Book to Film Adaptations: or Oh, Peter Jackson, No!*
So ‘they’ are making a movie out of one of your favorite books/series. The excitement! The anticipation! The trepidation. What if ‘they’ screw if up/
Face it: ‘they’ are going to screw it up. There is no way on this Crom-forsaken earth that what ends up on the screen beneath the proscenium arch is going to match what appeared on the screen in the theater of your mind. Ain’t gonna happen. Some of it ‘they’ might pull off acceptably, even spectacularly. Funny thing is, that bit you thought looked exactly as you imagined it is a bit another viewer thought was an abomination that would have the author on a turbo-charged rotisserie in his grave (or put him in the grave early if he’s still an air-breather.) Everyone has an opinion. (I mean, seriously, have you seen the internet? Think of an opinion, the most outlandish possible position anyone could conceivably hold on a topic. Got one? OK, now make it just a little bit worse. Somewhere on a message board forum someone has expressed that exact opinion.)
The trick is managing expectations. I certainly experience disappointment, disbelief at liberties taken, scenes invented, characters changed. I’m not holding myself up as the acme of placid objectivity. Far from it. But it helps me enjoy the film as discrete work if I sit down knowing that at some point a gratuitous fight scene, created out of whole-cloth, will occur (or Frodo, tricked by Gollum on the border of Mordor, will order Sam to go home) because the writer/director felt the narrative required dramatic tension at that point.
My advice? Roll with it. Eat some popcorn. Appreciate the cinematography. You can read the book again later.
How do writers feel about the film versions of their work? I imagine there are as many different reactions as there are writers. I’ve had some (very minor) practical experience with adaptation of my own work. A short story of mine, “Trustworthy,” was produced as a student film. You can check it out HERE. I’d have to say that overall I was pleased with it. I could understand certain changes necessary to convey on film what is provided in text by exposition. I might have made different choices here or there but I’ve no complaints.
What about you? What is your favorite/least favorite film adaptation. Have you had something you’ve written adapted into a different medium?
* Hat tip to John Ringo.