Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesdays Opinion: What I Think About Books Being Made Into Movies

It's Tuesday folks!  And it's time for my opinions!

This week: 
My Opinions On Books Being Made Into Movies

It's been going on since movies were in their infancy.  Filmmakers go to popular books for their inspiration and script ideas.  A Christmas Carol, Alice In Wonderland, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Three Musketeers (check out the video below), a lot of these stories have been made into films.  And a lot of these movies are truly wonderful, bringing visual life to the books we grow up with.

However, I think there's a point where they've gone too far.

Nowadays, you see a lot of bestsellers become these explosive blockbuster movies, and I'm beginning to reach the point where I say "enough".  Enough with the movie adaptations please.  Come back when you can do it right.

I've been reading a lot of popular books lately, and it seems like every book I've grown up with, or read, has suddenly been made into big-budget films.  I'm finding that it's affecting how I read a story.  Every time I read a book now, I try to picture it as a film.  I also frequently think, "this would make a great movie".  And it's not just me either.  People often say, in response to a book recommendation, "I'll wait for the movie".

Isn't that a little sad?  I often resent this cultural manipulation, and I wish I could go back to an age of ignorance where my reading imagination remained uninfluenced by films and TV.  Wouldn't that be nice?

But that's not what's really bothering me.  Movie adaptations don't make up the majority of the films that are released, and sometimes it's a lot of fun to read the book and then watch the movie and see what they do with the tale.  No, it's how they make movies nowadays that bothers me.

We have reached a day and age where CGI is almost always used in movies, and the trend seems to be huge, elaborate, action-packed scenes.  Sometimes that's fine, particularly with superhero films.  But it bothers me when they try to insert it into movie adaptations where it really doesn't belong.

I'll give you a couple of excellent examples:

First off, the final, climatic ending of Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows (WARNING!  SPOILERS).  In the book, there's a lot of thrilling fighting done by everyone in the Battle of Hogwarts, almost like classic castle invasion, in essence.  But when you look at the film, the action is fairly subdued everywhere except with Harry Potter and Voldemort.  In fact, the movie-makers put a whole lot fighting, flying and face-grabbing in the scene where, in the book, it's just dialogue.  So my question is: why couldn't it just be dialogue in the movie as well?  If you look at that scene and just think about the logic behind the flying and face-grabbing stuff, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.  The brilliant point in the novel was not how skilled Harry was in dueling, it was deduction and clever thinking that led to Voldemort's demise. (END SPOILERS)

Here's another one that's really been bugging me: The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug.  I actually really liked the first movie and how closely it stuck to the original story, but when it came this second one, it looked that they had a little too much fun with the computer animation, to the point where it was really unnecessary.  For example, the escape through the river had several minutes of action that really wasn't there in the original story.  That was the first example of where I got annoyed.
The next scene that really annoyed me was the scene with Smaug the dragon.  In the book, he's lying on his gold and just strikes up a bored conversation with Bilbo Baggins while Bilbo is invisible.  In my head, I saw Smaug with a bit of an Alan Rickman sort of personality and voice, and I was excited when I learned that Benedict Cumberbatch was doing the voice for the movie, since his voice closely fits the one in my imagination. But I was super disappointed with the actual movie scene.  Smaug's voice was too deep and manipulated, and there was much more action in the scene than I had anticipated.  I just watched that part again on Youtube, and yep, I still think the scene is too overdrawn and action-packed.  Sure the dragon looks cool, but they focused too much on the CGI, and not enough on the actual dialogue.  Simplicity, people, simplicity please!

It scenes like these that really bother me.  I am all for editing a book's story so that it may fit into a 2-hour movie, but when they add scenes that seem unnecessary and just add more action, it really annoys me.  The stories don't need extra excitement; they are wonderful the way they originally are.  A movie adaptation is allowed to change or edit the story so long as they maintain the essence of the book.  Once you sacrifice the ideas behind the story, the result is you are making something that, in the end, looks cheap, and that prevents us from really thinking critically about what we're watching.  We watch this blockbuster hits, and end up becoming movie zombies.

Sometimes they get it right, however.  And frequently, it's because they either 1) stuck closely to the original story, or 2) worked with the author of the novel during the screen-writing process.

One excellent example was The Hunger Games.  Not only did Suzanne Collins help write and they were able to exceed my expectations when it came to the visual appearance and essence of the tale.
the screenplay, but they kept very closely to the original story,

Another good example are the Lord Of The Ring movies.  There's a reason why they won so many Oscars.  The way they stuck closely to the original novels, and how they maintained the culture of Middle Earth that J.R.R. Tolkien originally created.  Truly they are masterpieces in the art of film.

In the end, it's not the fact that they make movie adaptations, it's how they make them.  A movie based on the novel should not be about the computer graphics or the visual appeal.  Instead, it should contain the true spirit of the original story, as well as the accuracy of the character development and the implied culture.  Adding action where there wasn't originally any action detracts from the story and makes it seem cheap.  A good story doesn't need to follow a trend; it just needs to be itself.

My Favorite Book-To-Movie Adaptations
Here's a list of movies that I watched, that were based on books I've read.  In chronological order by movie release.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)- awesome movie, excellent book!
  2. Jaws (1975)- one of those instances where I liked the movie better than the book
  3. The Princess Bride (1987)- another instance where the movie was better than the book, though I still think Princess Buttercup is a bit of a weakling
  4. White Fang (1991)- The movie changes the plot halfway through, and I still like the book better, but I still really enjoyed both.
  5. Of Mice And Men (1992)- A very good movie adaptation.  Stuck very closely to the novel.
  6. Jurassic Park (1993)- I saw the movie first, and it took some liberties with the story, but both are very good for different reasons
  7. A Little Princess (1995)- They made a lot of changes to the story, but the movie is still very enchanting.
  8. The Green Mile (1999)- One of those instances where both book and movie and really good.
  9. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (2001)- My favorite Harry Potter movie by far. 
  10. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)- All three were very, very well done!
  11. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)- Another excellent adaptation.  Just as much fun to watch it as to read it
  12. Pride And Prejudice (2005)- The Kiera Knightly version.  There's something about it that I feel really holds the spirit of the novel.
  13. Watchmen (2009)- The movie dragged a little, but it stuck really close to the graphic novel up until the end, and I really appreciated that.
  14. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)- Dave and I both loved the book and were both really wowed by the movie.  They did an excellent job!
  15. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (2012 and 2013)- I was really impressed at how well they adapted the books to the movie screen.  My hubby Dave really enjoyed them too, even though he's never read the books
  16. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)- I enjoyed how they stuck with the book's story, although the second movie was more of a disappointment.

Happy reading everyone!
Lisa The Dancing Bookworm


  1. I really like this post! I totally agree in regards to the working with the author thing- people should heed a lesson from Harry Potter, THG, and TFioS. And based on the criteria you listed, I strongly recommend you DON'T watch the Percy Jackson movies. Ugh.
    New follower via GFC!
    Esty @ Boarding with Books

    1. Unfortunately, I've already watched The Lightning Thief, which is why it took so long for me to pick up this series. They've seriously butchered the novels. I saw the extended preview for Sea Of Monsters after I read the book, and I am so not interested in watching it.

  2. After reading some of your posts, I'm starting to think we are the same person! lol I was nodding my head in agreement through this whole post. And I wholeheartedly agree with your list, especially To Kill A Mockingbird and The Green Mile. Although, I might be biased because those are two of my favorites. Great post!