Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book vs. Movie - Confessions of An Adaptation Snob

So my family and I went to see I Am Number Four recently. We enjoyed it. And, as I tend to do, much to my husband's dismay, I spent the entire car ride home comparing the book to the movie. (Hey, I've gotten better. At least I don't do this DURING the movie anymore. During the fourth Harry Potter movie, I kept leaning over and whispering to him what was different) :D We were at home though, so it isn't quite as bad as it sounds :D

Now, as adaptations go, I Am Number Four was pretty good. Stayed close to the book and the differences were understandable and not so far beyond the book that they were in another realm entirely. So all in all, I left having enjoyed the movie more than being irritated by its differences from the book.

I should probably explain that I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to movie adaptations. I tend to love the books so much that I just really hate when the movie versions stray too far. Like the HBO series True Blood. The Sookie Stackhouse books are among my favorites so I was a bit sad (and annoyed) when the cable series not only strayed but took a sky dive from the books' plotlines. Now, I do actually like the series, for the most part, usually, (mostly because of Alexander Skaarsgard if I'm going to be honest) :D but man, some of the storylines they throw in there are just stroke inducing for me.

I also hesitate to watch historical movies that are based on real life events or people for the same reason. I tried to watch The Tudors but the historical inaccuracies bugged me so much I just couldn't get into it. I love period films, but if they are based on real events, they gotta be accurate or I start to twitch :) And I start to announce to everyone (in a considerately quiet voice, or after the movie if I'm being really good) that what they just saw isn't what really happened. Hey, one of my degrees is in History....I have issues about that kind of thing :)

After we saw I Am Number Four, I thought of other book-to-movie adaptations I enjoyed. The Twilight series (though there are definitely aspects of the films I don't like); The Firm and The Client (John Grisham books turned movies) - these were probably the first book adaptations I'd ever seen that stayed really close to the book; movies based on the classics like Jane Eyre and Emma; Ella Enchanted (I actually saw the movie first on this one and read the book second...and sort of liked the movie better :) ; and the Harry Potter films - there are of course many things that get left out of the films and the books are sooo much better, but over all the movies are pretty great.

So, all this got me wondering if I am the only adaptation snob out there. Can you enjoy a movie for itself and disregard the book it is supposed to be bringing to life? Or do you want the movie to stay as close to the book as possible?


  1. I'm def. not picky when it comes to movie/TV adaptations. The only adaptations I've pretty much had a cow after watching were The Princess DIaries, Avalon High, and Tuck EVerlasting. Disney just sucks.
    Also, I don't think The Tudors necessarily had any historical inaccuracies. Most of the life of Henry VIII was very vague and everybody's interpretation seems to be different. But I could be wrong.

  2. Ahhh I haven't read the book versions of those movies yet. I'll have to do that...I love the movies so this could be interesting.

    As for Henry have a valid point :) The Other Boleyn Girl would have been a better example there. THAT one has several inaccuracies. (Though, inaccuracies or not, The Tudors are kind of fun to watch just to see Jonathan Rhys Meyers in action :D Much better looking than the real king :D )

  3. Okay, already commented on your blog, but I'm going to comment here too.:) I'm one of those annoying people who can't shut up in the theater when things are different. Drives Lovemuffin crazy. It's gotten to the point where I'm specifically instructed not to talk about it once the lights go off and the movie begins. That's why I try really hard to read the books first. I want to feel everything the way the author intended, first. Then, when I'm ready to see everything I imagined, I watch the movie. Also... I loved watching The Tudors (can we say... Henry Cavill aka the FUTURE SUPERMAN???) =)


  4. I am so terrible about comparing books and movies! I hate it when they disregard the integrity of the book in order to make what they "think" is a better movie. I'm still traumatized by the horrible way they mutilated Inkheart! :-)

  5. I like the movie to stay as close to the book as possible. I'm a purist like that, I guess. :) I understand taking out subplot strands or altering them, but any dramatic changes to a main character or major plot point are unforgivable. I'm talking about the Percy Jackson movie. As a stand-alone movie, it was fine. But it should have been called something else, because it was not Percy Jackson.

    LOL. So yeah, I'm totally with you, Michelle. But I like to watch the movie first these days. Saves me from being massively disappointed because let's be real: the book is always better.

  6. I really need to start doing that I think. Then I can enjoy the movie first :) In fact, I haven't seen the Percy Jackson movie for exactly that reason. I loved the series and I know from others who have seen it that it strays WAY OFF from the book. I have seen bits and pieces and liked them so I'm sure I'll give it a shot at some point :)

  7. I can definitely being a snob. I saw The Count of Monte Cristo shortly after finishing the unabridged version and I had a hard time with it. I had to give the movie a different title in my head before I could enjoy it (because it was well done, it just wasn't The Count of Monte Cristo). :)

  8. Uhm... just had to add that Henry. Cavill. Was in The Count of Monte Cristo. Hee hee.

    Oh and, I've been meaning to read that book! Thanks, Janet, for the reminder!;)

  9. Percy Jackson was horribly adapted! I couldn't believe how they took such an awesome series and made it lame. I understand why they changed character ages, sure, but the execution was just laughable. Especially Uma-dusa. ;)

    One movie that was better than the book: What Dreams May Come. Not a very good book, but a gorgeous movie.

    I am less critical when I haven't read the book in a while, since I don't remember everything as clearly. Honestly, though, would you really want Hollywood to make good movies? Then what would we talk about? :)

  10. I 100% agree. I make sure that if I read a book, I don't go see the movie version. If I see the movie, I don't read the book. It cuts a lot of indignation out of my life.

    But, Age of Innocence is a beautiful representation of the novel.

    And, I like Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

  11. I'm a 50/50 snob, I think, though I agree that HP4 strayed a little too far. Hannibal (movie) was awful, because they changed the ending completely! Come on!

    I try to just enjoy the movie, I do, but it's tough to not make comparisons. I'm reading Water for Elephants right now and will see the movie as soon as it comes out. There will have to be differences. Atlas Shrugged is being made into a movie in 2012, and oh boy will I have a field day with that one.

    Great post, and thank you for mentioning Mr. Skaarsgard. Yum!


  12. I do make comparisons, but for the most part they don't stop me from enjoying the book and the movie (or show) as separate entities.

    Although I do loathe the character of Sookie's brother in True Blood--I hit fast forward before Jason even has a chance to say any lines, poor fellow. He is not nearly so obnoxious and unlikable in the books. Plus the fast-forwarding gets me to the yummy characters (no pun intended for a vampire show) that much quicker.

    I have seen a few movies I liked better than the book; Girl with a Pearl Earring comes to mind.

  13. @Angelica LOL I do the same thing when I watch True Blood. I pretty much fast forward through all of them but Sookie, Bill and Eric. I like the character of Tara in the show (most of the time...the last season she got on my nerves) as long as I don't compare her to the Tara in the book as they are two totally different characters.

    Love Pam though :D

  14. I'm pretty much the same. I can enjoy movies for being different mediums and that they have to cut some things at times, but if it strays too far from the book I really don't like it. I really hate when YA books are "dumbed down" and all the violence/action is either down played or taken out because it's deemed not suitable for kids... now, that's what really irritates me.

  15. Some books translate better than others. It also depends a lot on the skill of the screenwriter and director. I have to say though that it's pretty hard to top the movie a reader has already conjured up in his head.

  16. I really want to see I Am Number Four....what do you suggest....should I read the book first before watching the movie or should I watch the movie first before reading the book. To be honest, I don't like movies that stray away from the book version or do not portray the book characters accurately.

  17. Short answer: No.

    I think I have seen five book adaptions that I liked and two that I tolerated because the changes had a reason.


  18. @Saba, you know, I Am Number Four is one of the few movies where the adaptation and changes didn't bother me and I'm glad I read the book first. I think it actually helped knowing what was going on....though I wasn't in suspense or anything during the movie because I knew what was going to happen LOL Tough call, but for this one, I did like that I had read the book first.

  19. Well it depends. I think two things are required in order for an adaptation to work for me: 1. The movie must at least maintain the integrity of the book's story. 2. The acting must be good.

    No movie can follow a book exactly, and obviously a visual drama is a different animal than a written one. But if the book is completely bastardized in the movie, it often makes me wonder why they wanted to make a movie out of it in the first place.

    I haven't seen I Am Number Four, but I agree with you about the other adaptations being good. I would add the Lord of the Rings series to that list.

    However, there are some that are just frawful - The Other Boleyn Girl, My Sister's Keeper, Simon Birch (the worst EVER - based on A Prayer for Owen Meany).

    Many times I won't even watch a movie if it's a favorite book. Bridge to Terabithia for example. I heard it was a decent adaptation, but I want to keep the book pristine in my imagination.


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