The topic of books to film has been a long time debate. I am an advocate of adapting books to screenplays. I have watched many books come to life on the screen that I enjoyed immensely. That being said, there are also books that should be left on the page. I’m not talking about books that have been adapted and botched by the screenwriter and director…though I will get to some of those too. I’m referring to books that would not translate well onto the screen, and should be left for our individual imaginations. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Warning: There will be spoilers for both the books and movies so if you haven’t seen them and want to…look away!
First, a glaring example of taking a perfectly good book and twisting the story so that it is made more ‘palatable’ for mainstream audiences. This seems to be a phenomenon in North America…more whitewashing that has extended from how we are fed our daily news, all the way down to our forms of entertainment. I know there are many others, but this one recently stood out for me.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. In the book, a young Kate is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, and there are no bone marrow matches within the family. In a bid to save Kate, her parents have another child, Anna, in hopes that she will be a match. When Anna is 13, she goes to see a lawyer to emancipate herself from being a donor to her sister. Kate is very ill and needs a kidney transplant…but Anna holds firm and refuses. It comes to light that it was Kate who asked Anna to see the lawyer. She was tired of being ill and wanted to die. In a twist of fate, Anna is in a car accident and is severely brain-damaged. In the end, Anna dies and Kate gets her kidney. In the movie? They completely changed the ending. Anna lives and Kate dies…completely ruining the whole point of the story. You never know what life will bring or what it will take away from you. Why would they decide that audiences can’t handle seeing a healthy person die, in order for the person who was destined to die…live? Talk about ruining a good book.
In comparison, I have also seen some excellent adaptations from book to film. Lord of the Rings. I LOVED those books, and I admit I was afraid when I went to see the first one. I was not disappointed however…I was quite blown away. Peter Jackson nailed it for me, it was just as I had imagined it. A big complaint I’ve heard is that some really good plot lines were left out. Considering the length of the books, that’s quite understandable. One page of a screenplay equals one minute of screen time…that certainly put it into perspective for me when looking at 500+ page novels.
Two other examples of great adaptations from book to film are The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and both adaptations were spot on with the novels. It also helps that both are short stories, they didn’t need to cut out much. It wasn’t just the story, however, it was the whole package. The actors chosen, the settings…almost every last detail was exactly how I wanted it to be.
Most of the time, I am content with the movie versions of novels. One thing I do tend to practice? If I haven’t read the book, I’ll watch the movie first. Reading the book is always a much richer experience and I’m never disappointed.
Now, some of you who have read my reviews, know by now that I am a huge fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. Ten books in, and I’m still dying for the next one to come out next March. There has been A LOT of discussion by fans, wanting to see a movie or series made. I may lose the good opinion of some through the fandom, but I DO NOT want to see this series come to life on screen. Shocking, I know.
Historically, any time romance novels are made into a movie, it generally comes out as sappy and cheesy. Now, the BDB series isn’t strictly romance, which is what I love about them. They are about vampires. There are bad guys, the lessers. There’s lots of violence and some good steamy sex and etc., that would look amazing on the screen… the setting in the streets of Caldwell, the mansion, the clubs…all of it would look fantastic, there is no disputing that. So why don’t I want it?
The Brothers. Pure and simple. There is no way that any actor can match what I see in my head when I read the books. Every actor I can think of, falls short, through no fault of their own. These characters are larger than life. They are HUGE physically, they are primitive and base in some ways, they are complete fools for their mates…some of which could be acted out quite convincingly. Not convincingly enough for me. I wouldn’t want anything less than perfection. Call me picky, that’s just the way I see it.
The other huge detriment I would anticipate on film is the loss of inner dialogue. The physical and verbal representation of these characters are only half of it. Without being privy to their inner thoughts, I’m afraid they would come off looking less than they are. You can get some it across in action…leaving clues for the audience to read between the lines…but I honestly don’t have enough faith in the screenwriters or directors to pull it off. I’m frightened of how they would interpret these vampires, and that they may come out looking like meatheads. The problem with book adaptations is we often only get the vision of these books from a very few. We all know how Hollywood works, people. The ones who actually care about the story are those with the least amount of input. I’d like to think that if it DID happen, that J.R. Ward would have artistic license…but even if she did, the film budget and director would still be making the majority of the decisions.
So no, I would rather the series remain pure…I will happily read and watch my own visuals play out in my imagination, where it’s exactly what I want it to be.
I’d like to hear which books you loved or hated as film adaptations. For you BDB fans out there, I’d also like to hear what you think about the BDB series being made into a movie. Bring it!