Kernels of Nonsense, #16: Movie Adaptations

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bi-monthly feature where I discuss various bookish topics. Today I will be delving into movie adaptations. These are my personal opinions, so please don’t take it too personally if I insult a movie version you love.

I’m not sure when it started, but somewhere along the line books became more important to me than movies or T.V. series. If I only had one form of entertainment at my disposal, books would be my medium of choice.

What I look for in a good movie adaptation is a faithful rendering of a book’s atmosphere and accurate characterization. Many movies based on books try to do too much and often much of what it is trying to adopt is introduced frivolously, which often confuses an audience not familiar with the novel. I do understand that movies are much more limited in time than books, so I never expect a 4+ hour movie with dialogue lifted right off the pages. I do, however, expect to feel something similar as I jump from one medium to another.

While many of these adaptations will persuade some to read the book, some may be turned off because of how the text is mishandled. This is tragic. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures was a book I really enjoyed (I ended-up giving it four-stars on Goodreads) with a Gothic setting and interesting characters. The movie, which came out in 2013, was simply terrible. Neither lead quite captured the protagonists from the book and the villain turned out to be a mother jealous that her daughter was young and beautiful (I don’t remember this in the novel and it really bothered me when I watched the movie).

There are some movie adaptations, though less than I would like, that I’ve actually loved. The Princess Bride, Anne of Green Gables, The Outsiders, and To Kill a Mockingbird are all wonderful in their own right and great books too. I’ve also enjoyed The Hunger Games adaptations (minus how much they push the romance). I’m not a big fan of Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, or Inkheart (they really butchered this wonderful book) .

Perhaps my expectations are too high, perhaps I place too much on the greatness of novels that I’ve held the films to a higher standard than if it was simply a movie. But I also feel that something is off in the storytelling with these films. Perhaps it is movie studios too eager to make a buck who are at fault: more inclined to produce the movie now than telling an intriguing story. A movie should be great on its own and it just seems that many of these film adaptations are relying on the prestige and popularity of the novel.

So now I have this set of books in my mind and every time I think about movie adaptations of them my stomach drops. The words “Don’t touch my baby!” come to mind. The misrepresentation of beloved characters and minimization of great storytelling terrifies me.

Once again, maybe I am being too hard. Maybe I need to learn to understand that books and movies are different mediums, and that some things that can be done in one cannot be done in the other. Thinking this only helps a little.

A few books I experience trepidation over when thinking of a film adaptation include: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys (not Gansey, don’t think you can capture the wonderful Gansey on film, let alone the tortured Ronan, the sassy Blue, the vulnerable Adam, and the smudgy Noah) and Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go (how could one possible capture the NOISE on film without it being overwhelming?). I know the latter book’s movie rights have been sold and there was talk of a new screenwriter a few months ago, but it sounds like it keeps getting put off and I won’t lie, I’m glad to hear it.

What are your thoughts on movie adaptations? What are your favorite adaptations? Least favorite? Are there any books you feel so protective of, you hope they never make them into movies? Let me know in the comments.

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21 thoughts on “Kernels of Nonsense, #16: Movie Adaptations

  1. For the most part I agree with you, except on Beautiful Creatures. To start, I didn’t really care for the book all that much to begin with, but I think I actually liked the movie just a bit more. Although I would agree the two leads didn’t live up to the characters. I did like that they combined Amma/ Marian though for Viola Davis. Although, the move surprised me, I liked that they got big names for the adult characters. 😀

    I was really looking forward to City of Bones, but they royally screwed it up. I couldn’t watch Bower onscreen and say “that’s Jace” – not just the look, but also the act. Alec’s character really got the short end of the stick, and the actor playing Magnus (one of my favorite characters in the series) just seemed far too wooden and flat. Aidan Turner was alright as Luke (although it was odd to see an actor about the same age as some of the “teens” playing one of the adults. The only character I think they hit spot on was Simon with Robert Sheehan.

    Another movie adaptation that I was really looking forward to was Gone Girl which was a fantastic adaptation. Even though some things were modified for the movie, it absolutely worked. I think I’ll be disappointed if Rosamund Pike doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar!

    I’ve also seen Ender’s Game recently. I think they did a fairly decent job overall, but it just felt far too rushed for the ending to have anywhere near as much of an emotional punch as the book did. Asa Butterfield is definitely an actor I’ll be keeping my eyes on.

    Before my comment becomes it’s own post, I believe I stop now, but you get the idea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually think they feel the need to get big names in order to add validity to the project, but then again, maybe I’m just too cynical. As for The Mortal Instruments, I agree, I didn’t think Jamie Campbell Bower captured the infuriating charm of Jace. I do agree with you on Robert Sheehan though. I haven’t read or seen Gone Girl yet, but I do plan on both. Ender’s Game was pretty good too. And the length of your reply gives me great joy, I love discussing all this stuff 🙂

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      • That’s probably the case – to validate the project. II actually saw City of Bones with a friend who was unfamiliar with the story and he walked out of the theater kind of confused. If they do go for the tv show version of the series – I hope they do keep Sheehan around. 🙂
        I liked the Divergent film well enough, but as my friend said at points it felt like it was piggy-backing on The Hunger Games.

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  2. I too did not like the movie version of City of Bones. I’ve not seen or read the others to comment on them. I think I go into the movie knowing it won’t be like the book and manage to keep the two separate.

    Do you find that you have to read the book before you will watch the movie? I do with some series, others not so much. I guess it depends on how much the series interests me.

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    • I try to approach movies and books differently, but I can’t separate the two completely when the films are based on books I really enjoyed. There are some movies based on books I will watch for no other reason than being curious, but I don’t necessarily have to read the books first. However, if I do watch a movie first, I have to enjoy it in order for me to pick up the book.

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      • I went to watch Mockingjay Part 1 yesterday (LOVED IT) and I think I realized part of why it doesn’t bother me too much – I forget the details of the book. I always come away after watching a movie based on a book I enjoyed wondering how much of the details were accurate and wanting to reread the book. Which I guess that’s a good thing for the author.

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  3. I saw The Hunger Games with people who hadn’t read the books, and they found it confusing, and I could see why. I felt certain parts weren’t handled all that well in terms of world building. I really enjoyed The Mortal Instruments too! It was very different than I was expecting, but I enjoyed it and wished they had have continued with it! If they ever TOUCH Throne of Glass there’ll be hell to pay if they get it wrong! Lol R x

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  4. I have mixed feelings about the Anne of Green Gables adaptations. I absolutely adore the first two but the 3rd is a travesty. Seriously, I go on a rant just thinking about it. Anne almost cheats on Gilbert and vice versa! Not to mention that it has Anne and Gilbert in World War 1 which is so completely wrong. I think the main thing for me is that the spirit of the book is appreciated. If the spirit of the book is kept even if details are changed than I’m okay with it (like the first 2 Annes or Harry Potter). I always get nervous though when I hear a book I love is getting turned into a movie! Great topic!

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  5. I used to only like movies that were accurate, but since they are so rare I’ve learned to enjoy the movie as a separate entity. I actually usually see the movie first. *hides*

    I thought the Divergent and Inkheart were okay, but I haven’t read Inkheart. I liked Princess Bride and Hunger Games. Mortal Instruments was pretty bad. My sister who hadn’t read the books was totally confused.

    Stardust is one of the few movies that is just as good as the book even though it’s quite different. I didn’t really like the movie Jumper, but it was better than the book.

    I was really excited that they were making a Good Omens movie, but it never happened. They’d probably ruin it like they did the Color of Magic mini series anyway.

    Fun topic!

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    • No need to hide. Everyone approaches books and adaptations differently. Inkheart is fantastic, truly a book for the bookworm. I think the main reason The Princess Bride was so good was because the author also wrote the screenplay. I haven’t read Stardust, but I adore the movie.

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  6. I feel the same – “Don’t touch my baby!” – for a lot of books these days. I’m extremely concerned, for example, about Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
    I used to be so excited if a book I enjoyed was adapted for film. I was fairly disappointed by both Beautiful Creatures and City of Bones. At times, I was confused as to what was going on.
    I have to admit though, that I can be one of those people that will dislike a movie simply because it happened differently to the book. I swear, I’m trying not to be!
    I’m still confused about my feelings toward the Divergent movie. On the one hand, I got the exact same feeling after watching the movie as I did after reading the book. On the other, I wasn’t convinced about the new direction of the plot and the characters seemed boring at times.
    I recently watched The Princess Bride for the first time and loved it. I will have to read the book now!
    Loved reading this post 🙂

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    • I know what you mean! I try to regard them differently, but my heart screams betrayal! I was always happy to hear about adaptations but I’ve been burned too many times. Obviously I might take it too personally, but I consider books to be very personal. I am terrified by the 5th Wave movie which they are currently filming. I may need a support group to get through it. I actually think I like The Princess Bride movie more than the book.

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  7. Pingback: January ’15: Monthly Wrap-Up | A Kernel of Nonsense

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