Monday, July 09, 2007

Books to Movies

The whole distressing news about the "changes" to The Dark is Rising set me to thinking about other beloved books in our Entwood that have been translated to the silver screen.

Nothing compares to the breadth and depth of the story in written form. Most of the time I do note what was left out and what was changed when a book is made into a movie but overall I enjoy seeing another creative mind's interpretation.

I enjoyed Stormbreaker, even though I didn't think the actor fit my idea of Alex Rider but I enjoyed the movie for what it was.

The Harry Potter movies had their drawbacks but I saw them and enjoyed them. When they pop-up on TV (like tonight) I find myself watching them.

Overall I have liked the Walden Media movies I have seen. I even liked Hoot though I felt they got the casting of Mullet Fingers very wrong.

Which brings me to our most beloved of all stories that have been movie-ized, The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson decided, for sake of dramatic effect, to change some aspects of the story and these changes STILL annoy some members of this household. Aragorn's motivations, Gandalf's confrontation with the Witch King at Pelennor Fields, and Denethor's character spring to mind.

But we all knew that Peter Jackson loved the books. We knew he had read the books and had dreamed of bringing this "unfilmable" story to the screen. The involvement of the fans was nurtured from the very beginning of the project. He knew their interest and support was important to the movies' success.

Jackson infused his project with Tolkien's own words and brought the essence and spirit of the story to life. It was a work of love and it showed in every frame.

I reflected on this as I read this interview with John Hodge, the screenwriter for The Dark is Rising:

Are there other elements from the books that you used. With regards to back story or stuff like that?

I haven't dipped into the other books at all.

So you just focused on the 'Dark Is Rising?'

Just 'Dark Is Rising', yeah.

Studios that are trying to achieve their own fantasy franchise à la Harry or LOTR should take a page out of Peter Jackson's play book.

Oh well.


Anonymous said...

In the bonus materials, Jackson & his wife explain some of their changes. I don't agree with all of them -- particular changes to Theoden and Faramir. First, they had Theoden ACTUALLY enchanted, which was a bit more hokey than I'd have liked. And then, they had him running away, not nobly protecting his people (switch in motivation for going to Helm's Deep). Gar. And the bit with Faramir considering turning Frodo & Sam over to his father? Wrong. Just wrong. But the Jacksons wanted to make him more conflicted and less clear-purposed than in the books (and succeeded).

But it's INEXCUSABLE that the screenwriter for The Dark is Rising Didn't read at least 3 more books (arguably, he could skip Over Sea Under Stone if all those (reasonable-length) books were simply to much for him to read. And then he'd have known that Will can't have a twin. And that all that Arthurian stuff was the POINT. Idiots.

Unknown said...

Yes, it's hard to believe that a screenwriter wouldn't read the other books in the series, especially since all the books are so closely tied in terms of the story elements. I always thought that Over Sea, Under Stone stands pretty well alone, but the other books are tied pretty closely together. Not taking the time to find out that larger story before writing the screenplay is, in my opinion, careless and irresponsible.

Regarding Lord of the Rings, I'm actually fairly happy with the film adaptation. I was worried, because that's another one of my favorite series of all times, but I thought that Peter Jackson did a good job of staying true to the spirit of the books. A few of the changes annoyed me: I hated that it took so long for Faramir to release them. I thought it changed the whole meaning of that part of the story. But overall, I thought that most of the changes made the movie stronger. I don't think that a literal adaptation of a book always works well. I think that's one of the reasons that the Harry Potter movies haven't been very good. Especially with the early movies, they tried too hard to be too faithful to the books, and it didn't always make a good movie.

So in general, I think that some changes are necessary and desirable when adapting a book to the screen. But you have to stay true to the spirit of the book, which is what Peter Jackson did but which it doesn't seem like Walden Media has done with The Dark is Rising.

Camille said...

I couldn't agree with both of you more. Yes, the Theoden and Faramir changes are still grimaced at here. But you are right, Jackson et al. explained why they made the changes and had their reasons for doing so.

I was always tickled by their regret and apologies to the fans for not including Tom Bombadil.

It is unbelievable that the DiR screenwriter has no idea where the story is headed. It is like someone made a movie about a lovely trip on a luxury trans Atlantic ship called the Titanic and stopped the movie after the first night out.
"Oh, did something else happen?"

Camille said...

As TadMack says, "It is so good to be among MY people!"

Unknown said...

LOL on your Titanic analogy.

I was sad to lose Tom Bombadil, but I understand why he had to be cut out of the movie.

AMY T said...

I know it's near heresy to admit here, but LOTR was a book series I never could really get into; but I absolutely adored the movies.

Camille said...

amy: I never read them until I was in graduate school and (Michele bonks me on the forehead from across the Atlantic when I admit this) and the first time I read LOTR, ... I skipped the songs and the poems. [shrieks of horror]

Admitting this continues to cause my family to hang their heads in shame.

I loved the movies so much. Those actors have become the characters in my head now I think.

Imani said...

Wow, so that's the person in charge of adapting the Cooper series? I can't respect the creative chops of someone who couldn't manage to read four tiny children's books.

I read your other post on this and was horrified to read that they've dropped the Arthurian theme. I honestly can't see what the heck this story could be about, besides involving randomly special kids getting into trouble.

Michele said...

*reaches arm across the Ocean for the obligatory bonk on Camille's forehead* :-D

Yep, the screenwriter of DiR is an idiot (and that's me being *very* polite) and deserves to be bonked somewhere far more painful than the forehead for such stupidity.

I'm in no way a fan of Arthurian stories, BUT they fit beautifully into this series, of which I AM a fan, so really, what a wally !

Unknown said...

Camille, the interview excerpt is quite revealing. Now you got me worried. I saw the trailer a couple of days ago and I don't think Ian McShane fits the description of Merlion. But I may be nitpicking, since McShane is a good actor. (And what a coincidence, eh?-- another Ian performing a wizardly role).

I just stumbled into your blog, courtesy of a friend who's been reading it. I like your blog a lot! :)

Camille said...

ben: I just saw the trailer tonight too. The wholesale abandonment of the Arthurian legend which is at the heart of the series makes me wonder what were they thinking? If Walden was searching for another franchise with the possibility of sequels, they have just painted themselves into a corner. It is distressing for those of us who love the series. I documented my family's distress about the changes here
Thanks so much for dialing Book Moot up!

Camille said...

Wow, you nailed it. He couldn't "manage to read four tiny children's books."

onebadscrivener said...

I really think you nail it when you talk about love. When the screenplay is lovingly written by someone who loves the source material, he or she can be forgiven the necessary changes, additions, or omissions that come with the new medium.

What do you and other commenters think of the film version of Holes, a movie I love nearly as much as the novel?

Camille said...

I really liked 'Holes.' I thought they did a good job of translating it to the screen. It helped, no doubt, that the author, Louis Sachar also did the screenplay! Have you read the sequel, 'Small Steps?' I need to read it.