RTW: That Would Make a Great Movie!
It’s Road Trip Wednesday time again, and this week, YA Highway wants to know:
…in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?
It’s true–at least in my experience–that some books just scream “film adaptation.” We might even imagine certain actors as characters in the book as we’re reading. I wonder if this is due, in part, to the fact that writers today can’t help but be influenced by film and television. Not that we steal storylines–nothing like that. But we tend to think cinematically. We picture our scenes as they might appear on TV or in the movie theater. I can just imagine the opening scene of DIVERGENT, where Tris’s mother is brushing Tris’s hair, playing out as the opening titles role. Similarly, I can see the opening scene for LEVIATHAN, Alek playing with his model soldiers, happening during the opening titles. (By the way, I think the LEVIATHAN series is just begging for a movie adaptation by Pixar–that would look awesome!) So in some ways, then, it could be that many modern novels are easily adaptable for movies because of the way they’re written. That’s not meant as a criticism, by the way. It’s just an observation based on our culture, and the way we (I include myself) think as we write.
Despite this, there is still a clear gulf between the novel and the movie. They are still very different media; and not all books translate well to the silver screen. So how is it some books seems to make better movies? In all honesty, I don’t think it’s the book itself that makes a good movie. I’ve seen poor movie adaptations of great books, and even a couple of movie versions that I thought surpassed the original novel. What I think matters is the director’s vision. Can s/he read the book and see a great story–even if the book’s not that compelling? What can s/he do with the plot on the page to make it cinematically riveting? Can s/he cast just the right people to play the main characters? Can s/he hire the best screenwriter for the job?
So, for me, it’s not how slavishly loyal to the original book the movie is, but whether the director can make a good movie out of the raw material presented to him by the author. The success, I think, of the Potter movies, is in the fact that the directors have been more concerned about making the movies work in their own right, maintaining fidelity to Rowling’s world, the overall plot, and the characters, but without feeling shackled to the books. I would suggest, then, that movie adaptations that haven’t worked are more the result of the director’s lack of vision. Either s/he felt obligated to include things from the book that really wouldn’t work on the screen; or s/he strayed too far from the author’s original concept, and the director’s concept turned out to be not nearly as good.
Okay, I’ve rambled enough. What do you think? Do you agree with me, or have a different perspective on the question? Feel free to comment below, or better still (well, maybe not better–I do like comments!–but alternatively) you can participate in the Road Trip. Check out the YA Highway blog for details on how to do that (if you have a blog, it’s really easy!).