October 24, 2012

RTW: Book to Movie

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
In your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

This question seems like it should be easy, but it really isn't Let's see if I can morph all of the ideas I have floating around willy nilly in my head into actual words. There are plenty of things in books that lend themselves well to a visual medium like film: heart-pumping action, vivid description of characters and setting, rich dialogue that could carry a whole movie in and of itself. But not every book translates well to the screen. Sometimes a book is best left on the pages, though I can't think of examples of this right now.


This is probably deviating from the original question, but I think it can also be said that sometimes the film industry isn't able to do a book justice. Take J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example. If Hollywood had attempted to bring Tolkien's world to life on the big screen any sooner than they did it would have been a miserable fail and LOTR fans would have had the director's head on a pike. Film had to be ready to take on something so monumental. And look at the result? Awesome. Luckily for books like the Harry Potter series, the film industry was already able to handle the job to a large degree. I think we can all agree that Hollywood will never be able to fully capture the magic that is that series, no matter how hard they try. There's something that only J. K. Rowling could do with words that film simply can't replicate.

I'm not sure that I've actually answered this question, but I don't think it's an easy one to put into words. And besides, I think there are probably books that I think would make terrible movies, but the film industry might turn around and come up with something pure genius in bringing it to the big screen. All it takes is a little vision and a whole lot of money.


24 comments:

  1. "There's something that only J. K. Rowling could do with words that film simply can't replicate."

    I agree. I said over on Colin's post that while it was important the directors had their own vision, they stuck as close to the text as they could. They were very loyal. That's not the case with so many directors which is when we end up with totally butchered films.

    I agree, there are books I wouldn't like to be seen made into films. Books that should stay left alone. I know To Kill a Mockingbird has already been made into a film, but I don't think anyone should remake it. I think they should leave it be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's so important to stay as close to the original text as possible. That means only making the changes or cuts that are absolutely necessary and making sure that it remains consistent with the nature of the book. I'm not sure if I can think of any books that shouldn't (in my opinion) be made into books. :)

      Delete
  2. Special effects/filmmaking ability do make a big difference. I agree on LOTR and HP...though I love the old Star Wars better than the new ones...they were such a product of my childhood that I'll forgive them their limited special effects.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't agree more about the old Star Wars versus the newer three. We grew up on Star Wars, so adding onto the franchise felt wrong in some ways. Add to that the awfulness that was Jar Jar Binks and the complete lack of chemistry between Hayden Christianson and Natalie Portman...sort of a disaster. That being said, I think the addition of Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as pretty great. :)

      Delete
  3. "There's something that only J. K. Rowling could do with words that film simply can't replicate."

    So true!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They did a pretty darn good job of bringing the Wizarding World to life, but I think J. K. Rowling still had a little something-something that they couldn't capture 100%. They did get as close as possible, I think. :)

      Delete
  4. I think you're right about some books working best as BOOKS, not movie translations. Forever YA recently did a post on this and mentioned THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS as an amazing book, but one that should never be turned into a movie. I agree. The voice in that book is what makes it so fantastic, and I'm not sure a movie could ever do it justice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read that post on Forever YA, and all of this just makes me want to read that book more. It's on my Kindle, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I love a book with great voice. :) But I can totally see how that doesn't translate well to film. Sometimes it works if the there is a good voice over narrator, but even that's not perfect.

      Delete
  5. I agree with what Samantha said about a director having some sort of vision and yet sticking closely to the text. Otherwise, you can end up with a really crappy movie - for example, I hated the adaptations of The Lightning Thief and Eragon because they took things so far from the originals, that I felt like I was misled. On the other hand, there's potential for film to capture things that the books couldn't - for example, I really liked how The Hunger Games turned out, because the movie was able to capture aspects of the bigger picture that were very limited in the book simply because of Katniss's perspective.

    There just really needs to be a balance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't really thought about THE HUNGER GAMES being better by not being first person, but you make a good point. I was too busy focusing on some of the drawbacks of not being in Katniss' head (the strategy, her feelings for Peeta...), but the addition of the gamemakers and what they were doing was fantastic! We didn't get to see that in the book. You're right about there needing to be balance. :)

      Delete
    2. I loved seeing the gamemakers in the movie, too. I think it helped the whole arena and competition make more sense, and even added another level to the dystopia. There are people whose job it is to actively try to kill children -- for entertainment, of course. And that's something that never came up in the book.

      Delete
  6. If you think in terms of live action, yes, modern technology has made film adaptations of fantasy and sci-fi so much more palatable. The problem is, no matter how good the technology is now, in 20 years it will look dated compared to what they have at that time. Back when I first saw the movie Tron (the original), I thought the digital effects were amazing. Same with the effects in Star Wars. And while some of the effects do hold up quite well, for the most part, they don't hold a candle to what Hollywood can do today. Which is why I think the primary concern with movies like LotR, Potter, and so on should be: how can we best tell this story to a cinema audience?

    The easy way to avoid technology problems is with animation. Look how well the classic Disney cartoons have held up. Even the original Pixar movies (Toy Story, for example) still look good, even though their later efforts are clearly more sophisticated. When it's all animation, you can get away with a lot more. It's when you blend CGI with live action, giving you a point of comparison, that the technology can let you down.

    Look Jaime--I can ramble too!! :D But this is one of those topics that we could all get around a table and talk about for hours... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One example that I can think of with technology and film that still wows me after many years is JURASSIC PARK. I remember seeing it in the theatre years ago and being amazed at how real the dinosaurs looked. Even now it still looks pretty darn real to me. That being said, I think more often than not you're right about technology in film looking dated pretty fast. I think about the last SPIDERMAN trilogy with Toby Macguire and just how bad some of the CG shots of Spidey looked--rubbery and too fluid for a human body. They've gotten better in leaps and bounds, but down the road even these phenomenal attempts might look sort of lame. Going the all animation route might have to be something that they consider doing more often. :)

      Delete
    2. Jurassic Park definitely is a stand-out because it was done so well. They used innovative CG methods for the time (which my husband can go on about at length!). Have you seen any mid-2000s-era Dr. Who? It's so amazingly bad!

      Delete
  7. Thanks for your awesome comment on my blog! I agree with what Stephanie said up there about balance, as well as what you said in your post, "There's something that only J. K. Rowling could do with words that film simply can't replicate." Both things are so true. Balance is hard when working with someone else's material and molding into your own, something new forms, and sometimes it just doesn't work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has to be about balance. Picking the best parts of a story to use (due to restrictions associated with film versus books) and still being true to the original text. Film-makers are never going to satisfy everyone, but by sticking to the book as closely as possible they'll do a far better job at it than otherwise. :)

      Delete
  8. I think a big problem is when a film is a literal page-to-screen translation of the story. Some things that are wonderful in books make for boring movies! And vice versa. I've found that my favorite books are character-based and quieter in terms of action, but I like action-packed stories on the screen. So for me as a reader/watcher, my preferences don't actually overlap much.
    (Sorry, this might be a nonsensical comment--I'm home sick today. Blame the cold meds!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, this totally makes sense. :) Though, boo to being home sick. Hope you feel better soon! I remember being sort of underwhelmed by the first HARRY POTTER movie because it felt almost too much like the book. I'm not sure if that makes sense, because usually that's a good thing. The other movies more than made up for that initial reaction, though.

      Delete
  9. Just put James Cameron on a film; if the technology doesn't exist to handle it, he'll invent it! haha

    Orson Scott Card's Enders Game is finally coming to the big screen; I think this is another one that would have disappointed if an adaptation was made before technology was advanced as it is. Although, the original Star Wars still holds up in ways that the flashy pre-quels do not, simply because they used CGI anywhere they could cram it in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was totally thinking of James Cameron when I wrote this post. What he did for both Titanic and Avator technology-wise was pretty ground-breaking.

      I know ENDER'S GAME has been in the works in some form for years now, but they were never able to get it right in Orson Scott Card's eyes. I say good for him waiting until it was just right rather than caving to the pressure to get a film out quickly. The movie will be so much better for his hesitance up until now.

      I think you're right about the original Star Wars holding up in ways that the newer three don't. There is definitely such a thing as using too much CGI in movies that have real people as well.

      Delete
  10. You know, I still haven't gotten through all the LOTR films. I saw the first when I was 12 but I never saw the others.

    There are some books I would to love to see translated as a film. But there are rules for the director if they take on a book I like.
    1) Stay true to the characters - don't randomly merge them together into one or axe them or change their role.
    2) Stick to the plot. There's a perfect ending already written for you. Use it.

    Cirque du Freak was a huge disappointment. I love The Saga of Darren Shan but they totally Americanised the novel, practically merged tons of plots together, and kicked out the LI to replace her with a monkey girl. WTH?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Math certainly does play a large role in filmmaking. Money, tickets, etc. However, when done right, the results can be marvelous.

    ReplyDelete
  12. LOVE your point about timing. Being able to create the world is so, so important for books to be brought to life properly. And that's all about the tech available.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's so true about film having to catch up with the authors imaginations. Although it doesn't work in every case. I thought they captured the look of The Golden Compass really well, but the film was still a let down.

    ReplyDelete

I ♥ comments. They make me smile.☺