How closely do you think movie-makers should keep to the original stories?

Discussion in 'Every Day Debating' started by S.J. Faerlind, Jan 26, 2014.

  1. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I think we've probably all read books that were turned into films which may not have resembled the original story very much. How do you feel about that? Is it more important to stick to the story or to modify it so it can be portrayed better on the screen? How much change is too much?
     
  2. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    Have you ever watched the film 'Stand by Me'?.. it's actually based on 'The Body', a novella by Stephen King.

    It's my favorite work by King.
    A very nice piece of American Gothic and just one of those delightful stories that you curl up with on a rainy night. The movie is even better. So it proves that it can be done... Rob Reiner directed that movie, and it's not like the guy's a raging talent but he nailed it. Perfect casting, stayed within the spirit of the original story, didn't go overboard, and kept it small and intimate.
     
  3. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    My view is that there are a few angles to this:

    1) Pure adaptation - this is where there is very little deviation from the written story and what deviations there are are often present only to overcome differences in the mediums (eg a film might have a character speak out their mind more than a book since the book would cover that with thoughts by the character). These can sometimes appear rather flat, faithful but flat. It's like reading Shakespeare in that part of the power of the production is lost if used outside of its original medium of delivery.

    2) Nearly pure but with a few twists - this might include bringing in a few new scenes to expand on characters or the story and might even incorporate bits of other works that attach to the original novel (eg it might include prequel information).
    This would be my preferred approach if given the choice; you've the story keeping to the original source material whilst at the same time you've needed adjustments to cover where the change in medium results in a need to change how something id presented to the audience.

    3) Sort of there whilst keeping the same "feel" of the book but with more significant changes. Lord of the Rings for an example. Master and Commander would also be a decent example. Golden Compass would be a good example of an utterly failed enterprise on this line.

    4) We read the blurb, the title and the character names and then did our own thing - sadly FAR too many do this. This is where when watching you really get the feeling that even the writer of the script was wanting to do their own story and only used the background of the source material to get an instant fanbase.
    It doesn't mean that the film is necessarily bad of course - How to Train your Dragon is a good example of a film that stands very strong on its own but is nothing like the source material - but it does mean that there is a significant divide in the mediums.

    My personal feeling is that most are ok so long as you avoid option 4. At option 4 I'm honestly of the opinion that you should throw out all the names and themes and simply let the writer and director make their own film and story. Because chances are it will be all the stronger for not slaving itself to themes from a source material that its not really using. It's sadly worrysome for backers of these mega-films to put up large amounts of money for what is an "untested" story though. They want that instant fanbase so that they know they will get that many bums on seats in the opening week or so of the films launch.

    I can make some allowance for option 4 when the film in question is clearly using a character or theme in the sense of folk-law style - eg the new I Frankenstein film which is openly honest that its just using a theme but is otherwise not trying to be the original in any form.
     
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  4. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    The movie 'Apocalypse Now' does this... based kinda sorta on Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', and as I recall some other similar works. Of course it hardly matters what fictional work any movie uses for inspiration these days as so few people even read for pleasure anymore.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Part of it though is that unless you were a fan before the film most people don't think to look for a book of a film. Plus most publishers quickly put a movie style cover on to trade paper back after a movie launch so often as not you see the book with the film style cover and you think "Oh its a book of the film" and thus pass on it as you assume you know the story having watched the film.

    It's also the lack of direct advertising/mention - you'll never see a film say at the end or the start "this is a great film - now go read the book". Likely only because the filming company has no financial interest in the books sales.
     
  6. Firiath

    Firiath Halfling barbarian

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    I usually don't mind when adaptations deviate from the original work. I think it worked fine in the LotR trilogy, as OR said, but in my opinion this didn't work at all in The Hobbit (at least in the second film), because the adaptation has lost so much of its 'feel', if you know what I mean. It just didn't feel right, but I also can't really explain why. :/


    I think the only time I've seen this is when watching Watchmen, because it's based on a graphic novel and for the most part the shots and camera angles were pretty much the same as in the graphic novel. Or can anyone else here find a few other examples?


    Like that Beowulf film with Christopher Lambert! :D
     
  7. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I did see "Stand By Me", but honestly, it was such a long time ago (25-30 years?) that I don't remember much about it. I have read a bit of Stephen King: "Carrie" , "It" , and "Firestarter" to name a few. I'm not much into the suspense and horror genres though so I never really stuck with reading his stuff. I remember seeing the movie for "Firestarter" and I think it was pretty close to the story in the book from what I remember of it.

    I have to agree. It's amazing how often I see books that were made into films have "movie covers" put on them so people can identify them more easily. It's almost to the point that any book without one doesn't seem "official", which is perfectly ridiculous of course. My son got a book about Tolkein's world of Middle Earth for Christmas a year ago and it had absolutely no images from the films in it. Everything was all detailed in beautiful fantasy artwork instead. You know you're a victim of marketing when you're looking at a gorgeous painting of Gandalf that doesn't look like Ian McKellen and you're thinking: "but that's not what Gandalf looks like". Scary! :p
     
  8. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    I just wish more fantasy books got glorious artwork in them. There are a huge number of outstanding fantasy artists out there I just can't see why publishers and authors have not reached out more to get more artwork into written books. Sadly even the front cover is oft not even chosen by the author so its a risky area - but it would be grand to see really high quality books on the shelf (esp now what I can get an e-book for less).
     
  9. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    This is actually something I've given a lot of thought to as well and a trend that I think we'll eventually see in the future. As popular as e-books are becoming, there is still a subsection of people that refuse to convert from reading print. Thus, there is still a place for cheap, mass market paperbacks. A publisher's problem is always economics. Adding artwork to a book is expensive:
    Consider a nice painting to begin each chapter in a 20-chapter novel, plus a cover painting, a map (if it’s a fantasy story) and maybe some nice artwork around the chapter headings or edges of the pages. If a cover runs around $200 USD (and I know for a fact that some artists charge a lot more than that for them), I’m guessing that kind of artwork for one book would cost at least 10 times that, and rightly so. Artists put a heck of a lot of time and effort into their work and they deserve to be compensated for it.
    A publisher would have to be very sure such a book would sell enough copies to make that investment back. Not only that, but it is more expensive to print works with interior colour. A clear consumer demand for these kinds of books has to exist in order for them to be produced and they certainly won’t be inexpensive to buy. Who is going to pay top-dollar for a print version of an unknown story? I wonder if in the future, the only books that will be seen in print are only the most popular ones and they’ll probably be “keepsake versions” that have sold millions of e-copies before they ever see ink put to paper. Honestly, though, I’m not convinced that this is a bad thing. :)
    The coming of e-readers/devices capable of showing colour images, video, and audio promises some pretty interesting e-books in the future too. I’m just not sure where these are going to fit in the grand scheme of things since the world already has pretty active film-making and gaming industries already. An e-book with glorious artwork, set to music, with an audiobook component is going to be pretty darn expensive to produce as well. Readers will decide how they feel about that, and if there’s a market for it, someone will provide it.
     
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  10. MattII

    MattII Member

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    If it's based on a book, I really prefer a movie to be pretty similar, or else, drop any pretences altogether. This works as much for the animated ones (Jungle Book and Watership Down) as for live-action ones (Starship Troopers and Lord of the Rings).
     
  11. Midnattblod

    Midnattblod Ranger of Shadow

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    Imo it depends on the book. some movie adaptations from books where they changed it drastically, to me, were ok (looking at you Bourne). though I think it also depends on whether you read the book first or saw the movie first.
     
  12. Arkonian Doyle

    Arkonian Doyle Escapist

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    It depends.
    I didn't like what they did to the hobbit AT ALL.

    ...who is Tauriel? She was never mentioned in the book (okay, that should have been just fine but for as far as I can see she didn't really make up for a useful character). She was just there, hitting on dwarveso_O
     
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  13. Richard Falken

    Richard Falken The Best Epic Literature Ever Written.

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    Because good artwork is expensive. And, at the risk of being the grumpy old guy of the thread, there are no illustrators as good as those of the good old days.

    The last statement is an exaggeration, but nowadays, even projects that toss a lot of money into artwork cannot easily recapture the feel of the golden age of black and white drawings.Much less publishers that are trying to take the books out on a budget of less than 4 000 USD.
     
  14. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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    Extremely close.I was bitching a lot about stuff changed in "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King". I just think the original author has a reason for putting something in a specific way and a director should try to keep it as close to the original as he can.
     
  15. Richard Falken

    Richard Falken The Best Epic Literature Ever Written.

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    Sometimes that is just hard to do. Some stories take more effort to port from a platform to another.

    For the record, it seems that the second film of The Maze Runner is getting very badly slammed by critics precisely ebcause it is not adhering to the source material.