Movie or Book
When a movie is made based on a book, should that movie be 100% accurate to the source material?
Where do you stand? Should a movie be accurate to the book or should it be allowed to alter the story to fit the medium? Many books take this approach.
The Godfather borrows the basic story and some scenes, but reorganizes others, rewrites others, completely rejects others, turning what was a trashy pulp novel into the greatest movie ever made. While many fans lament certain scenes that the movie discarded from the book, I've never met or heard from anyone who thinks the book is better.
Jurassic Park took the basic story, but altered characters, plot points, scenes. Yet in this case many argue whether the result was better than the book. Many movie fans who later went back to read the book announce that is the better version.
How about what may be the biggest book to movie project of recent decades: Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings changed a lot from the books, so much that many book fans felt the movies butchered the books. Christopher Tolkien, the author's son, hated them so much that he referred to them as trash, saying they completely perverted the story of the books, and refused to have anything to do with them. That's not just the son being overly protective. We have letters from his father expressing his hatred of the cartoon movies and his complaints about every single thing they did differently from the books. Christopher died a few years ago, but the estate still keeps their distance from other media interpretations.
Of course, many more people became fans of the movies having never read the books and still haven't read the books, and these people generally feel the movies are perfect and that book fans are idiots for disliking the changes. Visit the LotR subreddit sometime to see the war of words between these two groups.
I think the Harry Potter movies have a similar story, with many book fans disliking a lot of the things the movies changed, while movie fans think the book purists are making a mountain out of a molehill.
I think the main arguments against not changing anything for the film are that it would make the film too long and too boring. Many book purists on the other hand seem to accept the idea of dropping some scenes to speed up the pacing of a film, but they dig in their heels when it comes to changing entire scenes, which in many cases they feel is unnecessary and ruins things.
Let's look at two examples from Lord of the Rings.
Boromir was one of the humans who joined the fellowship of the ring, whose job it was to carry the ring to Mordor where it would be destroyed. Boromir was brave and valiant for most of the journey, however he eventually gave in to temptation and tried to steal the ring for himself, an act that resulted in the breaking of the fellowship and his death.
In the books we witness the act of him trying to steal the ring at the end of the first book and the breaking of the fellowship. However we don't learn about his noble death fighting orcs to save other hobbits who were a part of the fellowship until the beginning of the second book. It's something of a cliffhanger. In fact, the last we see of Boromir in the first book is his trying to take the ring, so we think poorly of him as the book ends.
The movies change this, moving his death to the end of the first movie. The movies also change the focus and emphasize his noble death, giving him a powerful speech as he lay dying.
Is this a good change? Essentially it just saved us from a cliffhanger and help emphasize that despite his moment of weakness, he still was a good person. Even many book purists seem to be content with this change, accepting that it may be better for pacing.
Boromir's brother Faramir meets with Frodo, the hobbit who is carrying the ring. In the books Faramir correctly guesses that Frodo has the ring with him, however he resists temptation and not only allows Frodo to continue his quest to destroy the ring, but helps him.
In the movie, however, Faramir is also unable to resist the ring; he captures Frodo and starts marching him to Faramir's home city so that he can take the ring, endangering the quest to destroy it. He is given a lot of lines about how they can use the ring as a weapon and how his father will be happy. Finally after an enemy attack he realizes his mistake and allows Frodo to escape.
Is this a good change? Arguably it makes the effects of the ring more powerful, showing that no one can resist it, and this was probably the reason Peter Jackson, the director, made the change. But this change is at the expense of the character of Faramir, who is changed from having a stronger will than his brother in the book to being more of a carbon copy of him. As you might expect, most book purists dislike this change.
(There are many more drastic changes between the LotRs books and films, but we'll leave it at this one)
Anyway, what do you think? Are changes from book to film acceptable? Are there any books to films that you dislike for reasons of scene or character changes? Are there any films that you think are improved from the books because of changes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
|David LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku. He blogs here and at laspina.org. Write him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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