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Five Reasons Not to Fear Book to Movie Adaptations

Joe Carter ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Movie adaptations of preexisting stories have been around since the beginning of film. So why is it today that passionate fans begin arranging their grave plots when they hear one of their favorite literary works will be up on the big screen? Sure, some adaptations have been like watching a train crash into an orphanage, but others have been practically perfect in every way. Here are five reasons to still have faith in book to movie adaptations when results can be unsatisfying.

1. Budding Obsession

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

Movie adaptations are a hollow commitment like gym memberships and timeshares in Tornado Alley. It’s less intimidating for skeptical readers to watch a two hour film than dedicate hours of their time reading a three hundred page work. The movie might be lackluster in quality but at least is serves as an advertisement of the book and can bring new members into the fandom.

2. Thank the Academy

Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s a tale as old as 1929. The directors and cast are brilliant and it’s a crime not to let it walk away without a little gold man. These select films can be recognized by civilized human society as “good cinema,” but oddly enough some of these movies were based on books. (A gasp goes through the crowd!) Gone With the Wind, Forrest Gump, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are a few best pictures based on books. Not to mention, an Oscar is literally a glowing endorsement for the work. Even if it’s a bad adaptation, it’s probably a good movie. Take a risk. These literary/cinema classics are USDA certified “not a complete waste of time” because little known fact, the USDA is heavily involved in the Academy Awards.

3. Paper Beats Rock, Movie Beats Sparknotes

Michael Maloney and Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Michael Maloney and Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Adaptations can teach classic material when the material itself is hard to grasp. The tone of the actors and palpable charisma between characters can take a boring classic and make it relatable. Take the A&E mini series of Pride & Prejudice, for example. It follows the book to a tee and features Colin Firth’s dashingly handsome performance as Mr. Darcy. It might be just over eight hours in total, but it’s well worth the time. Another example of faithful adaptations is Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet. He performs the full text making it the saving grace of any high school senior and it’s legitimately entertaining down to the laughably dramatic final confrontation between Hamlet and Claudius. Sparknotes may be good, but an accurate visual portrayal is better.

4. Whole New Worlds, New Fantastic Points of View

Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Photo Credit: Paramount.
Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Photo Credit: Paramount.

Movie adaptations that currently exist aren’t the one and only opportunity to represent a novel and can thankfully be forgotten. There is no shortage of remakes in Hollywood. Take the infinite incarnations of A Christmas Carol, for example. There may be one million and a half versions of Charles Dickens’ famous ghost story, some creepier than others, but people can choose which representation resonates with them. Besides, new takes on old tales can be refreshing instead of sacrilegious. An open mind in English class is what spurred such wonderful films as Clueless and West Side Story. Viva creativity!

5. Seeing Is Believing

Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.
Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

It’s how a director decides to translate a book that truly makes or breaks an adaptation. Elements exclusive to film can punch-up a work instead of dulling it. In The Silence of the Lambs, the audience sees the terrified expression on Clarice Starling’s face and hears the suspenseful music dramatically build. It’s an entirely different experience than reading the same scene in the novel. Harry Potter is also a fine example because the entire series is so lush in many respects. The films brought to life incredibly vivid environments not to mention a theme park. A world without the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a world without sunshine.

It’s true that movie adaptations can be frightful. Who wants to see the desecration of their favorite book complete with high definition quality and surround sound? But what if it ends up being good? What if it’s immortalized in pop culture? The next time a production company announces the next adaptation, just take a deep breath, assure the book it will be loved unconditionally, and smuggle in lots of candy because this is going to be a long evening.

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