Why I hate (even good) movies based on books
September 28, 2011 § 456 Comments
Yesterday I heard the news that the classic Roald Dahl book, The BFG (big, friendly giant) is being adapted for the big screen. Every time I hear about another one of my favorite books going to film I can’t help but cringe. I think of adaptations of books like Michael Crichton’s Timeline, which I had to turn off halfway through (something that I have only done a handful of times in my life); or Eragon, which was too terrible for words, cutting so many corners in the story that they ended up with a circle; and I live in constant fear that the Ender’s Game movie might someday happen.
That said, it actually looks like Dreamworks might be going about The BFG the right way, by hiring the writer who brought us E.T. and the producer of Indiana Jones. It’s clear they are trying to do the story justice, but to me, that’s beside the point. I love books and I love reading and I love encouraging kids to love books and reading. Every time another book-derived movie comes out it feels like it is condemning the book to obscurity. Too many times I’ve asked someone if they’ve read Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings and they say, “No, but I’ve seen the movies.” Why can’t people who want to experience these worlds sit down for a few hours and read? We bemoan the decline of reading among kids, yet are we too eager to abridge and dilute our stories, characters, and worlds so that kids don’t have to read them? The coveted “movie deal” is held up as the ultimate authorial achievement.
I understand that publishing is a business like any other, and I know that many books’ sales are boosted by being optioned for a movie, but it kills me that when there is a cultural phenomenon like Harry Potter, rather than encouraging kids who are curious about all the fuss to sit down with a book, we spoon feed them the story through the silver screen (and all too often only after forcing it through a funnel). And we seem to do this to all the movies that get big enough to really draw kids into reading.
Am I just blowing off steam here? Is this a problem? Or do you think that movie adaptations drive more people to the books?