While it may be a good film, order Elaine McDonald asks “whether it is a good film version of the book?”
In a debate with friends over whether “The Shining” was an inadequate adaption or an improvement, check while both sides had valid points; one side having watched the movie and the other having read the book, ask neither having done both.
The reality is that while movie adaptions rely on stylistic tastes and opinions, it also depends on how well an individual can aggressively argue the merits of a book over a movie or vice versa. These adaptions notably face an immense strain due to box office expectations, the hopes of loyal fans and attempts to remain true to the original work. There are a few movies that garner genuine consensus in terms of atrociousness and irreparable harm they’ve caused to the film industry, and there will always be a few people who emerge from the shadows claiming that they read the book before it was a film, who feel that the wrong actors have been cast in certain roles. On the flip side, there are films which arguably have not only brought certain novels to a global platform but have spectacularly embodied the essence of the novel.
The resulting movie may in fact be a good film, the question that must be asked is whether it is a good film version of the book?
One example of this are the later films of the Harry Potter franchise; bringing the brilliance and beauty of the novels to life, infusing them with actors that fulfilled our every expectation of each character. From the cheeky charm of the Weasley Brothers to the “Please, someone punch me in the face” expression that Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) carried off with obvious ease. To the annoyance of the producers who had begun preparing contracts with an American ‘Chosen One’, J.K Rowling demanded that actors should only be chosen from a pool of Irish, English and Scottish talent. Yet this proved to be a fantastic decision, there was little dispute over the cast and they seemed to carry their magical charm outside of the realms of the silver screen. It has become one of the most loved series of adaptions, gaining itself much critical acclaim (Ed.’s note – I beg to differ).
The reality is that these adaptions rely on the vision of the director, with re-makes of certain movies being a testament to this, most recently the Batman franchise (yes, I know it’s a comic book, close enough). Rebooted as a darker, more serious and politically aware series, Christopher Nolan sought to make the The Dark Knight a superior adaption. Gone were the nipples on the bat suit(Batman and Robin 1997), the embarrassing villains and extremely childish take on a classic tormented hero. When the series was taken over by Nolan there wasn’t a preposterous cat mask in sight, replaced by binoculars with a feline flick when necessary. Many felt that the success of this adaption was not simply a result of removing Jim Carey in a green jumpsuit but the choice of cast that reflected Nolan’s own personal expectations. Christian Bale seemed the ideal embodiment of the moody billionaire Bruce Wayne and it didn’t hurt that he and Anne Hathaway were a pair of rides when poured into skin-tight costumes. The choice of cast played on having a mixture of current stars, such as Bale and Hathaway, and casting them alongside classic stars like Michael Cain. Not only did it feed into audience expectations, it also comforted them that there were capable actors taking up these much loved roles.
However, Hollywood is not without its failure and sometimes would rather make a quick splash at the box-office rather than honoring its literary counterpart. One case of this was Dr Seuss’ much loved The Cat in the Hat, demonstrating how an actor’s larger-than-life personality can completely spoil a movie. The movie seemed to be more about Mike Myers dressed up as crass and painfully unfunny cat than telling the original story: gone were the lovable witticisms in favour of cringe slapstick. Granted, it is for kids but there’s a line. One reviewer for the Washington Post declared it to be “as creatively inspired as a giant hair ball”.
Furthermore, there are some books, regardless of style, casting or any other aspect, that should never even make it straight to DVD -purely because the book is particularly awful as it is. Twilight is the epitome of this. As if Bella Swan hadn’t done enough harm, Kristen Stewart sought to set the feminist back another twenty years with the emotional range of a teaspoon. Indeed, the awkward, badly-written dialogue only made me want to be boiled in my own spit as a plank in a wig let herself become a vampire punching bag. Let’s not even get started on Robert Pattinson, trying to bring some equilibrium with 5 million facial expressions a minute and a demeanour that befitted a 108 year-old virgin vampire chasing a 17 year-old girl a little too well…
Let us just be thankful that Twilight’s (un)dead and gone. Hon The Great Gatsby.