So, I have a confession: I’m not much of a movie person. I mean, I have my movies I absolutely love: Singing in the Rain and A Beautiful Mind and a handful of others, but on the whole, I would say I watch movies a LOT less than the average person. I go to the theater maybe three times a year(in 2012, I went three times, but I saw the same movie each time) and watch maybe one movie a month at home. Maybe. TV shows, on the other hand, I watch without self-control. TV just appeals to me a lot more than movies do; I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because TV shows can have more complicated plot lines and more character arcs, since they’re not confined to a two to three hour time limit, and instead you get anywhere from ten to twenty hours of storyline per season.
That being said, it’s become a trend that books become movies(with a few exceptions). Off the top of my head, I know that Beautiful Creatures, Divergent, and the Mortal Instrument series have all been made into movies recently or in the process of being made into movies. Not that I’ve done the heavy statistical research on this, but I would guess probably at least 60% of the YA series I’ve read in the past two years are being adapted into movies(and that’s a low estimate).
I don’t know about you, but I know my reaction when a book I loved is being made into a movie is about equal parts excitement and fear. Yay–I get to see my favorite characters acted and come to life! and ohmygoodnesswhatiftheytotallyruinthestory? I am by no means a purist when it comes to adaptations. I don’t mind deleted or added scenes as long as they add to the overall story line. This is what I really want in a movie adaptation:
- Characterization remains intact.
Nothing, and I mean, nothing, makes me hate a movie adaptation more than when they mess up the characters. Plot is important, but good characterization is essential. As much as I love a good plot, personally, characterization is the primary reason I read. I love a good character!
- The tone is right.
If the book is hopeful, then the movie should be hopeful, even if certain plot elements change. If the book is dark, the movie should be dark. Really, this should be a non-issue, but it’s amazing how many movie adaptations mess this one up.
- The basic plot is the same.
Again, I don’t care if you add or take away certain plot elements, but the main story should be the same. Not every scene needs to be appear on the screen exactly like it did in the books, but the movie should, at the very least, match the synopsis given on the back of the book.
Some producers and directors get movie adaptations spot-on, while others make me leave the theater desperate to get the last two and a half hours of my life back. Here’s how I break down a few movie adaptations:
- The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien’s original works were such a sprawling, epic fantasy, and Peter Jackson did such an amazing job in keeping the atmosphere. Even when things were changed, scenes were moved around, or characters were deleted, I couldn’t even be mad because the world was so real and the story still so epic.
- The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is one of my favorite movie adaptations ever. I can’t believe some people didn’t like it. Yes, there were a few annoyances like Madge not being in the movie, but on the whole, it stayed incredibly true to the book for a movie adaptation. And, another confession: I like Katniss’ characterization in the movie even more than in the books.
- Harry Potter
Harry Potter is hard to categorize because it’s eight movies. Eight! That’s a lot of movies, a lot of release dates, and a lot of directors. I loved the adaptation of the Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows part 2, while I couldn’t stand the movie for The Goblet of Fire. Still, on the whole, the Harry Potter series did a really good job of growing up with Harry. I find the latter movies especially terrific.
- Pride and Prejudice
I know some Jane Austen purists aren’t fans of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice version, but I really enjoy it. This movie is what made me interested in Austen’s work in the first place. Now, of course, I prefer the book, but I think this movie really captures the essence of what makes Austen’s story so timeless.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
This is the only Narnia adaptation that did the book justice, in my opinion, and it’s one of those movies I never tire of watching. It really captures the feel and wonder of discovering Narnia for the first time. I added the clip from the first time Lucy discovers Narnia. Even when they changed events of the books, this movie always felt like Narnia to me.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife
I actually like this movie better than the book, but as an adaptation I find it slightly lacking. It doesn’t stay as true to tone as I like my movie adaptations to.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
There’s enough good here to save it from the bad pile, but Peter’s character was changed so much that he was almost unrecognizable, and there were added scenes that didn’t really move the plot along. However, all my favorite moments from the book were kept and I still found the story decently entertaining.
- Ella Enchanted
Ugh. Added unnecessary story lines, weird singing, and an evil uncle? No, thank you. I prefer to pretend this movie doesn’t exist and just read the book instead. I do enjoy parts of the soundtrack, though.
- The Da Vinci Code
Granted, I’m not much a fan of the book either, especially after having to write a paper on all the ways Brown messes with church history, but the movie in particular is not great visual storytelling. I rented this movie with my mom and we both fell asleep halfway through. At least the book was exciting.
What’s your thoughts on movie adaptations? What’s do you think is most important for a movie adaptation of a favorite novel to get right?