes that they cut and changes that they made, however, I would have walked out of that theater as a rather unhappy person. If you nitpick at a book-to-screen adaptation, chances are you’ll never be happy with the result.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t understand why some people don’t like the adaptations—I definitely get wanting to see something that maintains the integrity of the novel, which is why book-to-screen disasters don’t sit well with me. But I suppose my love of movies combined with my love of books makes me a little soft when I watch adaptations because I want to enjoy the movie. I don’t go looking for reasons to dislike it and I even let changes and cuts slide as long as I feel the book is still well reflected. But some people are pickier than me, and I get that, too.

So now I want to hear from you: do you enjoy book-to-screen adaptations, or do you tend to avoid them? Somewhere in the middle? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

20 comments:

Lesley Whyte said...

It varies depending on the adaptation. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're awful. The main thing for me though is to wait to read the book until after I've seen the film (unless I've already read the book, which happens more often). Taking your example of Warm Bodies, I was interested in the book and then found out that they were making it into a film, so I held off on reading the book. I just find that, if I see the film first, the book improves on it and I can enjoy both, rather than not enjoying the film if they make huge changes.

Ava Jae said...

I understand holding off to read the book, particularly if changes to the book have a tendency of dampening your experience of the movie. Have you watched the movie yet?

Lesley Whyte said...

Not yet. It was only released today in the UK, but hopefully I'll be going this week!

Ava Jae said...

That's interesting--usually the UK gets movies before the US (or at least, it often seems that way). Enjoy the movie! :)

Robin Red said...

Yeah, it depends on the level of adaption. When a plot change alters the entire story, or if it's part of a series, makes it impossible to retain its continuity, then I hate it -__- I liked that Harry's gift from Sirius in Prisoner of Askaban was given to him at the end of the film, unlike the book. It made it more special, and it gave the audience a hopeful, optimistic view of Sirius's destiny... which was utterly shattered in book 5. I don't like that in the Goblet of Fire, the Dursleys were completely cut. I know they probably had time costs, but the Dursleys are the contrast with the Wizarding World that emphasizes how fortunate Harry is to escape them every other summer. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I finished reading Beautiful Creatures last week, and I was disappointed to find that my favorite character, the quote-ready and ever witty Dr. Marion Ashcroft, has been cut from the movie. I especially didn't like the cut in Deathly Hallows Part 1 when Dudley redeems himself and shakes Harry's hand. But I did like Fleur-Harry. "Don't look at me Bill. I am hee-dee-us!" That made my day. I don't like that Aunt Petunia didn't blurt out a definition in Order of the Phoenix in the film, so when her relationship with Lily and Severus is shown briefly in Deathly Hallows Part 2, it makes no sense. The audience (who didn't read the book) has no clue how Petunia was a part of this stuff, but was clueless before. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I'm just nitpicky.

Robin Red said...

Sorry for the long post, Ava. I got out of control this time.

Ava Jae said...

I definitely see an element of nitpickiness there, but you're entitled to be nitpicky if you'd like to. :)

In the end it definitely varies from movie to movie--some are done better than others and some are so terrible you'd rather forget you wasted your time watching them. It all depends.

Ava Jae said...

No worries, Robin!

Darth Lolita said...

I really love film and I really like adaptations as long as they don't destroy the spirit of the movie. I HATE it when the movie adaptions are the exact same thing as the book. I realize that's an unpopular opinion, but what I feel like you gain absolutely nothing from going page by page into a movie adaptation.

Plus, the language of film is very different from the novel. You just can't translate the same level of information or the pacing or a whole bunch of other things to films.

So what I mean for spirit, is that it understands what the movie was trying to say. It keeps the characters intact and the overall message there.

Darth Lolita said...

*book was trying to say


Lol sorry. I'm like typing this while my friend's rushing me so we can go see Warm Bodies. (It's all connected!!!)

Jason Burns said...

Sometimes it comes down to what makes the cut in the film's script or final edit. Therefore everything included in the movie adaptation has to count. Yes movies can sometimes run over 2 hours (or 3 hours if your name is Peter Jackson), but that's nothing compared to the amount of elbow room an author has when constructing their story. Movies are also very expensive to make, and when an author writes a major scene in their story about a war between robot pirates and jedi ninjas in space, that's another 20 million dollar check the producer of the movie has to write. Budget issues aside, film has many tools to convey emotion, details, and plot points differently than a book can. One REALLY good (and recent) adaptation was The Hunger Games movie. One goal that director Gary Ross had in making the Hunger Games movie was to convey the brutal nature of the games by having some of the contestant die on screen. The book also makes this point, but the movie has you hating the idea of these brutal games as soon as the countdown ends. Children are slaughtered before your eyes in a

John H said...

I'm kind of divided on the matter. "Forrest Gump" the book was a riot, and expected the movie to be just as funny, and it wasn't funny at all, apart from the scenes where he met the President. My wife and I went to see "The Osterman Weekend," because she thought the book was great, and when it was over (two hours of our lives that we'll never get back) she complained that it was nothing at all like the book. On the other hand, I thought the Swedish version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" was better than the book, and felt the same way about "The Devil Wears Prada." In both cases, the movie made sense out of the book, and I liked the end of "Girl" better than the one in the book (the movie's end was actually closer to the beginning of the second book than the end of the first). And I liked both versions of "The Hunger Games," because the movie followed the book but wasn't a slave to it.

¤čidney Peck said...

On this subject I am neutral. I like them fine as long as the finished product delivers something worth my time watching for two or more hours. Being in the film business a long time, I don't expect a movie to be a carbon copy of its print edition, nor would I want it to be. As long as it's done well, I'm happy.

Emily Mead said...

I definitely agree with you about Eragon - I hope they remake it one of these days. But on the most part I enjoy book-to-screen adaptations, because I can enjoy my favourite stories in ways that I can't with just the book. Harry Potter is one of the biggest examples - they really did well by HP.

Ava Jae said...

You make some great points about budgets and the differences between how books and movies convey the same plot and emotional impact. I too was a little disappointed to hear that Gary Ross wouldn't be directing Catching Fire, but it'll be interesting to see how Francis Lawrence handles the sequel.


As for movie adaptations that I liked better than the book, I can't think of any. But there have been several that I enjoyed just as much, which I think for me is as good as it's going to get. :)

Ava Jae said...

I think your last sentence there is key to a great adaptation: when the movie follows the book, but isn't a slave to it. Movie adaptations can be great because they give us an opportunity to see the book in a different way, but when done incorrectly it can also be pretty disastrous.

Ava Jae said...

Agreed!

Ava Jae said...

The Eragon movie was a disaster. They'd altered it so much that if they'd changed the movie title and character names, it wouldn't have been even remotely similar to the book. Sad, because it could have been a great movie.


I agree with you about Harry Potter, though. I absolutely loved the movies, particularly the last few.

Colin_Kerr said...

I don't hate movies that are the same as the book, but I would say there's little point in having both experiences if they strive to be identical. I'm an admirer of both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, for example. Also, I like the point that the language of film cannot work the same as text--unless they just film close-ups of pages being turned so we can read along.

Ava Jae said...

I understand what you mean about disliking movie adaptations that are too similar to the book. Personally it doesn't bother me when they're very similar, but I can't say I ever saw a movie adaptation that was so close to the book that I got bored or felt it wasn't worth watching or anything like that. But I understand what you mean.


You also make a great point about the language of film being entirely different from novels. You're completely right and I also agree that when the movie captures the spirit of the book, it tends to be a good adaptation. :)

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