Our Problem with Book-to-Movie Adaptations

I’ve noticed for a while that we, as book readers, have a major problem with book-to-movie adaptations. Although, this genre has existed about the same length as films have, we still aren’t 100% satisfied with the finished product. A thought does creep inside my mind is that not many of us are aware of the process that’s involved when it comes to creating a film. It is, also, unfortunate that we cannot be directors or talented screen writers to make our own movie or else a number of us would have done that before the actual Hollywood movie was made.

For instance, I know a script is usually, on average, between 90 to 125 pages long because it represents the number of minutes of screen time (this is what I learned in a screen writing class I took my junior year of college). Let’s think about this: a script may go over 125 pages by ten to twenty pages- no big deal, right? How can we expect a 300 page book to be represented in such a condensed style? Even with this knowledge we still disregard the fact that a script and movie can only be a certain length, and that movie goers won’t be too pleased to be sitting on their behinds for an extended period of time.

This is where the buzzard goes off in our heads. We feel that the book we’ve committed to reading should be respected and be rightfully represented on screen- wrong. It isn’t as if the book has been completely torn to shreds, it’s only being expressed through a different set of eyes and minds. Not everyone took the same interpretation from the certain books developed, nor was everyone fond of unimportant details that could have been thrown out. Let’s remember that most films have this phrase appear in the credits: based on the novel so & so by so & so. The keyword is based, meaning only few things of the novel, really the heart of the novel, will be featured in the final film. All things are up for interpretation and if the screen-writer and director go a different route with the book-to-movie then so be it. Let us be open to their interpretation of it.

Be warned, this may include some spoilers to those who haven’t read the novel or seen the film.

Take example the 2011 adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” directed by David Fincher. I have previously written in another post that I consider this to be a classic film, as well as David Fincher classic. Many were looking forward to this adaptation of the first installation of the Millennium trilogy by Steig Larrson- as there are many not in favor of the cast or making of the movie. True, I had some doubts when I saw Rooney Mara (still an unknown actress to me at the time) taking the lead role of my favorite lead woman in a novel, Lisbeth Salander. After the first trailer, I was convinced they chose to right person. Yes, I have seen the Swedish adaptations (note how I do not refer to them as “originals”). I thought they were decent adaptations, until I saw they left out major details. Example: The method to how Blomkvist figures out that the initials and numbers in Harriet’s diary are actually Bible verses referring to the deaths of women Harriet’s father raped and killed was significant in the book and important. Instead they wrote that the way he figured all this was because Salander was still hacked into his computer and told him how. No, no, no. No. That is not how it’s done. You cannot get rid of, what I considered to be a main contribution, in the film because you didn’t want to commit to it. No. I don’t care if the actors were Swedish (the true language of the books), you still have to be more than true. This was my problem with book-to-movie adaptations. As well as everyone else’s problem.

The truth of the matter is, is that it’s one thing to rewrite scenes to make it work on screen and to take out not important plots, which let’s be honest sometimes there are many of those in the books we read, but to actually redo a vital role in what moves the plot forward is insulting. I have no problem with scenes or characters that contribute nothing to the plot, it is when someone chooses to do something completely different for the sake of not hiring another actor to play a small but large role in the film doesn’t make sense to me. That is when I guarantee to having a problem with that adaptation. Other than this type of dilemma I’m more understanding because the bulk of the novel isn’t just the character interactions but the details of what the character is doing or where the novel takes place in.

Remember, we will never be 100% satisfied with a book-to-movie adaptation. It’s apparent that I’m not  ever happy either, but I accept it because I am more understanding with what it means when the film says “based on the novel.” Unless it says “Entirely from the novel,” then that’s another story. We’re the audience and we like to complain. It’s in our nature. Once we get over ourselves we’ll probably be able to appreciate the movie. Although I’ve spent some time explaining the book-writing-to-screen process we’ll always leave the theater whining.

About gabthechief

22 years old. Detroit native. Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media studies. Street Photographer. Designer. Dreamer. Young soul wandering.

2 responses to “Our Problem with Book-to-Movie Adaptations

  1. Andrew Lovgren

    Three’s a big difference between a book and movie. As a fan of the film you mentioned, and an avid Game of Thrones follower, I have grown to accept that there need to be differences. There will always be nerd-rage, and sometimes it’s warranted. The tough part is figuring out when that is.

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