Please enjoy this guest blog by Hannah Stiller!
We’ve all had a favorite book made into a movie. Since films like Gone with the Wind and earlier, Hollywood has been turning well-loved literature into visual masterpieces. However, it is undeniable that among the many, many renditions there are some that are better than others. This is not the purest argument where a book to film is not good unless it is the word for word visualization of what each individual person who read the book saw, rather I would like to suggest a standard to hold these films to which movies based off of books in the past have set. Here are three suggestions for successfully turning a book into a good film.
- Keep the storyline the same
Some of the worst book to film movies take way too much liberty when changing the storyline. Others such as The Fellowship of the Ring, and Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe do it gracefully. The filmmakers of these saw that there were too many details (think Tom Bombadil in the Fellowship) which would not translate into film. Other films such as Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief misidentify plot points for details and end up changing the whole flow of the story.
- Don’t introduce new or change existing characters.
Book lovers around the world create strong ties of identification with characters from their favorite stories. That those characters will change when they are put on the screen is a possibility, but there are many which go far over the line. Tauriel in The Hobbit, for example, was not an original character in Tolkien’s book (neither was Legolas but that’s a different argument). The introduction of her character completely changed the story arguably for the worse. Changing characters can also be harmful as exemplified in Jack Reacher, a tall dark hero portrayed by a short Tom Cruise. The movie itself can be considered good, but its interpretation of the book is pretty poor.
- Don’t Consult the Fans
Hear me out. Some of the best book to films have been created by directors and producers with highly critical eyes, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jason Bourne. Some of the worst have been brought to life by fans of the books, Percy Jackson, Beautiful Creatures, Divergent, and Valerian. While this can be a topic of great debate, history strongly suggests that an unbiased opinion often has the clearest vision.
Do you agree with these suggestions? There are certainly many others and possibly no perfect way to turn a book into a film, but we all love a good story and hated to see them turn out badly. Comment below if you think of more ways to make a good book into a good movie.