Friday, March 6, 2015

MOVIE MADNESS: Book to Movie Adaptations

We have a special guest here today to talk about 
book to movie adaptations, 
Rachel from Purple Owl Reviews!  
Please give her a warm welcome, 
and share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Every bibliophile has had their heart broken by a movie adaptation of a book at least once in their life. But we have to be fair to directors and screenwriters. It’s pretty much impossible to make a movie from a book and have it be perfect. Whenever I watch a movie adaptation of a book I love, I go only with the standard of “does this make people want to read the book?” If it does, I consider it a successful adaptation.

I was introduced to the world of Hellboy through the 2004 Guillermo del Toro movie. After watching the movie I dove, head first, into the comics. Interestingly enough, there were very few things in common between the movie and the comics. An original fan of the comic books may have been justifiably upset with how little the movie had to do with the books. However, the movie was amazing at sparking an interest in the world and the comics were strong enough to stand on their own. The comics were amazing and I’ve read all of the original Hellboy books (though I need to catch up on BPRD and Hellboy in Hell) all thanks to the movie that was loosely based on the comics.

Similarly the 2011 movie "Priest" got me interested in the manga series it was based on. This time, the movie had even less to do with the original story of the manga. Had I been a reader of the series first, I may have been very angry at this movie. Instead, the movie was so interesting to me that I looked up the manga. Like the Hellboy comics, the Priest manga was brilliant on its own and I’ve read every book available at my library. This very poor movie adaptation led me to an amazing book series.

This is not to say that I haven’t been made angry by movie adaptations of books that I have loved. I nearly broke a projector in a literature class because I couldn’t stand more than a few minutes of the 2007 “Beowulf” movie. Beowulf is near and dear to my heart and it tore me up inside to see it so poorly represented. Yet, I was able to watch the 2005 adaptation, “Beowulf & Grendel” with no problem. Both movies strayed significantly from the original story, so why was one adaptation more palatable than the other? Personally I think it’s because the 2007 movie was just a bad movie overall. Even my friends who didn’t care as much about the book as I did said it was a bad movie. Meanwhile, though the 2005 adaptation is less well known, the overall acting, action, story, etc. make for a better movie.

Other times it’s understandable when a book is not able to be properly turned into a movie because the book is not easily translatable. The best, more recent, examples I can think of are the 2013 “World War Z” and the 2009 “Watchmen” movies. Theoretically, World War Z could have been adapted into a documentary, “District 9” kind of movie, but it would have been significantly easier to get everything wrong and even fewer people interested in watching it. Similarly, Watchmen had so many things going on in the comics that there was simply too much to be put into the movie and still have it make sense. So, as much as I could wish for the movies to have more of the books’ elements, they would have been less entertaining to the public and the public may have ended up less interested in reading the books.

Whenever a new movie adaptation of a book is introduced, it’s almost cliché to hear bibliophiles say “Ugh. The book was SO much better!” I think we need to change this. We should be encouraging people to read the books before or after the movie by instead saying “You liked the movie? Oh man, you should read the book!” Admittedly, this may mean loaning out our books more often than we like but it is a sacrifice that will increase love for the books.

At the same time, we have to start rating movie adaptations of our favorite books on their own. Forget the books when you go watch the movies and just go for the sake of seeing a good movie. It’s difficult, yes, but you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it and you won’t be as tempted to destroy expensive equipment or go on really long rants. Other times it’s best to just not watch the movie, like me and the 2004 movie “Troy.”


  1. Traditional problem of one medium to another: people base expectations on the first medium. It's very difficult to judge a work solely on its own merits when it's an endorsed derivative. That endorsement is simply (and incorrectly) seen as a guarantee of quality when that guarantee is never given.

  2. Agreed! Also, my daughter hates the Percy Jackson movie mostly because she knows it turned some of her friends off from reading the books.

  3. I agree, movies should be judged on their own merits, regardless of the source material. It can be a great movie without necessarily being a great adaptation.

    I'll admit, it does bug me when I can't figure out WHY certain things are changed (this is mostly in the movies that stick pretty closely to the book). Combining characters and taking out subplots are pretty common ways to condense a story for time, but sometimes changes can seem completely random, and as a fan of the book, that can be frustrating.

    But the question I always ask myself is, "Would someone who hasn't read the book enjoy this movie?"

  4. I love your philosophy about movies being an inspiration of further reading! Honestly, it was the only way I was able to get through the Lord of the Rings trilogy!! I had to know what happened next.

    I learned long ago that I need to view the movie as a separate entity. But, some of those most beloved books can be hard to separate, especially if the movie breaks too much from the book.

    1. I had the same problem with the Lord of the Rings books! I really had to struggle to read them and was only able to do so as the movies came out.

  5. I love this! I focus on the movie version as the movie and the book as a book. Two separate mediums of entertainment! I have hated one or two... but I space out the read and watch about a year so I can treat it "fresh"

  6. I like to read the book before seeing the movie even though I know I may be in for something completely different. The book in my case, doe snot always win as a fav. I recently went to see The DUFF and like d the movie way better than I liked the book.