As an avid book reader, I’ve always enjoyed going to see movies based off of my favorite novels. It’s bit of a gamble though. On the one hand, I’ll enjoy the movie and accept the inevitable changes that had to happen. On the other, the movie will make absolutely no sense and I sit in the theater clenching my fist.
I’ve experienced the latter more than I’d like to admit. Still though, many book readers like me take the risk to go out and see the long anticipated film adaption. In the producer’s eyes, they have a guaranteed audience versus the new original screenplay that is on their desk, which is always going to benefit them at the box-office. However, filmmakers are placed with the very precious task of appealing to the loyal fans and introducing a whole new audience to a growing franchise. This is daunting but when done correctly can lead to whole new avenues of production and propel both the production team and cast into the future.
The first successful adaption that comes to mind is the Harry Potter film series. The eight-part film series made billions of dollars at the box office all together. It brought together a worldwide audience of readers and nonreaders alike. Lord of the Rings achieved a similar volume of fame as well. They also managed to earn quite a few Academy Awards on top of it. With a book series as detailed as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s very easy to confuse the audience who has never read the series. Although I’ve read the Harry Potter series many times, I’ve never had the patience or the strength the read through Lord of the Rings. That being said, the movies were clear enough for me to understand and enjoy. The same could be said for many other audience members.
Personally, I don’t expect filmmakers to put every single detail in the films but I do hope that they keep the spirit of the story alive. That was the case for Harry Potter. Obviously there were events that had to be left out due to time constraints and how certain aspects of the book wouldn’t have translated well on a cinematic scale, but the characters and the plot were true to the source material. However, that’s not the case for most adaptions.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan is a highly acclaimed book series about a young boy who discovers that he’s a demigod and the son of Poseidon. The two films the studio was able to put out made a considerable amount of money at the box office, but its response was met with mixed criticism. I initially saw the movie first and thought it was entertaining. Then I read the book series and I understood why the films didn’t measure up. The filmmakers worked so hard to try not to be compared to Harry Potter that it happened anyway. It baffles me even more that the filmmakers completely left out the main villain of the series at the end of the first film. I think even to the audience members who never read the books, the films weren’t quite as strong as they could’ve been.
Failure for adaptions could even be attributed to not appealing to a wider audience like filmmakers hoped it would. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was a film based on the novel series by Cassandra Clare. In the series, a teen discovers a world of warriors called Shadowhunters destined to defend the world from demons. Domestically The Mortal Instruments only earned 31 million dollars with a budget of 60 million dollars from the production company, they ended up losing money on it. The books themselves have a strong following, but it wasn’t enough to convince the studio to continue on the series. The mixed reception of the film from fans and new-audiences certainly didn’t help its case.
Regardless of the public perception of these adaptions, movie studios still produce books to films. Nicholas Sparks and John Green are some famous examples of authors who have books made into films on a consistent basis. Sparks has eleven films based on his books (ranging from The Notebook, The Last Song and The Lucky One) that made it to theaters. No matter what the opinion is on the romantic flicks, any film with the Sparks name on it will draw in a crowd. While Green only has two books that made it to film and one currently optioned, there is an audience out there waiting for more just like with Sparks. Even with authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, their names automatically grant the film notoriety.
All the same, I will still take the risk to go see the films based on the books that I love. If anything, I’m curious to see how filmmakers brought the story to a visual medium. But a small part of me has confidence that book to movie adaptions will further improve as time go