How often has your favorite book been rehashed and redesigned as a film? It has been done for ages, classic stories finally told through action. There are endless variations of A Christmas Carol and a new take on Sherlock Holmes every year it seems. Lately, it seems that a lot of Young Adult books are just begging to come to life.
With the recent success of The Hunger Games DVD, it feels appropriate to discuss the ways in which a film adaptation can help a book and ways in which it can hinder the book’s sales. So many things can go wrong in a fan’s eyes when it comes to taking a precious book and bringing it to life. The wrong actor could be cast, the script could have nothing to do with the story, the effects could be awful– the possible disasters give me the shivers, especially when it’s one of my great loves on the line. I find that I will be less stressed about the film if I put space between my reading and the film’s release. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes.
The Hunger Games film adaptation was an interesting experience for me. It didn’t strike me as an adaptation as much as it was a companion. Many elements of the story were revealed to the reader through Katniss’ own thought process. Her deductive reasoning made sense for us. In a film, that would have been difficult to portray. So, they took a different route. Instead, we were shown what was going on outside of the arena. How did Seneca Crane make the decision to bend the rules? How did Haymitch build the support for Katniss? These were things we barely thought about as we read while we focused hard on Katniss and Peeta’s fight for survival. The film showed a great deal of the Capitol that we did not see through Katniss’ eyes. I found the film to be enjoyable because of this. It stood apart without being completely independent.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, however, was a touch of a disappointment for me. This book was my bible. I carried it around in my bag and read random passages when I needed to slip between the pages and escape. The film had an amazing soundtrack, which given the book’s heavy musical influence was to be expected. Kat Dennings was brilliant as Norah, but I felt that Michael Cera ruined the character of Nick. I’m sorry, Cera. You were an awesome Scott Pilgrim, but you turned my wonderfully romantic Nick into a complete wuss. Sure, Nick was a touch Emo, but it was more about the music for him. Cera’s Nick was a complete mope with a serious case of the glooms. There were switches and additions that I appreciated, Caroline’s drunken escapade for example. I will always be sad that they left out “On Ludlow”, the improvised song Nick sings when he is left behind by Norah. Overall the film was “meh”, it didn’t leave me with the cathartic feeling of the book nor did I swoon after Nick. Damn you, Cera. Damn you.
Now, for a complete disappointment. Have you ever read Blood and Chocolate? If not, you should. It’s a beautiful story of a werewolf girl trying to figure out what it means to be one of the pack but yet still human at the same time. She is constantly at war with herself, consumed by the idea that she could be loved by a human for who she really is. The language is powerful, the characters are exciting, and the story does not end how you would expect. Now, have you ever seen the movie Blood and Chocolate? I don’t recommend it. The only thing in common between the book and film was the names of the characters and the title. It took place in a completely different country, the main character is older, the laws of the pack are completely different, and the dynamics of the characters are totally upended. It was painful for me to watch as a fan of the book. Had I never heard of the book, I’m sure the film would have been perfectly entertaining. However, I find that when you adapt a novel there should be more than a shred of similarity between the two.
Film adaptations of books will never be perfect. We will always find something that didn’t match up to our imagination. All we can do is hold them separately and hope. Cross our fingers and give the benefit of the doubt. Save the bitching for later, because honestly it won’t do you any good until you see the proof with your own eyes.If you’re curious about more book to film adaptations to compare, check out Howl’s Moving Castle, Charlotte’s Web (animated and live action just to compare), Harry Potter (though you should be familiar with those), The Wizard of Oz, and Pride and Prejudice (with Kiera Knightly and Matthew McFadden).
Doghouse Diaries has a delightful comic about this topic over on their web site. You should check it out.
Also, if you’re a Cassandra Clare fan and you’ve been waiting to see who has been cast to play the most bad ass Shadowhunters in town, saunter on over to http://themortalinstrumentsmovie.com/ and sigh over this beautiful cast.