Books into movies – when will it stop?

It seems these days more and more films carry the catchphrase “based on the novel by [insert author’s name here]”. An increasing trend in Hollywood to turn best selling books in to a film version. More like Hollywood has run out of good ideas for movies so have to rely on best selling authors to provide them.

We all know it happens, the biggest franchises in recent years are Harry Potter, Twilight, and of course Lord of the Rings. But it goes deeper, it seems that every second movie out these days was originally a book. The Lovely Bones, The Time Travellers Wife, My Sister’s Keeper and Where The Wild Things Are – one of the best known children’s books – are all gracing the big screen over the summer.

But if we go back in movie making history it is a trend that has been growing in popularity. Pride and Prejudice – with several versions – Minority Report, Chocolat were all books before movies.  Even Shakespeare has had his fair share of work made into movies, mostly with a modern twist – 10 Things I Hate About You, O and Romeo and Juliet has been done numerous times. The two most well know: the 1968 version and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 version.

Even the majority of Disney movies are based on the original fairy tales by The Brothers Grimm – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. But the original Cinderella contains much more violence – the stepsisters cut off their toes to fit the glass slipper and a bird pecks out their eyes, leaving them as blind beggars. But obviously being Disney it has been sensored for a younger audience.

Disney has also done an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, which has now being remade by Tim Burton. Then there’s Willy Wonka or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – books that have been made into movies and then a remake of the movie! And what about the comic books? I could go on forever naming movies that got their start in fiction.

Chronicles of Narnia, The Da Vinci Dode, Angels and Demons,The Bourne trilogy, The Devil Wears Prada – I think you get my point.

Where does it end? First sensoring for a younger audience, then changing small details, which ultimately leads to changing crucial parts of a story to make an easier film.

Now of course these books have amazing stories, but do they translate well to the big screen and do the story justice?

Graeme Tuckett of The Dominion Post put it best, “What works on paper has a way of falling over in an embarrassing mess on its way to the screen.” He is referring to the recently released The Vintner’s  Luck, which has not been getting the best reviews. In fact author Elizabeth Knox was extremely upset over Niki Caro’s (Whale Rider, North Country) film adaptation saying it departed from her original story a lot. Strike one for Hollywood.

This is exactly where film adaptations will be heading if Hollywood’s behaviour of taking books and making them into movies continues. In fact it has already started.

Personally I have not read The Bourne trilogy of books – I have them, just never read them. I like the movies, they are done well, but they are nothing, and I mean nothing, like the books says my father. In fact, he says, the only consistency with the books and the movies is that the lead character is named Jason Bourne. Strike two for Hollywood.

Now take Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for example. The makers have always done well to incorporate the long books in to two-and-a-half hours of movie. But there are some aspects that just grind my gears. At the beginning of Half Blood Prince, Harry is cursed on the train by Malfoy – in the movie, Luna Lovegood finds him, but in the book it is Tonks.

Now this is where it really bugs me – Tonks is in the movie, she appears at Christmas at the Burrow – would it have been so hard for them to stick to the book and have Tonks find Harry? It would make more sense and would allow the storyline of The Order of the Phoenix at Hogwarts to continue from the previous movie. The Order plays a big part in the fight agains Voldemort – there is a whole book called The Order of the Phoenix, FFS. So wouldn’t it have been better to carry this storyline on in to Half Blood Prince?

It wouldn’t be that hard for Tonks to appear on the train and say she was posted at Hogwarts for extra protection to students. And her appearance to find Harry would be more believable than Luna finding him. Firstly, Tonks searching the train can be explained with the extra security story line. With Luna, why was she still on the train in the first place? Why didn’t she get off at the same time as the other students? Secondly, Tonks fixing Harry’s nose would be more believable because she is an auror, therefore her knowing the spell to fix a broken nose and doing it sucessfully fits, she probably has had to fix a few of them in her time. With Luna fixing it successfully, when would she have practised? When a student is hurt at Hogwarts, they go to Madame Pomfrey, and Luna wouldn’t be able to fix them in the summer, as students are not allowed to use magic outside of school.

It is the small inconsistencies which lead to the major plot deviations. It would be relatively easy for them to follow the book. A similar situation happened in The Goblet of Fire – Neville gave Harry gillyweed instead of Dobby, in this situation it works better because there would have been extra animation time etc to incorporate Dobby, and in the book Rowling set it up so Neville had the answer anyway, therefore it is not a major deviation. But it is a slippery slope they are on.

If Hollywood are going to make books into movies, they need to make sure they follow the main points of the book and highlight the main plot lines. Case and point – The Twilight Saga. The movies follow the books very closely, if they were to deviate from the books, fans would not appreciate it and would ultimately lead to a flop – as shown with The Vintner’s Luck.

It does not seem like this new found trend is going to let up any time soon. Marian Keyes’ book Rachel’s Holiday is set to become a movie along with Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. We also have TWO Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies to come as well as Eclipse and – as much as they say it’s too difficult, it will happen – Breaking Dawn. And of course there is talks of Tin Tin and The Hobbit.

Maybe Hollywood has been onto something from the beginning – fiction authors always make better stories than screenwriters any day. Strike three and you’re out.