Friday, November 5, 2010

Books to Movies: The eternal struggle

In preparation for the release of Part I of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” I have been watching a lot of Harry Potter with a lot of different people who want to see the last one but never seen or read any before it. While watching with these various groups, something interesting was said.

While watching the sixth one, I was asked about an event and I said “I don’t know, that didn’t happen in the book,” to which the person I was watching with replied, “Then why did they put it in the movie?” And I realized this was something I’d never really given it much thought. But I have an answer and it’s quite simple: You will never see a perfect book adaptation.

I am always hesitant when Hollywood gets its hand on a book I’ve come to enjoy, but that’s because 9 times out of 10, they are entirely disappointing. Why can’t Hollywood just get it right? I mean, it’s right there in print – just put it on the screen and make us all happy.

I go back to Harry Potter to illustrate my point and I apologize to those of you unfamiliar with them. In the sixth movie there is a scene where a rather important location is destroyed that doesn’t occur in the book. This was the scene that prompted the question for the column. The only reason I can figure out for this happening is that there are a lot of readings in the sixth book about the destruction going on in the wizarding world outside Hogwarts and the muggle world – but you can’t exactly read newspaper articles on film and have a stimulating experience, can you?

This is where adaptations fall short. Most novels contain some sort of internal monologue that is essential to the plot. When you must transfer this monologue to film, it has to be turned into dynamic scenes in order to be decent cinema. The same goes for important internal realizations made by characters – they just don’t transfer! And when a filmmaker tries you wind up with a cheesy tricks that make a movie bad very quickly.

It almost takes a bit of magic to make a good adaptation of a movie (please note that “good” is a relative term that here means “above decent”). It’s possible because movies like “Holes” exist. But they are rare. Just a thought the next time you watch a movie based on your favorite book. Keep it in mind.

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