Among all the things that could increase a bookworm’s blood pressure there is one that beats them all: a book-to-film adaptation.
While original directorial films are even rarer than those dreaded reboots of classic movies nowadays, the movie industry continues to bloom in the world of book-to-film adaptations. Readers around the world hence continue to suffer with conflictual emotions regarding these projects as they dread the next adaptation of their favourite stories, while also being excited to finally see it on the big screen.
It’s one thing to read the story using the limitless powers of our imagination, and another to see it unfold with vivid colours, movement and sound.
While most of us all know that these adaptations are bound to disappoint us more often than not, I, as a cinephile, find them refreshing and fascinating in their own rights. The great adaptations might be rare, but when they happen, they sweep you off your feet and guide you through your favourite books in a beautiful and cinematic form.
But what exactly makes a good book-to-film adaptation?
The idea is not to take every word from the book and integrate them into a screenplay. I don’t necessarily need the movie to throw up the same lines found in the book. I need it to adapt it to the movie’s flow and to each particular scene. The movie’s script should however be respectful of the source material by acknowledging the author’s intention. Does that mean that the movie can change the ending? It definitely can as long as it’s logical in the narrative!
Have you ever realized how different a character we read about turns out to be on the big screen? What we imagine them to be, as vague and contorted as they might be, is often never what they turn out to be. But what I really need from the adaptation is a solid cast filled with talented actors. There’s nothing more unnerving than to see your favourite character being played by an actor who can’t act to save his life. Their performance is one of the most important element that I pay attention to.
After all, this is one of the biggest differences between a book and a film. With today’s technology, computer-generated imagery (CGI) has become almost impossible to not make use of. The number of movies that rely heavily on it instead of actual actors is also staggering. But the most important thing about visuals is the cinematography. A director’s visionary take on a story to breath life into a setting that only your mind has knowledge of is a difficult task and it’s how it’s done that makes adaptations so magical.
The Film Score
This is the second biggest difference between a book and a film, and sometimes it is something we give the least credit to. The music written just for a movie makes all the difference between a good movie and a great movie. The attention to detail in every little note can sometimes be surreal, and even more impressive is the timing. The epic war scene timed with the epic music for the epic moment? It wouldn’t have been the same if you didn’t find yourself with a heart beat matching those very warriors in their big life-threatening moment. The score really helps to dictate the mood and sometimes it is the sole factor that turns a movie into a classic.
John Williams’ score for Harry Potter. Do I need to say more? 🙂
I’ve seen some book-to-film adaptations that completely neglected the themes conveyed in their respective books. This is absolutely blasphemous to me as it just reflects a studio’s inability to do their homework before diving into the production. It really is a strict minimum that should be accomplished in an adaptation as the themes are what even makes the book as great as it is. To find out that the movie decided to do something else just means that they should have just created their own thing instead of basing it on a book.
The Special Something
Do you know what that is? I’ll tell you. It’s innovation. If there’s one thing that stands out from each of the previous elements, it’s that. As I’m convinced that most book-to-film adaptations won’t ever be perfectly accurate, I’ve also come to the conclusion that the best ones are those that not only does it right in all the previous categories, but also gives each of those categories a personal creative touch. A little something that makes the movie its own thing. There will inevitably be some directors who will overdo it, but striking that perfect balance is how I believe you’ll have a great book-to-film adaptation.
I can’t blame Hollywood for looking towards books for inspiration as some of the best ideas are thoroughly thought out in that medium.
There are so many great adaptations to come out soon and I’ll probably continue to get excited for their release, but here’s my secret:
I don’t look at the movie as a literal adaptation of a novel. I look at it as an extension of a creation that lives and dies by the vision of a director. I allow myself to let those behind the movies guide me through a cinematic experience and I judge the movie for what it is rather than what it’s not.
What do you require from your book-to-film adaptations? 😀
Until next time,