Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is Hollywood doing to our books?

This weekend, I went to see the movie adaptation of my favorite novel of all time.  (I've mentioned it a few times, but it's Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. And yes, it does pain me to no end that you can no longer get a copy of the book that isn't a movie tie-in edition, as my old copy is 100% falling apart and held together with tape. My best friend bought me a new copy so I would have a "Heather Loaner" to give out to people in addition to my "Heather Original," but she said all she could find was the one with Michael Cera's face on it. I love Michael Cera, but, as you're about to find out, I hate movie tie-in editions.)

It was a FAIL. Big time.

They totally changed the ending, a lot of the plot, cut out key characters, and prevented other characters the opportunity to be developed into the hilarious comic relief they are. I'm not going to get into it further (I could go all night), but suffice it to say I was very disappointed in what Hollywood did with the book.

And unfortunately, this isn't the first time that I've been thoroughly disappointed by the movie version of a beloved novel. Parts of the Harry Potter series (particularly the ending of the Half-Blood Prince movie) were just awful. The Golden Compass was a phenomenal book - too bad they totally ruined it with that joke of a movie. Part of what makes Jodi Picoult books powerful are her twist endings, but that all changed with the ending to My Sister's Keeper, the movie. And Stuart Little? I'm sorry, but I don't remember Stuart looking like this...or driving a convertible...or wearing Converse:

What upsets me the most about all this, though, isn't that creative liberties are taken. I even understand that. When you're working with a novel that's 400 pages or more, and you have to get it down to two hours, some side plots and minor characters have to go. But what I don't understand is when the entire ending of the original work is changed, or when the plot is so distorted that it barely resembles the original work in the first place. It just breaks my heart that kids think Stuart was a skateboard-riding, meatloaf eating mouse, or that Matilda's powers were actually magic and didn't just come about because she was smart but not being challenged.

Maybe these movies, changed plots or not, are getting people to pick up the books. Maybe they're not. But if a writer/director/producer/film studio sees enough merit in a book to adapt it to the screen, shouldn't they want to leave the major plot points alone? It truly makes me worry for the future movies for books I love (don't get me started on the trailer for The Lightning Thief). What's going to happen to Katniss and Panem when The Hunger Games is adapted? I have high hopes for that one with Suzanne Collins at the script-writing helm, but who knows.

I will admit that one of my favorite movies ever, The Notebook, was way better as a movie than as a book. There was more character development, and I liked the ending a lot better. So I guess Hollywood gets it right sometimes.

Oh, and a note on movie tie-in editions, because I said I would mention them, and then the post went in another direction (aka it became me ranting for several paragraphs). I don't really like them. I understand that it's all marketing, and I suppose it's smart. But when it's time for my amazing novel to be adapted to the big-screen, I hope that I can go the way of J.K. Rowling and say that I want to keep the books and movies separate. (Because, for all my ranting, I will absolutely not turn down a good movie deal. I could see my novel! IN THEATERS!!! And maybe even meet Johnny Depp or George Clooney...which reminds me, I need to write some devastatingly handsome middle-aged men into my MS.)

What do you think about film adaptations of novels? Does it bother you as much as it bothers me when they deviate from the original plot, or do I just need to shut the heck up? What's the best one you've seen? The worst? Any you're looking forward to? Will you let your film be adapted, when the time comes? And when the heck is it going to warm up in my house, anyway???


  1. I think that if Hollywood is going to make a movie from the book, they need to keep the movie as close as possible to the movie. I mean, if the book isn't good enough to follow, then why are they making a movie about it, anyway?

    Oh, and they better not mess with Peeta and Katniss...or they might be in some serious trouble!

    Have a great day!

  2. They need to keep the essence or the heart of the story there. There must be a reason for all of the changes. Like Lord of the Rings I love, some of its different, but the heart is there and I totally understand why they made the changes they did and it doesn't bother me. Some Harry Potters get it right, others don't. Order of the Phoenix I thought was awesome, but Half blood Prince made absolutely NO sense, its like a bunch of random scenes thrown together and the end? What was that? Oh and the Ginny kiss? grrrr.

    It really is tricky stuff. basically, you just have to know its two totally different art forms. I think most movies deviate too much, but you know, you can always turn the movie off and pick up the book again.

  3. I HATE, HATE, HATE it when they radically change the book for the sake of movie-making! The movie version of Inkheart was an abomination. Ooooo, don't get me started on this one. Ugh!

    On a happier note, I have some pretty blog bling waiting for you at Book Dreaming today! :)

  4. I understand that film adaptations can differ somewhat from the book, and the more internal a book is, the more difficult it is to truly capture it and stay true to it. I enjoyed HP and the Chamber of Secrets movie more than the book... but the rest of them... the end of the Half-Blood Prince killed me too, as did the Dept of Mysteries scene in Order of the Phoenix.

    I agree that I loved The Notebook movie better than the book... and I might get yelled at for this, but the Stardust movie a teeeeeeeeny bit more. But barely!

    I love when I see a movie preview that I love and learn that it's a book! I ALWAYS try to read the book first.

    Yes to film adaptation for my book.

    Your house will warm up when I finish knitting a gigantic, house-sized blanket for it. Now I just have to learn how to knit...

  5. I just came over from Shannon's blog and had to follow!

    Movie adaptations of novels almost always disappoint. Memoirs of a Geisha is my favorite book, but the movie just can't capture its magic. I'm worried about February's release of The Lightening Thief too. I loved the series and am steeling myself for disappointment.

  6. Kimberly, I totally agree! Although I might not be opposed to them writing Gale out of the script ;)

    Frankie, what you say about two different art forms is dead-on. It's really the only way I can enjoy some movies and watch them as often as I do. It's still disappointing when you see them the first time, though, and you have high hopes! Also, why do they always have to make it look like DanRad can't kiss to save his life?

    Shannon, oo...bling! I like it :)

    Donna, I haven't read Stardust yet (it's on my list, I promise!!) but I've heard the same thing, so you're not alone. And as soon as you're done with that giant house-sized blanket, I will post my address for swift delivery. (Though it's supposed to be back to 60 by the end of the week, so you might want to get on that...)

    Stephanie, hi! I've been reading your blog for awhile! There are a lot of things in the trailer for The Lightning Thief alone that look wrong, so I'm trying not to get my hopes up for the movie. We'll see, though.

  7. I used to feel that way about movies. Sometimes I still get disappointed, but I've just realized that if I go into the movie with different expectations, then I can usually save myself from feeling that way. I know movies are an entirely different ball game than books, and so I just keep telling myself that.

  8. It bothers me, but as long as I haven't read the book in a long time, I can still enjoy the movie.

    And I can't wait for The Lightning Thief. Even though I think Percy is too old. We'll see. I'm sure my son will like it.

  9. It does bother me, My Sisters Keeper was an ending that really upset me, and the third Harry Potter, broke my heart. But I'm looking forwards to the Lightning Their, and Dear John (I'm going to see it this Thursday, early showing!. It is upsetting when they change the ending, or how the characters look and act. Annoys me to no end.

  10. Truer words have nevver been spoken. Hollywood is a book killer. But you know, this doesn't bother me if I still enjoy the movie. But when it changes the book to make a rubbish story, then you really have to wonder...

    And yes, I hate movie tie-in editions of books. I much prefer the original editions, thank you very much. The best ever? My uber awesome British hardbacks of Harry Potter. Love those...no silly movie tie-in covers.

  11. I'm generally open minded when it comes to movie adaptations because I go in expecting very little. As long as the spirit of the book is in tact, I'm usually ok. I get disappointed when movies don't capture the awesomeness of books, but I don't let it get to me too much.

    Movie tie-in books, though...I can't STAND. I HATE when I see them, and I hate that I even end up with them in my classroom library. I won't buy them for myself. I refuse.

    I'm lucky to have an original copy of Youth In Revolt in my own bookshelf and in my classroom library. I see it occasionally at my used bookstore. If I see a copy there, you want me to pick it up for you?

  12. I actually had a conversation about this recently with a published author. His book is being optioned to hollywood (many are), and someone asked him if he wanted to make it as close to the book as possible. Suprisingly, he said no.

    He used the Harry Potter movies as an example. In the first two JK Rowling had a lot of say. But while fun (and very canonical), the later movies (with much more creative liscence) have done much better.

    And while I know there are some terrible renditions of books-to-movies *cough cough Ella Enchanted! cough cough* I think he has a point. They are two different mediums, and should be treated as such.

  13. I am one of those people who go to the movie of a book, and if it's not mostly like the book (allowing for a few minor changes for clarity of a character's mind/moving the story along/time constraints/budget), I leave the theater ranting and raving about how it's not the true story and that peice of literary rape should never have been allowed to leave the studio. Sigh. I almost swore off the Harry Potter movies after Prizoner of Azkaban (my favorite book of the series, so, of course, that intensified my distain). PoA's flaws were nothing compared to Half Blood Prince. I could deal with the end, but Christmas... Christmas... *grits teeth and throws something*

    I share your hatred of movie tie-ins, too. I like to see the original artwork where possible, and refuse to buy anything with a movie still or photo shoot pic on the front.


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