Reading into movies

February 28, 2013
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

From Harry Potter to Twilight, it’s a very common thing to see your favourite book become a movie. It can be exciting and terrifying, waiting and dreading that movie - wondering if Hollywood will do the book justice or ruin it like so many other movie adaptions you’ve seen.

It’s difficult to know for sure which was the first book to become a movie, but is generally thought to be either The Passion of Christ, Dracula, Frankenstein or A Christmas Carol. This trend of turning popular books into movies has always been a huge economic opportunity for movie-makers, and while remakes of popular books continues to this day (e.g. the recent Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley), it’s also surprising to see the number of unknown books being adapted into movies.

In 2012, adaptations of particularly popular books included The Hobbit, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Life of Pi and The Hunger Games. But a surprising number of movies were released that were based on far lesser known books. Such movies include Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Cosmopolis by Don Delillo, and Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I ignorantly felt certain that they were original, unique stories written by a screenwriter in Hollywood, especially Silver Linings Playbook, since it was nominated for an Oscar.

There is a long list of books to become movies for 2013. Some well-known ones will be The Host by Stephenie Meyer, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and a remake of Carrie by Stephen King. Some of the lesser known books-to-movies of 2013 include Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Serena by Ron Rash and World War Z by Max Brooks. It would seem that Hollywood has lost its spark, and relies on novels to adapt into movies instead of releasing something entirely new and creative.

Don’t get me wrong - it isn’t uninteresting or totally uncreative to adapt books to movies. I love a well-adapted book to movie as much as the next person. But a dangerous thing can happen when books become movies. Sometimes, the movies are remembered and the books forgotten. If you think this is a silly statement here is a list of movies that I was surprised to find were books: Jaws by Peter Benchley, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, and Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger.

Worse than a book being forgotten is an author who is disgusted or even goes so far as to wish they hadn’t written their novel. While watching Disney’s Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers cried (from unhappiness) during the screening, Roald Dahl hated the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and refused to let Charlie in the Glass Elevator be turned into a movie, and Anthony Burgess wished he never wrote A Clockwork Orange. My favourite is J.D. Salinger, who was so mortified when his short story Uncle Wiggly in Conneticut (renamed My Foolish Heart in its film adaption) was adapted into film that he swore his books would never again be turned into film, and to this day they haven’t.

It seems that Hollywood doesn’t want to make movies that accurately depict the inspiring book. Hollywood takes for granted the money it will make from readers who want to see the movie because they already love the book, but Hollywood can make even more money by making the movie for the movie-going public. The result is popular actors and actresses in starring roles, poorly written scripts and completely random plot twists that catch the excitement of the movie-going public but disgust the readers.

This trend of books being adapted into movies will continue, and it should. It is a chance for the author to gain more readership and help publishing sales. But it would be nice if Hollywood had some unique ideas of their own - something original. But I guess that’s too much to ask.

Sarah O’Connor 


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