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.

books!

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!


For Christmas I got….. A kindle!

I was initially dubious of e-readers. The first ones that appeared looked a bit shiny and alien and I wasn’t convinced they could ever compare to the tactile pleasure of leafing through an actual book. Plus they were ridiculously expensive and it wasn’t exactly clear where you were meant to buy the books. And the books themselves turned out to be expensive… the whole business appeared a bit soulless. Then there came promises of being able to read books on your phone! It seemed a bit ridiculous reading a book ten words at a time because that’s all that would fit onto the screen of your phone.

The kindle

Then something happened. I finished my book one day, and was out or away or something (can’t remember, memory like a sieve) and I was driven insane by not immediately owning the next in the series. I think, sadly, it was when I was reading the Twilight books…cringe! I found I couldn’t care less about the leafy pages or the nice tactile-ness of the book, I just wanted to find out what happened! I am a product of the digital age which means I am ridiculously impatient and need everything NOW!  Waiting just isn’t an option, and besides, they make books so exciting these days. We seriously wouldn’t be having this problem if it was the early nineteenth century.

 
 
With e-readers you can download books straight away! Sod this going to a shop or waiting for a delivery malarky. I started using the kindle app first because I could get it free on my phone (even if I have to read books ten words to a page), and ebooks were starting to come down in price. It seemed better than Apple’s own version iBooks, as it synced automatically with my laptop and was way more user-friendly. But I still wasn’t convinced about actually owning a whole kindle, I wasn’t sure I’d use it enough to warrant buying one. Plus I wasn’t too keen on only being able to buy books from Amazon. It seemed a bit exclusive.

Then, in December I went on holiday to Goa. I could only fit one book into my bag and the one I took (The Snowman by Jo Nesbo) had its glue binding melted by the sun and completely fell apart in my hands (see picture in previous post). What’s extra awkward about all that is that I borrowed it from someone and now I’ll have to buy them a new copy. Meanwhile my friend Olivia was all smug and fancy with her cool kindle in its posh leather case.

Olivia looking smug

So I was actually delighted when I got a kindle for Christmas this year! All the books I’ve read on it have been great and I haven’t really missed the feel of pages in my hands. I love its matt surface, I also love that it isn’t back-lit, it is as much like a book as it could possibly be. Although, strangely, most people use this as a reason to dismiss the kindle (“It doesn’t glow in the dark? How rubbish”). I, however, have a super cool light which fits on the top of it so I can read it in the dark if I want to (although I don’t read other books in the dark so I’m not sure how often this will happen). And there’s the fact you can also browse the internet on it, and bookmark pages, and the battery lasts until the end of time. Finally, there’s the fact that if you leave it at home by accident, you can just pick up where you left off on your phone! Brilliant.
 
The best part of all, however, is that I can read my teen sci-fi and no one has to know about it! I

I can even read it in the dark!

need no longer shamefully hide the cover of my book on my desk at work during lunch. Incidentally, why do they make the cover art so bright and obvious for sci-fi and fantasy books? I even feel a bit cool and modern reading my kindle in public, and I can look disdainfully at people reading books: “You don’t have an e-reader? How old-fashioned!”However, I’m not giving up on corporeal books yet. I love them, and despite me complaining about brightly coloured covers, I love them really. I like the big overfilled bookcase in my bedroom, and I especially like massive reference books; none of this online dictionary and thesaurus stuff thank you very much. I am by no means giving up on reading paper fiction books either, some are too beautiful to not be read properly! I adore old books and pretty much the best part about studying history at Leeds was getting to use the Brotherton Library, a huge art-deco style circular library with all the books you’d ever want and more.

My very full bookcase

I think I will likely end up reading a mix of kindle books and paper books. A sort of happy medium. So far all the books I’ve read on my kindle have been great, but I’ve heard horror stories of lost chapters and floods of typos. Mind you, this isn’t unique to ebooks, I have a copy of Jasper Fforde’s First Among Sequels which has no footnotes in it. If you’ve ever read any Jasper Fforde you’ll know that footnotes are kind of a big deal in his books! Anyway, I’ll let you know more about how I get on. Maybe. Are e-readers  the future of reading? I suppose it could be one of those fads. A really really good fad.