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The decision to adapt books to film is something that is sadly unavoidable in this modern day and age, and for many book-lovers is a form of sacrilege, when Hollywood hot-shots have the audacity to think they can possibly turn a beloved classic into a half-decent movie. As a lifelong bookworm, I’ve seen my fair share of absolutely terrible adaptations – but on the other hand, is it because lovers of the book expect too much, or is it genuinely because the makers did a terrible job?
Of all the awful adaptations I’ve ever had to suffer through, the most infuriating was ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’. Having read the book quite young, and then continuing to read it until my copy was practically falling apart, I obviously became incredibly excited when I heard that somebody was daring to create a film in its honour. But after an hour of watching Natalie Portman simper and Scarlett Johansson flounce around pouting her lips and doing very little, I was so enraged I wrote a scathing review for my A levels, completely torpedoing the film, and earned myself an A*.
One reason readers may find adaptations disappointing is that, when reading a book, the author tries to paint a picture in your imagination, and each person will interpret things differently; therefore setting themselves up for disappointment when a character doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Either that, or the acting is simply just appalling.
A way of enjoying the films is to take the production as a separate entity from the books; this can often be seen in fans of Harry Potter. Rowling works hard to add a thousand tiny details into all of her stories, and everybody is bound to picture Potter’s magical friends and Hogwarts differently. Many Potter fans tend to complain that the films fail to contain these minute details and for them it spoils the series, but if you watch the films without constantly comparing them to their books, Harry Potter makes for a magical feature-length. And really, who could possibly be more suitable for the role of Mr. Potter than Daniel Radcliffe?
In my honest opinion, the only film I have ever seen that lived up to expectations was 2012’s ‘The Hunger Games’. For once, Jennifer Lawrence embodied everything I imagined Katniss Everdeen, our protagonist, would be (despite some ridiculous complaints that she was “too fat” for the role, as if some skinny waif could hoist a bow around with her and survive a competition in which you have to kill or be killed). The book contained many aspects, such as the stadium and the flaming costumes Katniss and Peeta wore in their magnificent entrance, which I felt would be impossible to translate onto the big screen; and yet I was pleasantly surprised.
And there are some films that I point-blank refuse to watch, because it is simply impossible for the film-makers to live up to the book. The best example of this I can think of is ‘The Time-Traveller’s Wife’ – a book so astounding and touching that for weeks after I found myself mourning the end of it and thinking to myself how no other book could possible compare (call me geeky, but a good book will do strange things to you). Anyway, the book is so complex and cleverly written that after hearing many reviews which went along the lines of “it was okay, but…”, I decided to cut my losses and not even give it the time of day.
All in all, whether a film adaptation of a book is successful depends entirely on how often you bother to pick up a novel. Unfortunately it seems that bookworms are a dying breed, and it’s becoming easier to get clued up on classic literature, thanks to the cinemas. If you can bear the disappointment of seeing your favourite books slaughtered, I’d say go ahead and stock up on the popcorn, but I do warn you that as much as you may wish it, it’s virtually impossible to unsee it – unless some genius creates a machine akin to that in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and wipes out all the unpleasant memories.