Tuesday, 1 February 2011

'Bofiloksms' - Why Books and Films don't mix.

Adapting books into films. You'd think that the film makers would have learned their lesson by now. Where has this seemingly endless fascination with adaptations come from?
Sure they'd realise by now that most of them are pretty much doomed to failure.
Especially if the book is a good one.

We'll take, for example Children's books.
Always irreversibly ruined by the film industry.
I give you here as examples Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson Series, Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak Series and Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle (Including Eragon) series. Of course, these adaptations are now virtually unheard of. A. Because they're a bit pants in comparison to the books and B. because they haven't even made a second film adaptation for any of these series.
Inkheart Book Cover.

Some are in fact horrifically massacred. A favourite of mine is the Inkworld Series by Cornelia Funke. It's set in a beautifully crafted world which absorbs the reader right into it, quite literally. The characters are lovable and interesting, with their bad sides on show for everyone to see. But the film version just takes the book and does a number 2 on it.
Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren are fine in their own way, but they are definitely not at their best. The story completely lacks the ethereal beauty and description of the books and turns a novel into generic children's film. As I'm sure you can tell, I was not best pleased.

Saying this, some adaptations have been hugely successful. This includes J.K Rowling's Harry Potter, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, J.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and C.S Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia Franchises. Though some of these books are deemed of bad quality and little inspiration, the film have nevertheless been adored by millions of people around the world. Harry Potter and Twilight are always seen to be competing for both bad press and the headlines, fans seemingly both overjoyed and outraged at the differences between the books and the films of each.

Whereas the Chronicles of Narnia are a light read and watch, and in my opinion have the warmth, simplicity and charm you expect from an older styled book, reminiscent of Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter.
Lord of the Rings, however was made into an adventure epic that seemed to overshadow the book, but missed out some of the more intricate and perhaps necessary plot points.

Some film adaptations have had me screaming at them. OK, quite a few. The Time Machine, for example, had me raging at it's incapability to be even remotely based on the interesting H.G Wells novella. Once you've plodded your way through the obscure wording and far-reaching concepts you really want the film to be slightly like it. The film, instead, was a study on a man trying to bring back his loved one, but ending up going into the future and trying to help a future race.
Yes, this is vaguely the storyline of the book, except the future race are very, very different and there is no loved one. He travels simply for the knowledge and excitement.

Also an interesting, rather than good adaptation of the same kind is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I was put off of the film automatically because it seemed to me to be trying to make the story too action-y. And the ending was a far cry from the events of the book, but still a good one. Ben Barnes would not have been my choice for Dorian either, his character lacks the subtlety that I would have liked. Not a film I would see again.

The three Alice's. 1.Book
2. Original Disney Cartoon
3. Tim Burton Disney film
Perhaps one of the best adaptations I have seen would be Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. It captures the devilish and oddball side of the story that the older Disney version lacks. Although not sticking to the original stories, it doesn't need to. It's a new story about Alice, and a good one at that. (Also see Lewis Carrols Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

One area I haven't covered yet, mainly because it's so trashily awful, is the comic book genre. Spiderman, Superman, Watchmen, Catwoman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Batman, Iron Man.. you name it, it's been ruined.
The film versions of comics are always going to be a little crap with a general mixing of story lines. Mainly because the story lines of comics changes so much. But when they get something really wrong, it makes comic geeks out there furious. And the hugely successful Spiderman franchise is an example of this. It doesn't follow story lines and the characters are out of place and sometimes just plain wrong.
Most of these comic based films completely miss out on their fan base because they don't use the better story lines, the characters are one-sided and are more child-oriented than their comic counterparts.

And perhaps some other good ones are more of the older style books. Such as Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula, depending on which versions you choose. But generally these book make good films because of their originality. The way that they can be adapted in a variety of ways that still makes sense.

If you watch these adapted films alone, they're OK, sure. But when you read the book your estimation of them just crashes down around your feet. It's very rare to find a film that matches up to the book, let alone is better than it, although for me Narnia comes close.
Although most films seem to bare no resemblance to their book counterparts, here the Guardian lists some films that apparently do:  Guardian's Top 50 good adaptations - This includes Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sin City, Dangerous Liaisons and The Remains of the Day.

On the other hand here is A list of 20 Good Books made into awful Movies. This includes Bicentennial Man, Stardust (a favourite book, and a horrifically child-oriented film), The Shining, Breakfast at Tiffany's (Although there is some debate about that one, some say it's brilliant, and some say it's awful), The Black Cauldron and a Mention of other classics such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mary Poppins.

 So there you have it. Books and films just don't mix. You know it. I know it.
So a notice to film studios everywhere: Just don't do it. And if you do, make sure it's a rubbish book that you can make better.


This blog was written with inspiration from http://empire500.blogspot.com/ - A blog reviewing films from Empire Magazines 500 5 Star Rated films of all time. Thank you :).

And for those who read this only to see if there was a picture of twilight.. I'll give in to your needs. Only this picture will be a nice, natural picture. Shirts on:
There you go. I hope you're happy.

 OK, I lied completely, but he does have a very chiseled body.
 (All images from a google search)

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