When a movie based on a book is released, I’ve always made an effort to read the book prior to watching it. One of the benefits of the written word is its ability to stimulate the imagination. As you read a book, you use your own personal experiences as you interpret what was written. Very rarely do you hear a person say “Oh my gosh, the movie was so much better than the book!” The movie is being guided in large part by the screenwriters and the director and targeted to a mass audience. There isn’t much personalization.
The question I’ve always asked myself is whether or not movies should follow the book verbatim or if the screenwriters and director have “creative liberty” within their own medium. I bring this up today because my wife and Yakko went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.
With some reluctance (I rebelled against the mass hysteria at first) I’ve come to enjoy the Harry Potter series of books. While I enjoy both the books and the movies, I have been frustrated in the past with some of the plot changes that had been made in the movies. For example, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince a major element of the book was Malfoy working to repair the
vanishing cabinet so the Death-Eaters could attack Hogwarts. Yet in the movie, what I envisioned to be an incredibly action-packed fight scene was reduced to three people walking into the tower to watch Professor Snape kill Dumbledore. Without the fight scene, there was no reason for the Death-Eaters to be in the castle. It was as if the special effects budget had been blown earlier when they set fire to the Weasley’s house (which also wasn’t in the book). I was very disappointed.
Of course, this isn’t the only example of books that were turned into movies that strayed from the main storyline. In John Grisham’s The Firm, for the first two-thirds of the movie it followed the book very nicely. But then the ending was completely different. I’m still not sure I understand the reason for that. Another example is The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Here, they managed to reverse the order of the release completely. I always thought Angels and Demons read like a screenplay and could see how it would be as a movie but then they made The Da Vinci Code into the first movie. I really couldn’t get past the fact the story was being told in the wrong order. The only instance I can come up with of a movie being better than the book is The Shawshank Redemption. It’s one of my favorite movies but as a book, I thought it dragged at spots.
I’m not a movie critic or a book editor. I stick mainly to books and movies that are a part of the main stream. But if a book is so popular that it inspires a movie, don’t you think it would make sense to try to hold true to the story? As a fan of a book (remember that ‘fan’ is an abbreviation for ‘fanatic’) its understandable if you want the movie to follow the storyline.
Which takes me back to my original question. SHOULD I expect a movie to follow the book? Movies are an interpretation of a story. Just because my vision doesn’t match what is put on the screen doesn’t mean its wrong or a bad movie. It just means its different. Although I can understand why some changes are made, I still find my self disappointed when a film strays from the book. I can understand that filmmakers are limited by budget, resources, current technology, etc. while my imagination has none of those limits. But, it also means I’ll continue to read the book first.