Books to Movies–Show Some Respect

Do you ever want to do this during a movie adaptation?
Do you ever want to do this during a movie adaptation?
[taken by Lynn Kelley]

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?

4 thoughts on “Books to Movies–Show Some Respect”

  1. Regarding adaptations – it really depends on how much I love the book to begin with; if it’s an ALL TIME FAVORITE, than I typically do not like the movie/TV Movie adaptation – ‘Mists of Avalon’ comes to mind… however, I thought the Harry Potter movies were quite entertaining (but they kept to the spirit of the book and the first movie was as magical as I hoped it would be).

    I found TLOTR movies to be flawed in that the music was so loud that you couldn’t hear the dialogue – and once you turned the volume up enough to hear the dialogue, the background music was screaming at you.

    I always have to remember that movie has to work harder to fill in all the information that is easily conveyed in written form and that the duration of a movie will often (negatively) impact an adaptation of a book.

    So basically, it’s a crap shoot if I’ll like the adaptation. I’m curious about A Game of Thrones…I’m reading it now, but have not see any of the TV series.

    1. kimberlysbarton

      You’re right, it is a crap shoot. I liked the first couple of Harry Potter movies, but was unhappy with the rest of them. They changed too much.

      I sometimes enjoy talking about casting for movies of books I love (like Sharon’s!), I don’t think I’d really want them adapted. It could never match what it is my head.

      1. Exactly. The more I love book the more likely I am to be totally unhappy with someone else’s interpretation of all that stuff in my head.

        I bet I could/would like Sharon’s mysteries in a TV series, if they are done as well as Cadael was. And of course, it would have to have Derek Jacoby in some role, as he makes everything better!

  2. i have a hard time with most book to movie adaptations. sometimes i think it is just hard to turn a 400 page book into a 2 hour (or less) movie. although i do love “the secret of roan inish” it could be that the story was so simple and short that it made for an easy adaptation. and i must admit that i LOVE “practical magic” the movie about 1000 times more than the book (which are hardly the same beasts at all).
    i try to just look at the movies as something completely different than the books. lol the HP movies all bothered me, they took so much of the friendship out and just left all the action in. i felt the friendships and struggles made the books so great.

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