The Problem With Book-Inspired Movies

Lately the world has been immersed in movies that in fact were books first (or, more frequently, comic books).  And so, inevitably, this brings along the most intense scrutiny from fans of the books.  I’ve noted before on this site that I am a stickler for accuracy.  This leads to countless disappointments in movie versions.  I remember driving home from New Moon and listing everything the producers changed or left out with a friend.  It gave us something to talk about, sure, but it also ruined part of the movie experience.

The problem in this case is not always the film itself.  I realize that there are certain constraints to movies that are not present in books.  You can’t exactly have a huge backstory and still fit everything into two or three hours.  Sometimes the problem is me.  I’m just too picky.

I’ve gone through and listed some rules that constitute what I think makes an acceptable movie version:

  1. Don’t leave out any major characters.  In the film version of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, at least one character was left out who is CRUCIAL TO THE PROGRESSION OF THE ENTIRE SERIES.  I mean, really?  How could they expect to make a sequel without Kronos?  Or Clarisse, for that matter?
  2. Make sure you have all the background information you need.  In some movies, the plot hangs on a character’s backstory.  If this is the case, you had better get that backstory in someplace.  Even a brief comment mentioned in passing is better than nothing.  Without it, there is no motivation.  I saw Captain America yesterday, and afterwards a person I went with complained that the villain had no clear motivations for taking over the world.  I’ve also heard that the Harry Potter movies are hard to understand if you’ve never read the books, probably for the same reason.
  3. Never sacrifice plot for action.  The author put in plot points for a reason, and just adding more explosions or whatever is just dumb.  Think Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: the Burrow burns (which never actually happened), and we don’t get as much Dumbledore/Horcruxes time as I would have liked.
  4. Make it believable.  If the story calls for a werewolf-spaceman who fights galactic aliens the size of mountains that breathe fire and acid, the producers had better have the technology to make it work, and make it look real enough for audiences to buy it.  I’m not sure this really applies anymore, with this wonderful newfangled CGI technology and who knows what else, but I’m still putting this in as a rule.
  5. Think very, very, very carefully before changing anything that’s remotely important to the story.  Again, with Percy Jackson, they changed a whole lot.  They changed so much the movie was almost unrecognizable.  Because of this, I’m not sure they could ever pull off a sequel (see rule #1).  It could have happened with Harry Potter, too, but luckily they had J.K. Rowling on board to make sure they didn’t leave anything out that would be important in the books yet to come.
  6. Consult the author.  This sort of goes in hand with number five, but it branches out into so much more.  Again, Percy Jackson had this problem, and so did Eragon.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the authors had anything to do with the movie.  As a result, the films were terribly off-course in the eyes of purists like myself.
  7. If you decide to ignore all the other rules and just rearrange the story as you please, you had darn well make it a spectacular film.  I know I’ve been hitting Percy Jackson hard today, but I actually enjoyed the movie.  It was good if you don’t associate it with the book at all (*cough* Annabeth is BLOND *cough*).  The same with Harry Potter.  Those, I can forgive a bit more, because if J.K. Rowling says changes are okay, who am I to disagree?  And anyway, they are amazing movies.

Well, those are all the rules I can think of at the moment.  Does anyone else have any rules to watch by?  I would love to hear your opinions!

Happy reading!

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