With the autumn movie season almost upon us, PCR’s Lina investigates whether the legendary film adaptation lives up to par and if what is coming next will be more than just a title only tribute to the original.
We’ve all been there. Sitting there reading a book (or a comic or a graphic novel) and thought to ourselves, “Wow, this would make an amazing movie.” It might not be an obvious thought when it starts, but it creeps in and by the time you’re finished you’re imagining fight scenes and thrilling moments of doubt and revelation unfolding on the screen.
Or maybe not.
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall onto, there’s a chance that you have seen one. Be it for fun or because you were made to in an English class, the results are mixed at best. Where was that one liner that defined a character? What happened to that plot twist? And most important of all: how is this the book that it came from?
Hollywood adaptations of beloved (or not-so beloved) books is nothing new. The Golden Era megahits Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz (as well as the silent film versions that preceded it) started their lives as books. However it seems that in this age where the remake and reboot is king, studios are going to the bookshelf to find the next blockbuster. Say what you will about the Twilight and Harry Potter series adaptations, but one thing that can’t be said of them is that they weren’t successful. At least fiscally speaking.
When it comes to film adaptations I have had to learn to just let the original material go before I can sit down and watch them. Picking at the details and rolling my eyes as something new is added to make the pace work better or something crucial left out was giving me ulcers. It was better to just let it go. It wasn’t always a successful method (I remember one particularly painful viewing of Love in the Time of Cholera which I couldn’t get over) but sometimes I like the film better. The Prestige was much more intriguing and riveting on the big screen than it ever was on paper and I’m certain that not all of this could be blamed on Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.
Unexpected joys and disappointments alike (I’m looking at you questionable X-Men movies), there is one thing that keeps recurring as I gear up for the next one. The doubt, the anxiety, the ‘should I pay $8 to watch them ruin something I love?’ and then the inevitable decision. While more often than not I give in and head to the cinema, there are times when I skip it and am glad for it. With a slew of big name, big budget film-to-book adaptations on their way to cinemas in the coming months I’m plagued with doubt. Out next week is the highly publicized adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s heartbreaking “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and I am definitely skeptical of what the result is going to be. I have worked through my lack of understanding at McAdams and Bana being cast as the leads and am now starting to question the type of film that I am going to be seeing. When a friend of mine who never read the book saw a commercial for it, she referred to it as being “cute” and that it looked “like a sweet movie”. Sweet is not a word that I would use to describe the source material and if they have turned it into a feel-good movie, it is going to be really hard for me not to want to ask for my money back when it’s over.
I know that all of this is sounding a bit dour and spoilsport worthy, but I maintain that it is possible to preserve what makes a book so special in the first place when turning it into something for a larger audience. There’s no need to make it something that unrecognizable save for the title. If anything it would probably serve the interests of moviemakers more if they kept closer to the feelings and the big points rather than hacking everything into pieces.
This isn’t my declaration that I am never going to watch an adaptation again; that would just be a lie. I have my plans made to see Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and to bawl my eyes out as the story of Max and his monsters is given a wider scope. I have faith that in the end it will be lovely and stay true to what Maurice Sendak originally created. After all they have the Wild Things right and it doesn’t take much more than that to make me happy. Perhaps the 2010 film based on The Lovely Bones will be just as beautiful and quietly sad as the book (if anyone can do that it can be Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens who took the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy and kept it stunning). Perhaps the Ridley Scott/Leonardo DiCaprio take on Brave New World will be just as stunning and devastating as its source. I won’t know until I am in the seats.
My love of books and my love of movies does not have to be exclusive. It just might take a few more great ones and few less cringeworthy ones to make me a true believer. And maybe one day the films that shouldn’t have seen the light of day (such as the horrifying made-for-tv version of A Wrinkle in Time) will be lost forever, at least until it is time for a good parody.