Book to big screen: Lost in translation


I have to admit, I get absolutely giddy when I hear some of my favorite books are being turned into movies. I’m no rabid fan girl, but I do feel like a kid on Christmas morning when the movie finally comes out. Now you’re probably thinking,”OK. So you like adaptations. Where are you going with this post?”  Well, it’s true. I normally like them. I enjoy them and rarely feel as if I’ve wasted money, but at the same time, I often walk out feeling bit…deflated. A bit disappointed. Do I build it up too much?  Is it bad acting? Is it that the actors cast don’t match the image I had in my head?  It’s probably  D) a little of all of the above.

Why is it so hard to translate the written word to the big screen and give people that same feeling they have when they read the book? Is it just a case of not having to work at anything? Other than suspenseful thrillers and whodunit flicks, we tend to not have to think too much when watching movies.  The visuals play out before us as do the huge action scenes. We don’t have to stop and close our eyes and image what something might look like. It’s right there in front of us.  I guess watching something is just less interactive and maybe it keeps you from connecting to the characters as well.  

Stopping to think about it, I realize we don’t often hear a character’s thoughts and inner monologues in movies.  I think that makes a huge difference when it comes to knowing our hero/heroine and their personality.  I’ve often read stories and felt I’ve made a connection to the characters (hence why I cry if they are killed off or get hurt, etc.) I don’t really find that happens too much in movies. Occasionally it will, but it’s much more of a rarity.

One of the other issues I tend to have with adaptations is the fact that they rush everything! I get the industry is not looking to make movies 3+ hours as a norm, but sometimes they cut out scenes I, as a reader, deem essential!  Maybe it’s not causing a plot hole, but you’re often losing out on character development and background story. Which again causes you to lose that connection with the character.  I guess we can’t have it all.

Even with all the flaws and faults, I am still eager to run out and see these movies. I hope that Hollywood will do as good a job as they can getting the important stuff come across well and maybe, just maybe, it will prompt non-readers to pick up the books. Whether to find out what happens next or start at the beginning, I don’t care, so long as it’s turning people onto reading.

 Let’s take a minute to discuss specific book to movie adaptations.

I have two, yes only two, movies I think are on equal ground or even better than their book counterparts, and they are decades apart.

The first being To Kill a Mockingbird. I have always loved the book and I had to watch the movie in one of my high school English classes. It’s probably one of the most spot on adaptations I’ve seen.  You know how your teachers told you that you couldn’t watch the movies and you had to read the books? Well, To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely an exception to that rule (kids, if you do this, I will not be held responsible for your grade should your teachers find out!).

The second is one of my all time favorite movies: The Princess Bride. I think spectacular casting is what helped this adaptation to surpass the book version. Then again, I did see this movie several times before I even knew a book existed.  I’ve read the book on more than one occasion now and while I like it, I stand firm in saying I prefer the movie. That is a rarity for me!

I’m going to throw in two honorable mentions (they are television shows rather than movies and both on going so I’m reserving total judgment).

Honorable mention #1: True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse series). I adore the books and the show does not follow them all that closely, but some of the characters are so spot on for me, that I can’t be annoyed by what they’ve added and taken away. I wait with bated breath to see if they bring in some of my favorite characters from the books (oooh please oh please let a Quinn show up soon).

Honorable mention #2:  We are only 4 episodes into the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones, but very little has disappointed me. It’s sticking very close to the books and even though I know what’s going to happen, I’m excited and anxious to see how it’s going to play out. I’m going to be very very happy to see some specific death/torture scenes played out on the “big” screen!

Hmm what are some of the worst for me?

I really disliked the Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie. The books were great. Really funny, I thought.  I don’t think the movie did a good job at all bringing that comedy across. Not to mention I was not much a fan of the Percy they chose. That being said, I’d still see the sequels if they make them. I’m a sucker that way.

I kind of hated I Am Number Four as well. While it wasn’t one of my all time favorite books, it’s an interesting concept and it could have been done well, but I felt they totally changed the personality of Henri and left a lot of important background and training info out. Also, as much as I can enjoy looking at Alex Pettyfer for two hours, it was hard for me to imagine him a high school student. Most of the cast came off as too old to me. Funny, since back in the day, I was totally convinced Luke and Andrea on 90210 were high school aged (HA!).

What’s to come?

I am waiting patiently for the Hunger Games and the Mortal Instrument movies to come out. As two of my all time favorites series, I have a feeling something will disappoint me, but I assure you, that will not stop me from seeing the movies.

Also, I will be very interested to see how The Maze Runner is adapted. Like with the Hunger Games, I wonder if they’re going to be able to really portray that feeling of despair and hopelessness that their worlds bring the characters. We shall see.

What is your take on the book to movie trend? Do you have favorites? What takes the cake as the worst adaptation in your book?  What are you looking forward to?


3 responses »

  1. I enjoy most movie adaptations I see but I agree that they can be missing that something special that the books always have. I blame it on time. There's only so much time in a movie so they have to trim and cut and tweek until the plot is still understandable at 2hr (or less.)

    Where as books have the luxury that time doesn't matter. Need more info: SEQUEL! Movies: if it's not a blockbuster then a sequel is out of the question.

  2. That does annoy me, but it makes sense. Movies are expensive to make. If the first one doesn't do well, who wants to spell $ to make the sequel?

  3. If I like a movie that was previously a book, then it's for different reasons. Weirdly enough, I feel like I don't have an attention span when watching a movie… a book absorbs me and everything else around me.

    When i saw this I got excited/worried, I thought my favourite movie “Lost in Translation” had a book too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s