Thoughts on films adapted from books

I am SUCH a bad blogger! Just as I’d promised to try to post something at least once a week I go and leave it 28 days without a post! ARghhhhh! I’m useless.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about books that get made into films. There is no way I can cram all my thoughts on this into one reasonably-sized post, so I’m going to be as concise as possible, and mostly talk about all the YA books being made into films at the moment. Wish me luck!

I’ve found a pattern emerging with books I’ve been reading, specifically those branded by annoying marketing peeps as “Young Adult”. Either I see a trailer/hear about a new film being adapted from a book I keep meaning to read, or I read a book and then find out they’re adapting it for the big screen. It seems today that every YA novel ever written is being picked up by a studio and made into a film. It’s not hard to see why: look at the success of Harry Potter and the Twilight films. Last year The Hunger Games was the first instalment in what is sure to be another mega-money-making franchise and this year we have Beautiful Creatures, Warm Bodies, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and more to look forward to. There’s also Divergent (Veronica Roth) set for 2014, in which Kate Winslet has just been confirmed to star.

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That’s not all. The list of YA books which have supposedly been picked up by various different film studios over the last few years is enormous, and although not all of them will make it to the big screen, I’m sure some of them will. Here’s a few of them (some are in early development stages whilst some are still only rumoured):

  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (not YA but still about vampires and witches!)
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I have several thoughts on this growing trend. Firstly, is it good that so many YA books are being made into films? On one side it’s good because it means that these books are being read by a wider audience who might have otherwise steered clear of books labelled as Young Adult for whatever reason (embarrassment, snobbery, etc). And indeed, a lot of people I know have read The Hunger Games since it was made into a film. Also, there are so many great YA books around at the moment – the genre is bursting with life and imagination – and it’s great to see that this is being acknowledged.

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Next for the big screen?

However, I can’t help but feel cynical about it all and just see it as a lazy way for film studios to make easy money with a tried and tested formula. My main problem with this is a fear that the films won’t respect the books and will all be turned into the same formulaic entity with standard love triangles, baby-faced actors, same-y action sequences, poor casting and even poorer scripts. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Peeta’s casting in The Hunger Games, as I didn’t think he fit the description in the book (I somehow picture him as bigger and stronger – he’s meant to be really strong!). I’m also dubious about Jamie Campbell Bower playing Jace in The Mortal Instruments, as I pictured Jace as being somewhat broader and sexier (*cringes at how much I sound like a teenager*), I just didn’t picture him weedy, pale and a bit odd – sorry JCB, I’m sure you’ll be great in other roles but I’m not convinced about this one yet!

Does this make me sound fussy and looks-obsessed? Hmmmm. But it does lead me on to another thought about books being made into films. Does it ruin the magic? It’s been said before but I’ll say it again… Great books allow your imagination to run free, they let you picture the story in your mind in your own way. Film adaptations take this personal interpretation away and force someone else’s vision on you. This is inevitably different to your version of things and therefore makes it seem wrong in some way.

I mostly end up disappointed with films adapted from books I like for this reason. They never quite live up to expectations, even if they are excellent films. The trouble is, I can’t help but watch them. I know I’ll end up watching The Host when it comes out, and I’ll look forward to seeing it. I think I must crave disappointment.

Furthermore, I think the more I like a book the more disappointed I end up being with a film adaptation. I read all of The Lord Of The Rings but wasn’t too attached to it really (I think this is mostly down to the fact that I took a year to slog through it) and the films turned out to be amazing! Although that’s probably a bad example as the films are great and Peter Jackson kept so close to Tolkien’s vision. Ok another example: I liked Life of Pi but it wasn’t my favourite book ever, and I thought the film was great. Brilliant cinematography. On the other hand, I LOVE Harry Potter but am not too keen on the films (gasp!), and find Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to be especially irritating at times. Also, all the extra awful lines thrown in (Harry saying “I love magic” like an idiot in Goblet of Fire comes to mind) make me cringe. But I can’t really tell if I don’t enjoy adaptations from books I love because they are actually bad, or because I’m so attached to them I don’t tolerate any deviation from what I interpreted the book to be like.

One of the worst film adaptations of all time

One of the worst film adaptations of all time

So, I’m wondering how to avoid constant disappointment… should I give up on watching films adapted from books I like? Should I avoid seeing The Mortal Instruments later this year? I really like Cassandra Clare’s series and know I will likely end up disappointed for some reason. I know I’d be happier now if I’d missed Chris Weitz’s dreadful adaptation of Pullman’s Northern Lights (one of my favourite books). Or perhaps instead I should try to readjust my expectations a little – I can’t expect films to be just like the books are in my head! I should have known The Golden Compass was going to be less than great when I heard they’d changed the title for cinema audiences. I should probably try to treat book and film as two separate entities so as to avoid such bitter disappointment. Finally, maybe I should give up reading books that are about to be made into films! Although this would probably mean giving up all YA fiction altogether and concentrating solely on fiction which DEFINITELY won’t be made into films. Hmmm…Murakami it is then!

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Happy New Year!! End of 2012 round-up

Before I move on to this wonderful new year, I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to since my last post (the one about NaNoWriMo not the one about being hacked!). Well here’s part one of what I’ve been doing:

NOVEMBER: Failed NaNoWriMo, Read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare Instead

At the end of October, my wise sister told me that if I spent half the time I spend reading writing instead, I’d be able to bash out 10 novels before the end of the year (or words to that effect). She was right. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and not doing anything else. Not just books either, I trawl the internet every day for hours reading articles and blogs. It’s getting out of hand. I am the master of procrastination, and reading allows me to tell myself I’m achieving something as I can pretend to myself that I’m doing some form of “research”. 2012 was the year I pushed the definition of research to its very limits.

Anyway, when Anna said this I did feel a little guilty and decided to attempt NaNoWriMo 2012. What better to get me to start writing? I even blogged about it to make sure I actually stuck to it (LOL). It was all going so well, in two days I’d written 2000 words and had a pretty fun love-at-the-end-of-the-world type plot planned.

After the first two days things began to unravel. I went to three different bonfire parties in four days which meant, naturally that I’d left my novel temporarily and promised to catch up in the week. I wrote a little more on my phone after a drunken night out (totally illegible drivel) but after that I had lost the drive to forge on. I told myself I was too busy, I’d catch up next week when I had more time.

The following week, I discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’d seen them before but The Mortal Instrumentsthought they looked a little too childish, even for me. However when I saw them recommended on another blog by a grown up man, I thought I’d give them a go. Plus they’ve made the first book into a film and I wanted to check out the books before the films release later this year. NaNoWriMo was a lost cause after that.

I’m not sure why I was worried about the Mortal Instruments series being too young, as they’re similar in feel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Divergent, The Hunger Games trilogy, and many other YA books I have read and enjoyed. I suppose I don’t want to be that person who only reads YA, so I try not to limit myself to it all the time. I enjoy reading all sorts and don’t want to be defined by one genre. Having said that, YA fantasy and Sci Fi is always what I feel like writing about when I sit down to blog. It is an exciting genre that’s getting better and better and I don’t feel as wary of writing critically about it as I do with classics and literary fiction.

Anyway, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series in about a week and a half. The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass, and all follow Clary, a girl who has her world turned upside down after finding out she is a shadowhunter, a demon killer. Clary meets other shadowhunters her own age: Isabelle, Alec and the rather lovely Jace. When her mother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Clary needs the shadowhunters’ help. Her search for her mother and missing childhood memories takes her all over New York, with her geeky and sarcastic but loveable friend Simon dragged along for the ride. As the books progress, Clary learns more about her past, her parents and the world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons.

I liked these books because they were plot-driven, super exciting stories with a cracking forbidden love story

Image from imdb.com

Image from imdb.com

(although I did start shouting in frustration by the middle of the third book). What’s more, Simon, who should just be the annoying friend, turns out to be an excellent character. In fact, I’d say that Clare found the perfect balance between keeping the plot moving and exploring and developing the characters. All in all, I bloody loved these books! Even if I am indulging my inner teenager.

The Mortal Instruments series will eventually be made up of 6 books but only 5 have so far been released. Because the third book ended in such a wonderful place I told myself I would leave it there and resist the temptation to pick up the other two until the series had been completed (in 2014!!). Clare has also written another trilogy of books set within the same world but set in Victorian times, these are called The Infernal Devices. Only two of the three have so far been released, so I told myself I would wait until the third book came out before picking up the third. We’ll see how far I got with all this temptation-resisting when I recap on December!

So, that was my disastrous November. Failed NaNoWriMo, went to a lot of parties and read a few books. Any time I wasn’t reading/partying I spent helping my sister photograph a school and generally panicking over my lack of a serious job. But hey! It’s a new year now, so moping is strictly forbidden. Bring on 2013!


What I read last: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I’m a sucker for a post-apocalyptic wasteland, which is why I have read quite a few dystopian/sci fi books. Being a bit on the sad side (massive understatement), I also love a bit of teen fiction. I love adult fiction too, but there’s just something slightly more hopeful and less depressing about teen-aimed post-apocalytic wastelands than the adult variety. And they tend to throw in a bit of romance which is always nice. Also I’m one for trying anything and always think people should read what they want not what they think they should read. I’ll admit it, I found some of the “best” classics a tad on the dull side! CoughSilasMarnercough….ahem!

So, with me being like this (a bit of a pleb), Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy was right up my street. I thought the books were ace actually. They’re a really popular series in America and they’re making films out of them, the first of which is coming out next year.

The first book in the series is The Hunger Games and it was definitely my favourite of the three. It’s set in the future in North America which has become a place called Panem” which is divided into thirteen different districts. There’s Districts numbered between 1 and 12 and then there’s the Capitol which rules over the other 12 in a kind of evil dictating way (I can picture my old English teacher cringing at that description). The twelve districts are all different, but are mostly poor, isolated and each produce a particular kind of product for the Capitol. The Hunger Games is set 70-odd years after the districts attempted to revolt against the tyranny of the Capitol, after which they were punished by each having to give up two children every year to a thing called… you guessed it… the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a reality tv/game show where 24 contestants are dumped in a giant arena and then left to fight to the death until only one is left standing. So the book has a definite Battle Royale-style feel to it.

In comes Katniss Everdeen, who is from the backwaters of the distant District 12. Her twelve-year-old sister gets called up for the hunger games but she volunteers to go in her place. The other person who goes with her from District 12 is Peeta, a boy she hardly knows but who saved her and her family from starvation when she was a child.

The first half of the book is the build up to the games. Collins does this so well that by the time Katniss enters the arena in the second half of the book I was biting all the skin off from around my fingers! It’s so exciting, and she doesn’t skimp on any of the gory details either, it’s a bit brutal, but it’s hugely entertaining. I also thought that Katniss is a great main character – she’s realistically vulnerable, but also a great shot with a bow and arrow; she’s not wimpy or whiney. The books are all about survival, and make you contemplate all kinds of questions – you can’t help but wonder what you would do in that kind of situation (I would HIDE HIDE HIDE until everyone else was gone).

Image © 2011 – Lionsgate

I said that the first book was my favourite, but the second and third books Catching Fire and Mockingjay are amazing as well. In fact I read the whole trilogy in a week and didn’t really do much else! They’re compelling, addictive, and I felt a little bit of a hole in my life after I’d finished them. The only reasons I didn’t enjoy the second two as much were simply because the exciting novelty of the idea has worn off by the time you get into the arena the second time around in Catching Fire and I was, I’ll admit, getting a tiny bit annoyed with the love triangle by the third book. The other two books are more about the bigger problem of the Capitol’s harsh rule over the districts and I just felt slightly like the plots weren’t quite as gripping (read as: I still had a bit of skin left on my fingers by the end of these ones).

I would also say that whilst I highly recommend the books, there’s a tad too much of an emphasis on clothes and make up for my liking. It’s not that I don’t like clothes and make up myself, I just thought Collins spent a bit too much time describing Katniss being unnecessarily primped up for her various appearances and performances. However, I suppose it did emphasise the ridiculousness and perversity of the Capitol inhabitants. On Collins’ website there is a quote saying that the book is like “Gladiator” crossed with “Project Runway” which I suppose is a fairly accurate description of the series. I wouldn’t let that put anyone off though, they are totally worth reading.