Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When My Book Gets Made Into a Movie, Things’ll Be Different

Hahahaha! Right? I mean…talk about getting ahead of oneself. Let’s get published first. But, the impetus behind this post is my recent experience with Rick Riordan’s first book in the Percy Jackson series, which was subsequently made into a movie. I had yet to read any of the books (I know!), but my wife had most of them, so I delved into The Lightning Thief. I was hooked and about 60 pages in, I thought “You know, I’ve watched the end of the movie, but never saw the beginning. I wonder what it’s like.” Well, it’s nothing like the book.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that movies are a completely different medium from books. It’s just impossible to put everything from the book onto the screen. I’ve understood this since my Tom Clancy days back in high school. But, there seems to be this ever-growing sense that directors have a creative license to manipulate the basic fabric of a book-based movie. “Based on the novel by…” seems to allow for a completely new interpretation of the story.

It happens all of the time now. Sometimes, it’s been for the benefit of the author. If you read Peter Benchley’s Jaws without seeing the movie, you’d wonder how the book ever got published. I think it’s one of the rare occurrences where the movie actually outdid the book on many levels. Sometimes, no one has ever heard of the book a movie is based on until the movie comes out. I guess my biggest problem is when there’s an established book with a great following (of readers!)that gets mangled in the Hollywood movie grinder. A couple of the Harry Potter books come to mind (hello, Goblet of Fire anyone? What a fiasco). Some of Stephen King’s have been butchered. One might even argue that the Lord of the Rings trilogy, though extremely well done, took some unnecessary liberties. Pretty much all of Liv Tyler’s role as Arwen was nonexistent in the book. More importantly to me, though, was the absolute mockery of an ending that they created. The book showed that no one wins in war; the movie gave it a warm fuzzy ending that people could smile about (bleh).

So, when they make a movie out of my book(s), it’s going to be all or nothing. You either make the movie to be a reflection (not a shadow…not an interpretation) of the book, or you don’t make it at all. Of course, if they throw enough money at me, they could make it a cartoon, put my name in the title, and turn all of the bad guys into flying purple monkeys whose only weapons are handfuls of poo. Well, ok, it would have to be a LOT of money. I mean, did J.K. really sign off on some of these crappy Potter movies when she didn’t need the money? That’s just letting the wolf guard the sheep.

What would you do? Would you let a Hollywood studio totally butcher your story for the right price?


  1. I actually don't mind shadows or interpretations when films are made of books. In fact, I think I prefer them! I don't actually want to see real people recreating the scenes I already saw in my never lives up. It's like trying to relive a great experience you had with a group of friends; all you'll ever do is cheapen it.

    So I prefer it when the movie is balls-out, unapologetically unfaithful to the book. At least then it just wallows around in its own poop pile and doesn't have any chance of tarnishing my actual memories. :)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Phil! I guess I can understand that perspective, but what if it was your book?

  3. I could maybe go for plot changes, as I understand some things need to be cut down. And in some cases, like Voyage of the Dawn Treader and, I'm sorry, Twilight's final installment, Breaking Dawn, Hollywood needs to invent some kind of overarching plot to carry the story (though my books wouldn't need that type of adjustment).

    What I absolutely will not tolerate (were my books ever to make it to the big screem) are changes to the characters. The LoTR films took too many liberties, making the characters do things they didn't do in the books and destroying some of their nobility. My characters are real people to me; change that and it's no longer my story.

  4. If it was my book...well, actually I can say something for certain.

    Do you remember my story Somos las Bolas, about the teenage ping pong fanatics?

    It was adapted into a short film (which won the director $2000 at a festival!) by someone who read it online. I gave him permission on the condition that he didn't try to involve me in the creative process. Why? I don't know...I just wanted to see what it felt like, I guess, to have someone adapt your work. I didn't want any pull in it.

    Anyway, he did send me a DVD of the film when it was complete, and though I thought he did a great job with the casting, the stuff I liked best was the stuff he invested to fill in the gaps in the story.

    In other words, the straightly-adapted material felt a little boring to me. I knew what to expect, and it wasn't really thrilling to me. (Outside of the "MY CHARACTERS ARE REAL PEOPLE NOW WOOO!!" factor of course.)

    What thrilled me was seeing the characters doing and saying different things than what I wrote. They were stretching their legs a little...filling out their own world. A world a created, but no longer had dominion over. I liked that.

    So yeah...give me interpretations and shadows any day!

    ...which isn't to say I don't totally understand and respect your opinion on the subject. :)

  5. I do remember that story. I seem to remember Stephen writing little hearts on it, or something to that effect. ;)

    I can see what you're saying. I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when it comes. ;)

  6. haha yeah. Here's hoping you get to cross that bridge before you get too old to enjoy it. (Here's also hoping that I'm not too far behind you!)

    [Also, that was supposed to be a "a world I created," but I wrote it too early in the morning to know the difference between vowels. I guess...]

  7. Just as a last comment on this, I finished The Lightning Thief and they really just made up their own movie based somewhat on elements of the book. I mean, the characters in the book are 12! 'Nuff said on this though. ;)