February 24, 2017 by Matthew Brooks
Movie adaptations of novels have become more and more prevalent. Unfortunately, this is both a blessing and a curse because the quality of movie adaptations is about as inconsistent as the weather has been this week.
Sometimes, movie adaptations are spot-on when it comes to being accurate to events that took place in the novel, but that doesn’t mean that the movie was directed well. In other cases, it’s the exact opposite; the movie doesn’t follow the book at all, but it somehow ends up being better than the actual book. And, in the best-case scenario, the movie is faithful to its source material and directed expertly.
A perfect example of a movie adaptation of a novel would be the first “Hunger Games” movie. Not only was the directing done very well, but it was also excellently cast, and the actors gave very believable performances. Jennifer Lawrence certainly did Katniss Everdeen justice, bringing the character to life on the big screen.
An example of a not-so-good movie adaptation of a novel was the first “Hobbit” movie. To be fair, I’m considering the first film alone and not all three. The movie itself was surprisingly well-crafted, but it didn’t follow the novel as closely as many fans of the series were hoping for. This blunder was amplified by the two sequels. Making a single book into multiple movies is, generally speaking, not a good idea, especially when the book is as short as “The Hobbit.” The movies had too much extra material crammed into them that could have been excluded without any complaints, and that would have made for overall better films.
With these two examples of movie adaptations in mind, let’s look at some of the things that generally end up making books better than their film counterparts.
The first, and probably the most well-known, reason is that books don’t have to go through the same difficulties as a movie does when it comes to production. Novels don’t have budgets, and authors don’t have to worry about things like finding the right actors for certain roles, getting the necessary equipment to shoot the film and finding good locations to film at. There are a lot fewer restrictions when it comes to writing a novel and a lot more flexibility.
The second thing to take into consideration is a conflict of interest, and this can be especially problematic if the author of the novel is helping with the writing for the film. When writing a book, the author has total control of what he or she can write, and there are no restrictions when it comes to what is written and how it is written. However, writing a script and writing a novel require two completely different styles of writing, and tweaks almost always need to be made to the source material of a book when it is made into a film. A director who respects the source material will understand this, but they will also understand that there is a certain line that you don’t cross.
For most authors, a book is like their baby; they don’t want anybody that they don’t deeply trust messing with it. You can probably imagine how this mindset could quickly become a problem if it isn’t addressed early on. Creative differences could potentially lead to the film being delayed, and, in the worst-case scenario, the film would never finish being made.
Lastly, books don’t have a limit on how long they can be in the way movies do. Although movies do not technically have a max running time, there are standards that most films generally adhere to. Books also have a standard number of pages, but this standard isn’t followed all that closely. When making a book into a movie, it can be difficult to judge what material to include and what to leave out. Some directors like to stick directly to the novel and make next to no changes, while other directors prefer to make some creative changes to the source material to give the film its own identity. Both styles are completely respectable so long as they are done properly, but doing them properly is obviously no easy task.
I may have written very negatively about movie adaptations, but I still love a good movie adaptation of a book. Regardless of whether it’s a 1000-page book being turned into a two-and-a-half-hour movie or a 300-page book being turned into a movie trilogy, a film adaptation can always succeed with flying colors if it is done correctly.