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?
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