Unpopular Opinions: We Should Better Respect Movie Adaptations

I’m back in action trying to shove my unpopular opinions down your throat! This one I’m certain a lot of people are going to be mad about just by reading the title. That’s fine. I’m pretty ready on this one, I’ve been debating it for a while now.

This is my disclaimer paragraph. I am in NO WAY demeaning books and/or reading. I think reading is so important! When you read a book, you are allowing your mind to create entire worlds. What better way to escape reality? I’m not even saying that there isn’t such thing as a bad adaptation. I’ll get to that too, it still happens all the time! Ultimately, what I am saying is just because the movie isn’t exactly the book or, more importantly, how you pictured the movie would be doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

Here’s the thing about an adaptation: it’s basically the writer and directors version of the book. It’s never going to be exactly how you thought it was because you created your own version of the book as you read it. That’s your own version, and really that’s kind of the cool part of reading. Everyone reads the same story and creates their own version of it that is special to them in some way or another. That’s why I like to read the book before I see the movie, so I can freely imagine things as I read them without the pressure of someone else’s version interfering. So really, if you think about it, it’s never going to be exactly the book, because to you this book could be something different than to the people who made the movie. Really, I look at adaptations like they are really expensive fan-fiction, more or less.

Now, that being said, this doesn’t mean there is such thing as a bad adaptation of a book. I just don’t like when people say, “well they forgot this part of the book, so it sucked,” or something along those lines. I really doubt they forgot that part, it was probably debated somewhere along the lines of the film making process to get rid of it. Most of the time, though certainly there are exceptions, every aspect of the movie took some sort of thought. Think about how many people were in the credits, how many hands went into creating the images you saw (which is enough in itself to respect adaptations, even if it’s just a little). It likely wasn’t forgotten. Where it get’s tricky is that sometimes these decisions that they are making lead to the themes or messages of the book to get lost along the way. Ultimately, that’s what leads to a shitty adaptation. For example, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love is a lovely story of self discovery. The movie version lost so much of the heart and substance from the book that it became sadly, kind of vapid and vein.

One I’m currently worried about, which doesn’t happen often, is the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which happens to be my favorite book. Ever. Just from looking at the commercials it already feels like it’s trying really hard to be like the other YA novels made into movies about a futuristic society, and to me one of the reasons I loved this book is because it’s not like the others. It’s so simple and beautiful; a story about how love, family, and joy is worth the pain we go through in life. It doesn’t need to be a big budget action movie. Now, this is just from watching commercials, so advertisers could just be trying to appeal to that audience, so I’m willing to give it a try either way.

In the end, I will leave you with a clip from one of the best adaptations, Adaptation (2002, Spike Jonze). The movie is an adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief about adapting Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. You read that correctly. It’s wonderfully meta and all around weird and funny. In the clip below, Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is introducing his ideas on adapting the book into a screenplay.


What do you think? Do movies always ruin the book? Do you like it when your favorite books are made into movies? Why or why not? Tweet us @awklifeblog or comment below! :)

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