As I grew older and movie adaptations became more than just the latest Harry Potter film, I became quite jaded and indifferent towards book-to-movie adaptations.
Some of my favorite movies that originated from books (A Little Princess, Matilda, Pride and Prejudice, etc.) were all made before I was old enough to really understand film adaptations and their potential to screw up a lot of things. Now, as a young adult, I look back on those adaptations of my childhood and realize that I love them because, if they did diverge from the source material, they were still excellent films that could successfully stand apart from their books.
Today, I feel like so many books are turned into movies that it is sometimes so easy to just want to avoid all that hype. I am often tempted to not even bother with the book if I haven’t read it yet, especially if it is the first in a young adult series that has gained millions of fans since the film has been announced. I am not really into vampire or dystopian stories, themes that were seen in two of the past year’s film adaptations. However, I feel that, even if I was interested, all of that sudden attention would ultimately turn me off. That probably sounds super hipster and pretentious, but I guess – to an extent – I always liked the idea of reading being specifically my own thing. I like to create my own versions of the characters in my head, and if a movie has been made from that content, I am likely to fall back on picturing the actors when I read the book. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I’ve stayed away from/just can’t get into the book series that have recently been turned into films.
The only film adaptation castings that I was curious about/have conscious memory of have been for The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars. I had flown through the entire Hunger Games series probably a little less than a year before the news of a movie came out. Chord Overstreet was my Peeta, Adam Lambert my Cinna (still a little bummed no one important thought of that casting). For some inexplicable reason, these were the only two characters I had specifically pictured. Before I knew it, the official actors had been announced, and the faces of Josh Hutcherson and Lenny Kravitz replaced my original visions when I reread the first book. This is a weird experience that leaves you feeling kinda bummed.
Plus, as seen with The Hunger Games, I feel that somewhat crucial elements of a book can far too easily be deemed unimportant for the film adaptation. Katniss and most people in her District are described to be olive-skinned, essentially meaning that Katniss is more ethnic than Jennifer Lawrence appears. I won’t go into the discussion of Hollywood’s whitewashing, because it’s such a complex topic, but it’s not the first time race has been ignored when bringing a book to the big screen.
I was less particular about TFIOS casting and remember feeling a little indifferent to the hiring of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort to play Hazel and Augustus. I had known of Shailene ever since she played Felicity in the first American Girl TV movie (who knew that this whole movie was on YouTube?!) and later just knew her as the girl from The Secret Life of the American Teenager, as so many others did. Then upon seeing both The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games – both books that I really enjoyed – I didn’t really feel overly critical or overly moved. Rather, I applauded the makers of The Hunger Games for transferring such detailed action successfully to the screen and liked the soundtrack and general faithfulness of the TFIOS adaptation.
But was I wowed by their “cinematic endeavors”? Not really.
I guess my main point is that so many books are converted to movies now that the final product loses a sense of the creativity that film is meant to convey. Directors and writers are somewhat limited in what they wish to achieve and usually work with an author who is not used to how filmmaking works. The film will be categorized as one of two extremities by fans – either a success or a flop. Viewers not familiar with the book will be warned by these fans what to think of the film. Which is not a bad thing at all, but it can lead to disappointment or lackluster feelings if the film didn’t live up to someone’s expectations.
I know this rambling really makes no sense and comes across as quite cynical. Let me get this straight – I love what film adaptations can do for the original book. John Green’s name skyrocketed to a level of awareness far beyond his home base of YouTube when TFIOS became a bestseller and was being made into a movie. Now, as a result, another book of his is being prepared for an adaptation, and millions of new people have discovered his writing and Nerdfighteria. But, I suppose that I am a little jaded because, in my experience, so many recent adaptations are less than extraordinary. Plus, I feel that the books that are being changed into films are usually teen series that, in twenty years from now, will mostly be forgotten, as opposed to today’s amazing classics-to-be that probably deserve more fans through a film adaptation.
Truly, I am just hesitant to join the film adaptation hype because I know that, one day, a book I truly love and cherish will be made into a film. I will have had such a specific vision of the story when I read it that no film will fit my anticipations. To see another person delve into a world that you made your own would kinda stink.*
What about you? How do you feel about film adaptations? What are your favorite or least favorite ones?
*A book I recently read that became so my own was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. Unless the sisters are played in birth order by Amy Adams, Rebecca Mader, and Jessica Chastain, a film version would just be a big fat disappointment to me.