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February 19, 2010
Vol. 51 No. 15

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Book adaptations can be confusing

Readers know that books are awesome. So when some of our favorites are turned into films, we are intrigued and likely to see them in theaters.

After that two-hour time chunk, I always believe that the book is better than the movie but that doesn't mean I disliked the movie. I love some book-to-film adaptations -- like the "Twilight Saga" for instance.

"Twilight" was pretty spot-on. The tortured relationship of Bella and Edward is still a beautiful thing to behold and even with the minor changes, I enjoyed the film. The same applies to "New Moon." The changes made to Bella and Edward's reunion and the additional fight scene in Italy were great ideas on the part of the writers and director. Yet, the bulk of the story was straight out of the book. "Brava," I say. That's how you make an adaptation. So why do films like "Harry Potter," "The Lovely Bones" and "Dear John" fall short?

Every book and its accompanying film are like two solid objects, connected by hundreds of strings. With every mistake, beginning with the minor ones, a string is cut. With the three films listed above and countless others, by the time the movie is produced, all that's left is a few frayed strings--leading to overbearing disappointment and the critique that the film can only be called "loosely based" on the book.

Some of those minor mistakes: Harry Potter has green eyes, like his dead mother's eyes. This fact is mentioned in every book, practically hammered into poor Harry at ever juncture in his life, yet Daniel Radcliffe's eyes are blue in every film. The solution must have been so simple that it escaped them. Say it with me now: contacts.

Appearances are perhaps the most basic and easiest thing for a film to create. It's all there in the words of those meticulously crafted pages of the authors. Savannah from "Dear John" is a brunette.

"The Lovely Bones" is no different. Peter Jackson is an ass for what he did to that story. Even my fiancé, who never read the book, left the theater unsatisfied and all he knew was what I told him while reading the book. Jackson omitted the most pivotal parts of the storyline like Jack's heart attack, Abigail's affair with Len and Buckley's disconnect from the world and his family. Instead the film is lifeless, bereft of the books deep look into the complexity of human reaction.

We love books because of the stories they tell us and the meaning behind them. Non-readers would love the story just as much if film directors would keep that in mind.

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