Among the casual and downright ridiculous conversations I have with friends, once in a while we’ll have a real conversation – something heartfelt, serious, an intelligent discussion. I always enjoy these chats – I wouldn’t want them to be all the time, since things like that can get a bit heavy but, a friend asked me the other day how I feel about books being adapted – whether it be into a movie, a video game or a television program/series.
I’m sure nearly all of you, at one time or another have seen a movie or television show that’s been adapted from a book or book series. Nowadays they are more commonplace than anybody would care to think and worth big money to studios and producers. For the purpose of the discussion – and for this blog post, we will rule out things like comics and fan fictions being adapted. I realise that the X-men series has been one of the most successful movie franchises of all time however, its basis (along with the Marvel movies such as Iron Man) still comes from comics rather than books.
The highest grossing film franchise of all time is currently the Harry Potter movies. These seven films have grossed over $7 billion dollars at the box office between them. These movies have been scripted and based upon the books by J.K Rowling, which have been loved and adored by an entire generation of young people, as well as older generations, all over the world. Not far behind the Harry Potter movies in terms of popularity and worth are the Lord of the Rings movies, which are of course based on the novels by J.R.R Tolkein.
There are of course many more examples of books being turned into movies and television programmes and many of them are proving to be extremely popular then and now. An example of a book or book series which has now been turned into a highly successful television series would be Game of Thrones. Originally created as one book by American novelist George R.R Martin, the programme has a large and varied audience with many young adults and fantasy enthusiasts becoming immersed in the series.
So, we’ve established that movies and TV programmes that have been adapted from books can be hugely popular. However, there are of course those box office flops that have been adapted from fantastic books also. For example, the first book from the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini was adapted into a film in 2006, with the idea to produce a popular franchise after the success of the books. However, the film proved to be less than popular and after its large budget and extensive time in post-production, the studio decided against continuing with the brand.
There are risks to using books to create movies then but what makes it work in some cases but not in others? Is it down to the studios and the production teams or the script writers? Is it just down to the fact that some things in books are too extraordinarily described through words that visual imaging and CGI technology simply cannot do them justice?
Whatever the case may be, so many people are outraged these days with film producers and television networks when they announce they will be adapting a book for its latest block buster or prime-time drama. It’s been proven by the makers of the Harry Potter and Lords of the Rings franchises that movies CAN be made, that do their written counterparts justice in many ways, however, in this bloggers humble opinion there is nothing a movie or television programme can ever do, to match up to the awesome power of the book.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that, if somebody watched the Harry Potter movies they would probably thoroughly enjoy them – obviously it depends on what they like but let’s say theoretically. However, if you then gave them the books to read, would they change their views on the movies they’d just seen? My guess is yes, because although the movies in-corporate so many of the magical qualities and the sheer wonder of the Harry Potter world and include as many of the characters and plot elements as possible, there’s still so much more in the books that they didn’t use for the movies.
Obviously Dumbledore still dies and Harry still rescues Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets but, it’s the smaller things. For example, Dobby the House Elf is in only two of the Harry Potter movies, whereas he is in all of the books except the first. There’s also another House Elf who features heavily in the book franchise and she’s called Winky. She was supposed to be introduced in the fourth film but the producers completely wrote her out of the movie franchise and changed the plot of the Goblet of Fire adaptation so that they could produce the movie without her. Of course they have to leave some things out of the books so they can fit them into their time slots or whatever but, if they can make a Lord of the Rings film that’s 3 hours long why can’t they give us 3 hours of Harry Potter as well?
So anyway, I should probably answer the question I started with – what’s my opinion on books being adapted into movies and television programmes. There are two sides to my opinion but, I’m still a book lover at heart. Some books make amazing viewing when they’re adapted for the big (or small) screen, in their own right they can be brilliant and magical but, they just never come close to being as fantastic as the books.
Of course, there’s a movie coming out next year that’s the start of a three movie series based on three highly popular books from 2011. Having made its way into the highest grossing book series list and broken records for flying off book shelves all over the world at alarming speeds, does the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise now have its sights set on being a box office blockbuster? Or will the movie franchise match my opinions on books becoming movies and be a complete flop? We shall see…