Monday, August 20The Voice of London

Book to Movie Adaptions; Do They Ever Work?

With the Hunger Games out today, it’s time for us to think about other book to movie adaptions. Some of the most hyped movies released this year have been taken from popular literature, including The Martian and The Danish Girl.

Words: Tiasha Simon, Subeditor: Yasmin Harding

Book to movie adaptions always leave people torn; there’s a love hate relationship. On one side we have people who have to read the book before watching the movie. They need to learn the intrinsic details that movies refuse to include with the fear of running over time. These people revel in the details books entail, so when it comes to the movie they are ready to rip it apart. Has something been left out? It becomes the end of the world.

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In most cases this thought process is granted, the things films leave out are needed to drive the story. There are parts of the plot missing, characters left out, and story arch’s not explained. The characters don’t match up to the images that have formed over time in the readers mind, and the script has completely transformed the story.

Films may never do the book justice. As J.W Eagan said “Never judge a book by its film adaption”, everything is tailored to please a mass audience. The focus has to be on the parts the audience would connect with, rather than keeping true to the book. Hollywood movies especially, tend to turn a good story into an elaborate show-down. Reeling in viewers and making money being the biggest factor.

Realistically, movie running times are never going to be able to include as much depth as a book has. An hour and a half is only enough time to cram in what is seen as significant. Yet what is significant to a director, may not be the same parts that pulled at the readers heartstrings.

Putting this category of people aside, we have those that are all for movie adaptions, the ones with the opinion “why read a book when you can simply see it on screen?” We can’t blame them. Not everyone is going to have the time to read all the books being made into films.

For the most part unless the book is well known prior to the movie being made, the audience won’t even know they are watching a film adaption until the words “based on the novel…” scroll across our screens. Upcoming movies such as CarolThe Walk, and Room are all based on lesser known novels.

More so, it needs to be kept in mind novels and films are different medias, and scripts can’t reproduce a story word for word. It is just not plausible. Retaining the theme and spirit of the book then making them into something cinematic is key. If the director has this skill, it makes for some of the best film adaptions.

But why are so many adaptions made? Some argue that Hollywood is simply lacking originality, directors are always pulling ideas from elsewhere. It is easier to have something to adapt than to pull an idea out from the imagination and create something completely new. Someone else’s creativity spurs on their own. Over the past several years it seems that Hollywood’s originality has took a turn for the worse; classic movie franchises are getting prequels, sequels, or lazily rebooted.

Every other year there’s a new Spider-Man, a new Jurassic park film was released and many are waiting for the new Star Wars film. Nothing is ever ‘put to bed’, franchises are never safe from being remade. In the future we’ll probably be in line to see the rebooted Harry Potter movies. We are rarely given anything new. Hollywood has simply run out of ideas.

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Some of the top grossing movies of all time have either been taken from comics or novels, The Avengers coming in at number 4 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 at number 7,and those aren’t the only two.

We could argue that Hollywood has never been original, adaptions have been around from the beginning. This can either be applauded or scorned. Visuals are important, and film is a truly great experience. Beautiful cinematography gracing our screens, and well-crafted scripts along with perfectly cast actors; what’s not to love?

And when films get it right, it’s amazing. Everything falls into place, with no one having any complaints that it deviated too much from the book. The Hunger Games is a perfect example of this; Twilight… not so much. Or even worse, Stephanie Meyer’s other novel The Host, so dire that rotten tomatoes gave it 8%.

Then we have Fight Club, a cult classic, and a rare case of people loving the film just as much as the book. Many people are unaware that there is a novel, but hey, ‘the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club’ after all. The movie adaption was so good, that the author, Chuck Palahniuk, stated he felt “sort of embarrassed of the book because the movie had streamlined the plot and made it so much more effective and made connections that I had never thought to make”. As to the change at the end of the movie, Palahniuk loved it, expressing he wanted to see the romance emphasized more the whole time. Not in hopes of selling tickets, but because of the book’s true message: “The story is about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman.”

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And in Hollywood’s defense, sometimes original movies just don’t sell well to the public. If a movie is going to make the money back that it cost to film it in the first place, it has to be marketable. Book adaptions are just that. Original movie ideas turn into indie gems, whilst the big blockbuster movies come from book series. Movies such as The Maze Runner, Divergent, and The Hunger Games also offer much more money, usually in the form of two-part finales. It is not the case of just wanting to fit everything in two movies, but rather much more of a buzz can be created if the ending of a book-to-film adaption has two parts, two different release dates, and make even more money. Studios aren’t as interested in single movies, it’s the ones that are going to have sequels that are sought after. An original movie idea is not going to cause as much of a spark when put up against the big movie names. So, as long as we pander to watching the popular names, we are keeping the need for originality at arm’s length.

Hollywood is not changing any time soon, so let’s all enjoy the spectacle.