I was involved in a discussion recently about Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations of Tolkien’s books. One person suggested that the reason Tolkien fans and scholars are so critical of The Lord of the Rings adaptations and not The Hobbit is that The Hobbit movie is so far removed from the original story. Because of this distance from the original, scholars tend to just ignore it. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, on the other hand, tried to keep the feel of the original, and by doing so, is open more to criticism.
I don’t really agree with this.
I have to admit, that with a few exceptions, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I thought Jackson did a good job capturing the feel of Middle Earth. I liked the casting decisions and the costumes. WETA, their special effects and makeup people, did a brilliant job! There were a few changes to characters that I did not like at all, like Faramir. In fact, what they did to Faramir was character assassination! Overall, though, I loved it. I own the extended versions. I watch the movies at least once a year. I tend not to criticize even the flaws, because I genuinely like the movies, and I’m willing to let go of the adaptations I didn’t like.
I also felt like the creators RESPECTED the original books.
Now, The Hobbit. I wasn’t thrilled with it the first time I watched it, and actively disliked it the second time. The reason? I felt like the original story was completely DISRESPECTED. It felt like the creators didn’t like the book and so sought to create something they thought was better. I’ve seen the trailer for the second movie, and it looks even worse! I won’t go see it.
This remove from the original story doesn’t make me less likely to criticize the decisions in the adaptation, but more likely. It makes me angry that they changed SO much. It’s not the same story! These aren’t the same characters!
Just about every teenager I know hated the Percy Jackson movie for the same reason. The adaption was so dishonest to what the book portrayed that it really had no right to even bear the same name. The difference makes them criticize the movie, because it wasn’t true to the books. They felt the disrespect for a beloved book and they don’t forgive!
I have an exception…the BBC show Merlin. When I first started watching it, I was appalled. It doesn’t follow the Merlin/King Arthur story faithfully at all! The quasi-medieval world is completely wrong. It was ABSURD.
But then I understood. If I recognize these adaptations that don’t follow the story at all as absurdities, then perhaps I can appreciate them for what they are rather than for what they are not. I learned to like Merlin, perhaps because of how far off the path they are.
What do you think? Are movie adaptations of books that are totally faithful more or less likely to earn criticism? Do you have a book-to-movie adaptation that you love? Hate?