Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Discussions: Book to Movie Adaptations- Are you an unreasonable viewer?

With the opening of The Hunger Games this weekend, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to love a book and to have that book made into a movie. I know there are going to be a lot of differing opinions and I'm going to review the movie a little bit later. But what I want to talk about today is expectations versus reality.

A lot of people were nervous about The Hunger Games, me included, but while I was at the movies, I was listening to some people talk. I heard a lot of "they better have included *insert really random small detail here*". Sometimes as readers, we latch on to these tiny details and forget about the bigger picture. I sort of laughed to myself and thought "man, you are going to be disappointed". I'm sure these were the same people that walked out of the theater grumbling.

So what I want to talk about today is the unreasonable viewer. I'll preface by saying that if you are one of these people, you have every right to feel the way you do. I'm not saying you shouldn't want everything to be perfect if you do. I'm not even saying you're wrong to feel this way. So don't read this next bit and think I'm attacking you. I'm just saying that you are setting yourself up to fail.

A book to movie adaptation is not meant to be the book on the big screen. It is meant to be a separate entity of it's own. It is someone else's creative statement. Most movies set out to make their own statements using material created by other people (in this case the author's). And this is a GOOD thing. It's good because the idea was already explored, and way more thoroughly, in book form. The movie is looking to nod to the book while making different statements, highlighting different ideas and sometimes saying completely different things. Now it's true that some movies take the book's ideas to a completely different level and that is usually what makes the movie successful. It's because they are offering something new.

Wanting a movie to be exactly like a book to the last letter isn't going to work. Not only is the book way longer than any movie could possibly be but it's more personal because you get to spend more time with the character. On top of that, a book leaves a lot to the imagination so you get to decide what everyone looks like and how they act and what a half smirk looks like as they move around in your head.

A director is doing the same things when they make a movie. They are bringing their verison of the book to life. But unlike the personal experience of reading a book, there are a lot more hands that touch the movie. A lot more thoughts and ideas are thrown at the table and thus, things are changed.

So if you are going into the theater looking for the same thing you read, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If you want to really enjoy what you are seeing, my suggestion would be to look at the book and the movie as two separate things that happen to share similar ideas, plots and characters. Or look at it like you are in the head of a completely different person as they read and picture the book-- they are going to like some things more than you (translating into the things you see on the screen that make it from the book), they are going to wish some parts went different (translating into the changes the movie makes) and they aren't going to see everything the way you would. Otherwise, the beauty of art would be lost. And for me, that's what makes book to movie adaptations so special. Not that I'm seeing my version of the book but that I'm getting a glimpse into someone else's mind as they saw it.

I tend to like book to movie adaptations way more with that attitude so I've adopted it. I can still recognize when things are bad and I don't like everything. But I don't go into the movie with expectations that things are going to play out exactly like I read and exactly like a saw in my head. That way, I'm able to see the beauty that other people have missed.

So I want to know, do I sound crazy or do you do this? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and you like you movies to be exactly like the books? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I do this! I don't mind changes - like you said, it's a much smaller time-frame to work within, but I do hate it when the movie is simply nothing like the book - or starts the same and veers off completely (Looking at you, Prince Caspian)

    "The movie is looking to nod to the book while making different statements, highlighting different ideas and sometimes saying completely different things."

    Love this point - sums it up perfectly!

  2. I try to keep an open mind about books to movie adaptions. I realize that there is no way every aspect of a beloved book can be put on screen it just isn't possible. I also realize that the movie and the book are two separate things but I still tend to get a little frustrated at the movie when it differs drastically from the book. In my head I know that it's an adaptation of the book but I can't help but compare the two. I like how you see the movie adaption as "a glimpse into someone else's mind as they saw it."

    It does help when I see the movie first then read the books. I did this with Twilight, I Am Number Four, and The Hunger Games. I have yet to see the movie or read the books even though my friends and family have read the book and only have glowing recommendations.

    In the end I still like when books are made into movies and will continue to see them in the future.

  3. If the movie is well done and keeps the spirit, I will still enjoy it. If it changes something crucial that made me love the book, I probably won't. I won't even watch MY SISTER'S KEEPER because they changed the ending, and don't get me started on ELLA ENCHANTED. Even as I say this, I can think of a book that's 90% different from its source material that I DO love--HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. I can also think of adaptations that I enjoy such as BRIDGET JONES and LOTR and PRINCESS DIARIES and THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE despite not having complete accuracy. I'm looking fw to seeing THG on Tuesday. I like that they've expanded it so you see things you never get to in the books and take it out of Katniss' head!

  4. I go to movies knowing they can't put everything in a 2-3 hour window frame. I also understand they have to change things to fit in their and show some concept important to see. I am not a complainer.
    I hated people going on about The Hunger Games movie saying they forgot this or that and changed things. Suzanne Collins did the screenplay and produced and executive produced so obviously she approved. So people need to get a grip and just enjoy the movie or don't go at all!
    Thanks for sharing with us!!

  5. This is such a great post! I think it's okay as long as a movie has remained true to the feel of the book, and not changed things for the sake of it. I hated the Percy Jackson adaptation because I felt they really ballsed it up and Annabeth's character was made really weak which I didn't like. But I DID love THG. I mean yeah, it wasn't as in depth as the book and yeah, I did have a FEW issues but it was really well done and really sensitively adapted.

    I think those people who expect to see the book acted out need to have a bit of a reality check tbh. They're 2 completely different mediums and stuff just doesn't always translate.

    Great post Amber!!

    The Cait Files

  6. I think the only times I've been disappointed with a movie adaptation were the Twilight movies but just because I think they're terrible. It didn't bother me that they changed things. I just thought the quality was bad. I think it's impossible to include everything because movies are too short. It's ok to be disappointed because your favorite scene didn't make it in, but don't criticize the movie as a whole because of it.

  7. Great post! We've been talking about this within my family all weekend and came to many of the same conclusions. I consider myself happy if the movie doesn't contradict the book in important ways, and if it's a good way to recapture the story in a couple of hours. Usually, even a great movie adaptation makes me want to read the book again!
    Last week, I wrote about the influence readers have on movie making on my blog. Check it out, if you'd like:


Thinking of writing something below? Well, that's why you are awesome! I always love feedback!

This blog is an award free zone. With the demand of a full time job, blogging time is becoming much more precious and I just don't have the time to meet the demands of awards. Thanks so much for thinking of me anyway!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs all images form the Impossible Things kit by Studio Tangie and Rebecca McMeen