Friday, March 30, 2012

What makes a great book adaptation?

Book purists are the bane of my existence.

No joke.

Okay, book purists and people who pair tube tops and clogs together (they’re not okay separate either people).

I’ve heard a lot of talk from different fan factions lately (usually on different message boards). They’re not happy with certain book and graphic novel adaptations.

Which adaptations am I talking about? The big three are ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Walking Dead.’

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I heard a lot of complaints about the ‘Harry Potter’ movies and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy as well. All that died down after awhile, though. The current complaints are rather loud – and sustained.

Personally, I’ve never understood individuals who want straight adaptations. Where’s the fun in that? If you know what’s going to happen, why watch? Isn’t that just a little boring?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the central theme of a book changed. I don’t want the adaptation to lose the written work’s message. I don’t see a problem streamlining it, though.

Take the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ for example. I fell in love with those books when I was 12 years old. That’s 25 years ago. Each year since then I’ve reread the series. That’s how much I love it.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s work was considered largely unfilmable for years – mainly because it was so dense and there was so much history associated with the work. Then Peter Jackson came around with a unique approach.

Not only did Jackson film all three movies at the same time (thus utilizing the same cast) but he also adapted them as what essentially amounts to a love letter to Tolkien. I don’t think that anyone who has seen those movies can say that Jackson didn’t love the source material.

Despite the fact that all three movies are some of the highest grossing films of all time, though, there are still rabid book fans out there that complain about the finished project. Between the absence of Tom Bombadil (did anyone truly miss him?) to the arrival of the elves at Helm’s Deep, book fans have found something to complain about.

I’m not sure that some fans don’t complain just to complain, though. I mean, if the movie followed the book exactly there would be no magic in discovering something new?

When you juxtapose that with ‘The Hunger Games,’ I think the complaints are even more ludicrous. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that fans are mad about the way Katniss gets the mockingjay pin. Since the girl who gives the pin to her in the books isn’t really a central character in the future, I don’t get all the complaining.

By cutting the scene with the pin, the writers also cut about a half hour of exposition from the movie. ‘The Hunger Games’ isn’t a film that hinges on a pin. It’s a film that hinges on hope – and that message is clearly kept intact.

The other complaint about ‘The Hunger Games’ is that some of the relationships don’t get fleshed out as much as people would like. I get that, I do, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.  The simple fact of the matter is that these movies have to make money. Book enthusiasts are going to go to the film no matter what. You have to capture random viewers, though, and random viewers aren’t going to sit through a 4-hour movie they know nothing about.

In the case of ‘The Hunger Games,’ I think the good in the film far outweighs the bad.

That brings us to ‘The Walking Dead.’ I’m not a graphic novel reader, so I honestly haven’t read the source material in this case. My central argument remains the same, though. Why have it follow the comics exactly? There would be no reason to watch the show if that was the case.

‘The Walking Dead’ is a unique case in that it is a serialized show. A movie is one shot and then it’s over. A television show, though, has to sustain the audience for season after season.

‘The Walking Dead’ broke from its comic book roots quickly. I think it was a message to fans that they wouldn’t be following the script they’d already set forth. Fans still didn’t seem to understand that, though.

First they complained about spending so much time on the farm. Then they complained about looking for a missing Sophia. Then they complained that Sophia was dead. Then they complained that Rick killed Shane. Then they complained about Michonne’s casting – even though we haven’t even seen the woman act yet.
It all gets so tiresome.

I understand investing in something that you love and not wanting to see it ruined. We’ve all had something we loved ruined on the big (and small) screen. It happens on a daily basis.

In the case of ‘The Walking Dead,’ though, why not embrace the show for what it is? Because what it represents is quality entertainment. People need to stop nitpicking.

That brings us, finally, to HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ – which returns for its second season on Sunday.
This is another case of me not reading the source material (it is on my list – just haven’t gotten to it yet). Maybe it’s different when you approach the show without any preconceived notions. Maybe that makes the viewing experience better. Of course, it could make it worse, too.

I went into ‘Game of Thrones’ not knowing what to expect. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised. The same goes for ‘The Walking Dead.’

On the flip side, I went into ‘Lord of the Rings’ expecting a lot and was also thrilled with the outcome. It didn’t match the book but it did engage my imagination.

I’m not saying you have to give up your love of a book or graphic novel. I’m just saying that maybe, for your own sanity, that you try to let go of the preconceived notions that have you boxed into a little corner where things have to be a certain way and if they’re not then they’re crap.

The Internet has essentially bred an entire generation of whiners. It’s easy for people to hide behind monikers and nicknames and make fun of anything and everything (I do it to ‘Twilight’ all the time). I think that takes a lot of enjoyment out of entertainment, though.

For me, personally, I’ve decided to accept book adaptations for what they are. They’re really just a different way of reading a book. We might not all see the same thing in the same book, but your own personal adaptation is just as important as the author’s.

What do you think? Do you think book adaptations should have to follow the source material?

Click here for the best book adaptations.

Click here for the worst book adaptations.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home