Adapting Books

book-to-filmAs a general rule, books are better than their movie counterparts. It’s simply a fact of life. Now, I’ve seen a host of movies that have been adapted from books, and I usually go into the movie with an open mind (I’ll admit not every single time). But I’ve found that if the book came first it is incredibly difficult to appreciate the movie more, and for a myriad of reasons.

  • Books capture personal imagination
  • Books are much more interactive
  • Books are more in-depth
  • Books move at your individual pace
  • Books can go with you almost anywhere

What I love most about books is that individual shared journey. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but even though we read alone, we share that experience with every single other person who has read the same book. While we read by ourselves, just the act of reading joins us with a larger community of readers, which is an awesome thought to consider. It also, though, places on us a responsibility to the integrity of that book.

I know many readers who won’t even agree to watch the films adapted from those books. Keep in mind that I’m using the word “adapted” because too many movies don’t even follow the plot of the book from beginning to end. Anyway, these readers actively boycott the films because they don’t want to be disappointed by the character choices, by the plot changes, and by the director’s vision in order to make the book visual. I think that view is a bit extreme but I completely understand the boycott itself. If a book is perfect, why even put the film in your mind to sully that?

For me, though, it’s about separating the two, putting the movie in its proper place in the pantheon of movies, and not as a companion piece to the book, which it decidedly never is. Even the good adaptations (like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films) leave out key elements, and have some characters that don’t fit their roles as written in the books. In that way I can appreciate or dislike the movie on its own merits, not based on it not living up to the book.

city-of-bones-poster02Recently I saw the film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures and if I were judging it solely on how well it reflected the book, it would have gotten an abysmal rating. All of the main characters didn’t fit their book counterparts, the ideas I had of them in my head while reading the book, several of them served dual roles, and the plot shifted majorly because of these changes. The same can be said for the first movie in the Mortal Instruments series. Neither film was bad, even though both were bad as adaptations.

Now I’m set to watch the movie based on the dynamic book Catching Fire (finally), and I’ve seen all of the positive review for it. Luckily for me I don’t pay too much credence to those reviews because the book was so individually great for me that it will always stand on its own. As I watch the movie I will have it in my mind, but I will judge the film based on its own merits, just as I did with the first film in the series.

And that’s very good for me, because it means a movie can never “ruin” a book for me, but if you are someone who places too much value in the movie, then don’t see it. If I like a book, regardless of its film counterpart, I will still like that book. More likely than not I will read the book multiple times and find hidden depths each time, enhancing the individual experience for me. Isn’t that what reading is all about anyway?


1 Comment

Filed under Books, Reading

One response to “Adapting Books

  1. mollyshilo

    Reblogged this on The Written Word.

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