Photo credit: Lynn Friedman via Flickr
Disclaimer: For this discussion, Mr. Gette and Ms. Nicolelli are limiting themselves to book series adapted to the big screen. This discussion will exclude one-off book-to-film adaptations, such as The Book Thief or Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.
JG: I blame Harry Potter and Frodo.
Sure, YA books and series were turned into movies before 2001. But the runaway success of both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Fellowship of the Ring ushered in an era of studios looking for the next big thing.
JN: Producers can expect a guaranteed audience, either book fans eager to see their beloved stories come to life. Or, book fans eager to disparage the film adaptation. Either way, money goes into pockets.
The money spent on early millennial series adaptations like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter was money well spent, on the part of readers turned moviegoers. However, I would argue that film series adaptation has been in sharp decline ever since.
JG: Film adaptations have been divided into two categories: hot new series like Divergent and The Maze Runner; or backlist favorites like The Dark is Rising (made into the absolutely dreadful movie The Seeker). But series are a two-edged sword: on the one hand, you know what your next few films will be; on the other, no movie really stands alone.
JN: It’s nearly impossible to execute a book-to-film series that is of high quality from start to finish. And this is when the book series is actually complete, not even taking into account the adaptation of book series that are not yet finished. Look at what happened to Divergent! Or Chronicles of Narnia.
JG: Another issue is length. Some books are just too jam-packed to make a regular-length movie without lots of cuts. Which leads making multiple movies from one book. Deathly Hallows Part I & II. Breaking Dawn Part I & II. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell if the decision is being made because of length or potential profit.
JN: And then there is the opposite problem of taking a normal-length book and unnecessarily dividing it into multiple films. Mockingjay I & II and The Hobbit (I can’t even keep track of the ridiculous number of installments). And only the most optimistic, naive book lover would see this as anything other than Hollywood trying to make money.
JG: It’s one book! ONE BOOK. The Hobbit is shorter than each of the books in the Lord of the Rings series!
JN: Peter Jackson fell from grace quite a bit with The Hobbit adaptation. And seriously, Orlando Bloom?!
JN: But going back to adapting a book series before it is finished. JK Rowling always knew the Wizarding World and Harry’s story inside and out. The filming schedule did not back Rowling into any corners and the books did not suffer for the film adaptations. However, authors like Veronica Roth (Divergent) struggle under the pressure to churn out the finalized story. Just look to Allegiant if you need evidence. Blegh.
JG: It can be ok for a screenwriter to change or cut things. Some parts of books just don’t translate well to a film. Sorry, Tom Bombadil fans. The Lord of the Rings benefited from having hundreds of pages of traveling condensed into montages.
JN: Absolutely! Do you have a favorite book-to-film adaptation moment, Mr. Gette? Perhaps one where the screenwriter(s) changed the author’s version of the scene/event/character/etc.
JG: I honestly believe Jurassic Park is a better movie than book. Maybe because I saw before I read it, so that’s the version I know best. The Hammonds in the book and movie are VERY different, and that does a lot to change the whole feeling of the story. But the moment when Grant and Sattler see the brachiosauruses for the first time and the theme swells is pretty great (and that, too, is different from the book). You?
JN: I saw the Lord of the Rings films prior to reading the series (I know, I know!), but I remember seeing the movie trailer for Fellowship like it was yesterday (the music and Cate Blanchett/Galadriel voice over!). While I had dabbled in the fantasy genre, Fellowship absolutely hooked me. Another memorable moment was seeing Diagon Alley come to life in Sorcerer’s Stone. It was when I knew the Harry Potter films would be excellent visual adaptations. My favorite single scene of adaptation that is different from the book version is the Order of the Phoenix showdown between Dumbledore and Voldemort. The book version details specific spells, while the film version mostly features the magical manipulation of elements. It seemed so appropriate for these two magical powerhouses.
JN: What is your least favorite book-to-film adaptation moment, Mr. Gette? It can be an entire film, film series, or single scene. Or all three!
JG: When I was 10 there was nothing I loved so much as My Side of The Mountain. In the book, Sam tames a falcon, Frightful, who helps him survive. There are sequels based around Frightful. In the movie, she gets shot by a hunter. Maybe she survives – I don’t know. I shut it off after that, and never finished the movie. What’s yours?
JN: I could say everything about the Divergent or Golden Compass movies, but I was not necessarily in love with those books. Perhaps the biggest adaptation betrayal was The Giver. Just, no.
JG: Just like all movies, ones based off of books can be great or terrible. And while it’s disappointing when a favorite becomes a bad movie, at least you still have the book.
JN: Books > Movies.