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Why Do Good Books Become Bad Movies?

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Denise Alicea

This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

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A movie adaptation of a book is nothing new; it’s been being done for years, producing some of the most respected films of all time. There’s a huge list of books that have made huge profits when turned into movies, attracting the great and good of the acting world to turn words on a page into something more.


However, there is an inevitable outrage every time a book is turned into a film. It happens without fail, every time a film hits the cinemas, the book readers go into a frenzy. They hate the adaptation. It doesn’t work! It’s not true to the source material! What has the director done to their beloved novel?


Given the frequency of the problem, it’s well worth considering what might actually be the problem here.


  1. Movie Adaptations Don’t Have To Follow The Storyline


There is no requirement when a book is optioned for a movie that it be faithful to the source material. The screenwriters can change as much as they want, often much to the chagrin of those who have read the book.


Sometimes, this is because they wish to expand on the source material. For example, the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie took a very small source and built a story around it.


In other cases, the book is simply too large to fit into a film and needs to be condensed. For popular series, this may be solved by turning one book into two or even three movies (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn, The Hobbit). For one-shot films, scenes just tend to be removed, often culling entire plotlines or characters.


  1. Those Involved In The Movie May See The Book As An Inconvenience


Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore for the majority of the Harry Potter series, didn’t read the books as he thought they would impact his performance. This is just one example of the source material being discarded.


It enrages book readers, who think that directors should peruse recommended books for ideas and then adapt them faithfully. The readers are invested in the story and want to see it come to life. For those involved in the movie, however, they can’t just write fan service for the readers – they have to appeal to a whole new audience who are unfamiliar with the history.


It’s worth noting this is not always the case. With Rosemary’s Baby, Roman Polanski was under the impression his movie should be identical – scene for scene, right down to the characters clothing – to the novel. This, however, is a rarity.


  1. A Great Book Doesn’t Necessarily Make A Great Movie


What pulls people into a book is not the same thing as a movie. Films are visual in nature; they can be light on plot, heavy on action, in a way a book can’t. A long action sequence in a film is a source of excitement and intrigue. The same scene in written form is dry and lacking in character.


So when going to see an adaptation of a book, it’s always worth keeping in mind it’s not targeted just to book readers. See it as an individual-but-related project rather than an extension of the story you know.

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