Far too many book-to-movie adaptations have left me convinced that filmmakers simply read the Wikipedia summary of the novel and run with it.
As a bookworm, it can be disheartening and frustrating to see my favourite books become movies that fail to capture the greatness of the story. Ever felt the need to announce ‘The book was better’ after watching an on-screen adaptation? More often than not, these movies miss the mark, disappointing existing fans of the franchise. Films are amazing opportunities for worlds that only exist on paper to be realised and that is why it’s so disheartening when they miss the mark. When a popular book is taken to the big screen, expectations are high, and as much as we may hope budgets are big and casting will be exact, that is very rarely the case. Again and again, we watch a remarkable novel go through the Hollywood machine, which aims only to appeal to a mass audience rather than keeping a niche group of fans happy. It is clear when the source material is viewed as a product that generates money rather than a project of passion.
Book-to-movie adaptations often fall short due to issues ranging from low budgets and bad casting to unfortunate creative differences. Hollywood tends to butcher adaptations because executives meddle with the production to ensure its profitability. Producing a film involves the input of arguably too many people pulling the story in too many different directions, which ends up ruining the original storyline. Regardless of whether the producer is passionate and understands the plot, the collaborative effort can result in inaccurate outcomes that do not reflect the original plot. Fans are unhappy and the movie ends up with low ratings and is considered a box-office flop.
Unanimously disappointing adaptations are The Percy Jackson movies. Fans agreed the two films contained poor dialogue, bad CGI and most importantly bad casting. In the books, the protagonist Percy and his friends were all written as 12 years old, but when taken to the screen, the producers cast actors to play 16-year-olds instead. It did not land very well. The change in age impacted the whole narrative as the ages of the characters are a driving force behind the drama of the story as young kids tackle extremely dangerous situations. Many other films like Eragon and David Lynch’s Dune were great books that didn’t translate well into films due to complicated plots that required extensive explanations and inner monologues.
A recent disappointment came before production was even finished with It Ends With Us, a popular romance novel by Colleen Hoover. Photos from the set were leaked and the characters and scenes looked very different to what fans expected. With a huge fan base, there was always going to be some disappointment, but the uproar was interesting to see. As someone who admires Blake Lively, I still questioned her as a casting choice, considering the protagonist Lily is perceived as a young and naive 23-year-old. From the images on set of Blake in badly styled outfits and wigs, it is hard to imagine her portraying that.
Blake is an incredible actress and yet it feels like it was a huge miscast. As an established woman in Hollywood, the producers likely felt that she would draw more attention and money to the film than if they cast an up-and-coming actress who fit the role better.
Even the most beloved adaptations such as the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings trilogy have weaknesses. When the Harry Potter books average just about 500 pages and the average screenplay is around 90-120 pages, it is almost impossible to include everything! It’s unfortunate but cuts have to be made. It works when the producer understands what elements and characters are loved and what parts aren’t so necessary to keep, but it’s not always achieved. My adoration for the Harry Potter films doesn’t stop me from criticising the lack of personality Ginny possesses in the films compared to the books.
Admittedly, the intimacy of loving a book and its characters can lead to high expectations, and therefore, my disappointment is often self-inflicted. However, it’s most definitely worsened by shoddy filmmakers. Too often, I find myself hoping my favourite books are left alone from the unfortunate editing of a film production company.