I’m going to be honest here. This has one of the hardest blog posts to write for me. You see, in the discussion of “good book-to-movie adaptations,” I’m actually on both sides of the spectrum. I’m an aspiring novelist who looks at the works of those more successful than he in horror as they’re destroyed before his very eyes. I am also an aspiring screenwriter who knows exactly how to destroy those stories to make them work onscreen.
There are a thousand ways I could approach this argument, so forgive me if this becomes one of my more rambling posts.
I’ve found that, in general, people seem less and less bothered by book-to-movie adaptations. When they are up in arms about something, it’s usually specific cases. For example, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit got a lot of criticism for straying from the books. By way of contrast, Harry Potter received no such criticism, despite its occasional tangents and departures from the main story.
I think one problem with a lot of adaptations is that they are made to cash in on the popularity of the book before it dies. While some of them turn out quite well, like Hunger Games and, again, Harry Potter, others turned out to be poor-quality movies. A lot of adaptations that are considered good movies actually overshadowed their books. Jurassic Park was a Michael Crichton novel before it was a Steven Spielberg film. Occasionally, adaptations come from the popularity of other adaptations. When Hunger Games became a movie, suddenly Maze Runner and Divergent became popular and they got movies. An adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia may not have been had it not been for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.
So why is it that book-to-movie adaptations get so much criticism? It’s common knowledge that each person reads a book differently from the rest. It’s my understanding that this is referred to as “Literary Criticism.” Someone could pick up Shakespeare and see the story of an insane prince trying to set his kingdom strait after he learned his father was murdered. Someone else could pick up the same Shakespeare play, understand the story, but manage to read it as a metaphor for struggling with substance abuse. Both are valid literary criticisms, but they completely change how the story is read, or even how it’s performed.
The other thing is time. The typical time-conversion for a screenplay is 1 page = 1 minute of film. Even without adjusting the formatting, would you, as a moviegoer, want to sit through a six-and-a-half to ten hour movie? I know I wouldn’t. When someone looks at a book with the intent to adapt it, he/she has to choose what to cut out.
So, will we ever get a good book-to-movie adaptation? I don’t think we will. The best we can do with the adaptations we get is enjoy them as movies, not as books retold.
Unless it’s an adaptation of the Bible. But I count those under “historical adaptations,” where errors and inaccuracies are unjustifiable.