Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Books Become Movies

Don’t forget about my super awesome giveaway, guys. The one where you can win any book you want? Remember that one? Head on over there and throw your name in the mix. Don’t forget to thank the good people of Amazon for making it happen.

So I’ve been seeing commercials lately for Cloud Atlas, an immense and magnificent book that I’ve always thought was completely un-filmable. It’s episodic. Each chapter takes place not just in a different place, but in a completely different time period. They’re thematically linked, but it’s definitely not the kind of book you read and think, “Yup! Perfect for a movie.”
This IS a really cool cover though.

 Obviously they’ve filmed it, but since I haven’t seen the movie, I can’t attest as to whether or not it works. In a couple months, adaptations of major classics like Anna Karenina and The Great Gatsby will be released. In YA news, they’re days away from officially choosing Shailene Woodley as Tris in the movie version of Divergent, the last Twilight is coming out soon, and next year we get a brand new Hunger Games (squee!).

Book-to-movie adaptations are tricky things. It’s hard to say what makes the good ones really work. Is it because they were loyal to the words? Did they transcribe the dialogue perfectly? Did they replicate each and every scene exactly as they were described? Or did they make big changes, streamlining and enhancing the plot? Sometimes details fall by the wayside in order to capture the mood and message of the book. Other times they don’t capture the moo d at all, and it’s still a good movie. Sometimes the book is perfectly duplicated and it still completely stinks.

KEEP READING. There is naked Colin Firth awaiting you beyond. (Dead serious.)

See? Complicated. I think the only real answer is the movie has to be good. Take Pride and Prejudice as an example. It’s one of the most beloved novels of all time and has been adapted many, many times. I’ve seen practically all of them, including the complete reinterpretations like Lost in Austen (SEE IT IT’S WONDERFUL), Bride and Prejudice, and the current web-series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

But we’re sticking to more traditional adaptations. Laurence Olivier made a version in 1940, the BBC made a miniseries in 1995, and Keira Knightley starred in the 2005 version. For me the least successful is the 1940. It bears nothing in common with the book other than the names of the characters and the basic setup. Even the time period is changed. Seriously, it’s weird. They’re all dressed like they’re in Gone with the Wind.

I love both the 1995 version and the 2005. The former is more loyal the novel and perfectly captures Austen’s humor and wit. Plus it has this moment in it:
Even better than Colin in the lake if you ask me.
The 2005 version takes some liberties with the plot. It takes place about ten or fifteen years prior to P&P’s actual publication date, it cuts some characters out, and the romantic, atmospheric mood it creates is somewhat anathema to Jane Austen. But I think it’s a gorgeous movie in its own right.

In the end, sometimes quality books don’t make for quality movies. Sometimes quality movies come from craptastic books, like The Godfather. Sometimes the movies are magic. The formula’s elusive.

Sometimes it’s really hard to see books you adore turned in to horrible movies (Ella Enchanted. Shudder). But ultimately this trend of book-to-movie adaptations is a great think for the world of books. It puts more focus on the land of print, making more kids and adult rush into bookstores, desperate to read Catching Fire before it hits theaters. I gobbled up Atonement the week before the movie came out because I hate watching movies before reading the books.

And more reading is always good.

Shut up, I'm reading.

1 comment:

  1. You know I ONLY read the rest of the article because naked Colin Firth would be there, right? Right.

    Okay, no, but that did improve my day. I too saw the 1940 version of P and P and found it severely lacking. It was barely Jane Austen at all.

    I find most book to movie adaptations disappoint me.


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