Arts, Movies, Column

‘Harry Potter’ To ‘Hunger Games’: The Shortfalls Of Book-To-Movie Adaptations

For fans of the book, popular film adaptations can prove an unsatisfying endeavor.

With the impending release of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1, this on-screen phenomenon will once again shoot its way into fans’ hearts, bringing another beloved novel to life. Such popularized novel-turned-movies continue to dominate the film scene. Titles such as The Maze Runner and Divergent are the most recent, but we have seen crazed hype in the past with fans who label themselves as “Twi-Hards” and “Potter-Heads” in concurrence to Twilight and Harry Potter, respectively. Such highly anticipated movies have made quite the dent in the box office over the years. People line up outside of theaters, shiver in the cold, and camp out overnight—ultimately to show their love and loyalty for the movies. They are making a stand as die-hard fans.

With these huge, worldwide fan bases that migrate from a love for the novel to a love for the movie, to what can we attribute such actions? It truly does stem from an engaging, gripping story written by an author who had a vision. While the movie does let one’s imagination come to life, the novel builds an ongoing relationship with the characters—the kind of empathy that cannot be created from just a few hours of moving pictures. This is not to say that these novel-based movies are not well made. Many times, the portrayal of a scene, character, or make-believe land is utterly stunning, and such motion picture creation deserves recognition. There should be an understanding of from where the core of the story comes, though. One must remember the original story and source before glorifying, say, the celebrities who play characters—it is important for fans to stay true to the book that started it all.

While I do understand that creating a movie and creating a novel are separate things, a close relationship between the author and director is necessary. Input from the author is important on decisions such as casting, scene selection, and ultimately, the overall take on the movie. I believe that the success of the Harry Potter series can be attributed to the author’s involvement, with J.K. Rowling taking an active role in the movie-making process. She made decisions based off of what she imagined and saw in her head in creating this land from scratch. This being said, no matter how intently another might read the book, there are aspects and details that can only be seen by the writer.

While I admit to being a member of the “books are always better than the movies” camp, that does not mean that I do not also enjoy the movies based off the novels. They are in many ways engaging, exciting, and usually worth the $10 to watch them in theaters. Emphasizing the separation of my own ideas about a novel with the directors’ ideas that I see on screen is important. My own exact ideas and imagination for a novel can never be truly brought to life exactly as I see it. What I see in my head is my own individual take—something that is truly specific to me. I gain a power from reading books that cannot be produced by anything else. This power lies in the words and precise connection that everyone makes, but in different ways. Although I am as excited as any other person to see the third Hunger Games film, appreciating the books and the writer should come first—we should come to terms with the idea that the novel has something that a movie will not ever seem to grasp.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration

November 17, 2014

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