Hey readers! Welcome to another thrilling installment of My Thought Monday. A weekly post where I get to rant and/or rave about happenings in the book world. I have received lots of positive feedback from my previous posts and want to keep the momentum going. This week I'll be touching on another topic that's important to all authors and bloggers.
I'd like to offer up my thoughts for discussion among authors, bloggers, readers, and all members of the literary community. I understand that my views may be in the minority on some fronts and would love to hear your thoughts. Please note that while I would love to hear your thoughts, I will not tolerate this as a place of hate and negativity. If you so choose to put forward your thoughts via comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc, please do so professionally. I am fully aware that sometimes the bookish world is the last place you want to put your personal thoughts, but I, for one, am tired of being quiet. It's time for me to take a stand on issues that are important to me in this community. It is my belief that, only as a community, can we pull together and make real change in this bookish world we all know and love.
This week's topic:
From Page to Screen: My Take on Film Adaptation
Like most every person on the planet, I love films. I have been a huge film history buff for as long as I can remember. If it hits the silver screen, I'm already loving it. Hollywood has supplied us with some of the greatest moments in cultural history. An art form that will forever be passed down from generation to generation. Whether or not you are a reader, there's a good chance you're going to watch films.
While the idea of adapting novels for film certainly isn't a new one, it seems that every trailer you see in the theatre is for an upcoming film. I don't know about you, but I have mixed views on this. On one hand I love seeing my favorite novels on the big screen, on the other, do they ever do the novel justice? Today I'm going to talk about some of my favorite and not so favorite parts of film adaptations! Here are some of the biggest points of interest for me.
Where did the idea come from? This is something that constantly shocks me. There have been so many times that I'll watch a film and think 'wow, that film had an incredible writer' only to discover that it was first a novel. You may be thing 'Ethan, you run a book blog, how do you not know when something is a novel first?' but you'd be wrong. In fact, I'd wager that most of us have no idea where film adaptations come from. As I type this I am looking at a list of the top grossing movies of 2015 so far. Guess what? 80% of them were adapted from novel. Most of which I have never heard of. Some of them such as The Hunger Games are a no brainer, everyone is familiar with Suzanne Collin's epic dystopian trilogy. Other films? Not so much. Did you guys know that Jurassic Park is based off a 1990 Michael Chrichton novel? Mrs. Doubtfire? Shrek? Forrest Gump? Pitch Perfect? Every one was a screen adaptation of a novel. I don't know about you, but that shocks me! Some of the most acclaimed and best known films in history have been adaptations. Let's give credit where credit is due! Also, I challenge you to find some of the novels that your favorite films are based on, pick up a copy, and see how you feel about it!
Casting. Oh man, here we go. This is a big one. I want to strange Hollywood casting directors sometimes. Do they even read these novels before they cast the film? Sometimes I don't think so. Replacing men for women, combining characters, changing names/race/country of origin, it all just drives me up the wall. I'm all about diversity in film, don't get me wrong, but if this is an adaptation of a film set in China then why are all of the main cast member white? See what I'm saying? We've all seen this before and it drives me nuts. Now, on that same issue, I'm all about changing up race if the option is there. Unless an author specifically says 'this female has fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes' I don't care if they change it up. That being said, if they cast an African American actress in that specified role, I'm probably going to have a problem. That's just one example, this happens everywhere though. I have to say that I specifically applaud the Harry Potter series for including so many ethnicities into the film. Whites, Blacks, Asians, Indians, etc we're all represented in the film adaptations and I loved that. Go WB!
Getting the story right. Sometimes, my biggest faults for films come in the play when I see a film that I haven't read the novel of. Filmmakers really have to do a lot of work to lay the groundwork for their world/setting, but it isn't always handled in the best manner. The perfect example of this is the Harry Potter series. My brother and myself have always been huge Potterheads. My mother, on the other hand, hasn't touched a book since high school. She had no idea what they were about. While she absolutely loves the films and watches them constantly, she still has so many questions. Little things that are crystal clear to readers of the novels wouldn't question it, but for people who hadn't Harry Potter was a mess. The whole series. Sometimes you have to ask yourself who a film adaptation is for. Is it for the books fans or is it for a new audience? Harry Potter was definitely for the book fans.
Making Unnecessary Additions. Sometimes this can go both ways. In some instances, like The Hobbit, for example, I welcomed the addition of numerous scenes that weren't in the book, but still helped to move the story line. A recent trend I am seeing is to completely remove certain aspects of the novels and just rewrite them for the films' needs. That drives me up the wall. If author says that MC dies, then damn it, you kill them off. If the author doesn't have a love interest for character A, then why did you have to go in and add one? One of my favorite parts about YA literature is the lack of hardcore romance. Hollywood must've missed the memo. They've taken the small romance element from so many novels and expanded it to make a film a romance. Let's take Divergent. The novel certainly places a large emphasis on Tris and Four's relationship, but damn the film took it to an entirely new level. It's ridiculous. Same with Twilight. Sure the novels were full of romance, but it was nothing like the films. Those movies made Stephenie Meyer a joke.
I'm a huge glutton for punishment when it comes to film adaptations. I'll sit in the theatre and when the previews come on I'll go "seriously, that's gonna suck" yet I'm still the first person in line for a ticket. I just can't help it. The worst part? Even when the movie is COMPLETELY different from the novel, I still end up loving it. Seriously.
There have been so many amazing page to screen adaptations over the years and I only hope they continue. Each time a book is made into a film, sales skyrocket and millions of fans are joined into the fold. It's only when the film turns out to be terrible that I have issues.
Let's talk about those 'bad' adaptations for a moment. I hate calling some of these films out, because they're based on some of my favorite books, but oh well.
- The Hunger Games. I may be the only person on the planet who just absolutely detests these movies. I love the setting and think they got it perfect, but they just missed so much with the film, and I think the casting is absolutely horrible. Seriously. There isn't a single member of that casting that I even somewhat agree with, just don't get me started.
- Beautiful Creatures. This one hit me hard as this is one of my all time favorite series. The casting was fine (all but for Ethan) and the setting was superb, but the adaptation was horrid. Talk about some mistakes. Wow. WOW. They missed so much, the scripting was one of the worst I have ever seen. With such big names as Jeremy Irons and Emmy Rossum, I was hoping for a smash hit. Sure didn't get one here.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events. Lord I know this movie came out over a decade ago, but I still can't get over how bad it was. These books were my jam when I was younger and the film just destroyed it. I didn't even want to read the books anymore after that. It was really that bad. Horrible casting, the film was played off as a joke, etc. It was just bad. All the way around.
- Don't even get me started on Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have a huge list of book adaptations that didn't work for me, but I wanted to share some specific examples so you guys could get a feel for what I'm talking about.
On the other side of the coin, here are some of my favorite page-to-screen adaptations (there are so many more, but these come to mind first):
- The Fault in Our Stars
- It's Kind of a Funny Story (I actually liked the film much more)
- Planet of the Apes
- The Wizard of Oz
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Not that dreadful Tim Burton remake either)
- The Cat in the Hat
- The Grinch
- Charlotte's Web
- Apollo 13
- Lord of the Rings
- The Hobbit
- Harry Potter (for the most part, but I have huge faults with this film series)
I'm not a Hollywood executive and I have no intention of ever becoming one, but I think there is a lot of work to be done in the page-to-film adaptation world. Authors often have very little control over the story and as a result, the fans miss out. It's beyond unfortunate, but it happens.
So while I'll continue to fan-boy over each and every page-to-screen adaptation, there will always be that sense of resentment and disappointment that Hollywood has taken something I loved and didn't do it justice. They never do it justice! Right?! While I love and respect the work of Hollywood, I almost always leave the theatre depressed when seeing one of these films. Every reader of a novel interprets it differently, films don't. Everyone sees the same film, but not everyone reads the same book. Does that make sense? Some readers saw Bella Swan as a complex, intelligent, strong female heroine who had to face growing up and coming to terms with a life fulls of werewolves and vampires. Movie-goers saw a very sad, emotionless, brooding, whiny Kristen Stewart who did nothing for hours on end. It was grueling. See what I mean?
So here's I'll be, just anxiously awaiting upcoming film adaptations. Reading and re-reading so that when that special moment comes and I'm sitting in the theatre with a box of popcorn, I can rip that baby to shreds. Because I'm a horrible cynical person like that. Oh well.
Upcoming page-to-screen adaptations that I'm excited for:
- The Scorch Trials
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
- Miss Pergrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I'm sure there are many more, but those are the only ones coming to mind!
So there you have it folks, my thoughts on page-to-screen adaptations. Sure I love them as much as the next guy, but they also make me very angry. I also have a huge list of novels I would love to see adapted for future films, but that's a topic for another day!
This week's discussion: What are some of YOUR favorite page-to-screen adaptations? Also, what movies didn't know you know were adapted from a novel?
Sound off in the comments below! Special thanks to my new bookish sister from 'Down Under' over at BEAUTE' DE LIVRES (BEAUTY OF BOOKS) for the inspiration on this week's topic!
Until next time, Happy Reading!