I love books; I love movies. So why would I want to rant about them? What I don’t love is when good stories are dumbed down for the big screen.
Over the past few years, or maybe it has always been the case, there seems to have been a large number of badly done movie adaptations of well-loved books and stories. I say badly done, because not all the movies are bad in themselves, but are often a badly done representation of a great story. I realise that to transfer a book to the big screen will mean a certain amount of editing and that things may have to be done differently. This is generally excusable and fairly acceptable. However, there is no excuse for excluding main characters, changing plot lines, and making the story unrecognisable.
The movies that put me over the edge on this were ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. On their own, they are cinematic wonders, but they discredit the storytelling genius of J.R.R. Tolkien. To leave out Tom Bombadil was a total travesty. He is a main character. Some of his lines appeared out of the mouths of other characters in the movie, showing that he was a necessary inclusion in the books. If you’re asking yourself ‘who’s Tom Bombadil’, then you obviously never read the books (go and read them now and do yourself a favour). The other main exclusion is at the end of ‘The Return of the King’, where there was no scouring of the Shire as happened in the book. For Tolkien it was important to show the heroes returning like this, rather than the triumphant way Jackson had them, but perhaps Tolkien’s writing style wasn’t Hollywood enough. I’m pretty freaked out at Jackson doing ‘The Hobbit’ now, especially with some of the rumours already flying around, such as bringing Legolas into the movie. Jackson should just go off and write his own stories and leave the good ones alone.
Unfortunately, similar things have been happening with the Narnia stories. The plot line of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ was so mixed up I had to go back to the book to get the story straight in my mind again. Apparently ‘The Silver Chair’ is up next. It is probably my favourite book in the series, so I’m not looking forward to what they do with that, but I’ll still have to see it.
Although it has been out for over a year now, I only watched ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’ yesterday for the first time. I really wish I hadn’t bothered. I only recently started reading the books, on my daughter’s insistence. I’m on the third one now. I like the way they have been written and have enjoyed the stories so far. The movie of ‘The Lightning Thief’ was definitely a case of dumbing down. The story was barely recognisable from that in the book. Again, a major character (Ares), was left out, changing a main feature of the plot. The age of the characters was altered, which could have a major effect on the rest of the series should it go to movie, because of the significance of Percy reaching 16. It’s a real shame, because this is a book that could have translated well to the big screen with very little changes.
I could probably go on and mention other well-loved books that have been butchered at the movies, but I won’t. I’ll still continue to love books and I’ll still continue to love movies. But I’ll also still reserve the right to moan about bad adaptations! Rant over!
What are your worst book to movie adaptations? Or, on a more positive side, do you have a favourite book that was translated well onto the big screen? I’d love to read your thoughts.