Last night I ventured out into the wild (the mall) to see Catching Fire. For those of you who exist somewhere beyond the internet, Catching Fire is the sequel to the extremely popular Hunger Games book/movie, and the second part in a trilogy—or quartet, in the case of the movies. As far as movie adaptations go, Hunger Games may be my favorite of all time. The quality of translation was superb and, in my opinion, added so much more depth to the novel.
I had high expectations for Catching Fire going into the theatre, and I was not disappointed. Although the new director was lacking a little bit of the flair I’d loved in the first film, the entire journey was an experience, and I walked out feeling like the source material had been enriched.
It’s a big question nowadays, especially since so much of Hollywood’s material is now derivative. When a huge hit comes out in the publishing world, it’s pretty much understood that it will make it to the big screen. We have The Hobbit, Divergent, and even The Fault in Our Stars making the transition to the screen within the next year, and countless others. Even old books are being dredged up to be put in front of the camera: The Book Thief and Ender’s Game are two recent examples of this.
The ultimate question is: would you want your book to be made into a movie?
The obvious answer is yes, since clearly a feature film can only mean good things for a writer’s finances. There’s also the added bonus of having your book well-known and widely-distributed; the “major motion picture” sticker on books is a sure way to get people to read said books.
However, I’m not sure it’s always a good thing to have your work translated like this. There’s always the risk of your hours and hours of labor being turned into the Eragon movie, or the Percy Jackson movies. It’s an incredible gamble, leaving your babies in the hands of strangers and hoping that they are done justice.
Chances are, once a movie is made of your book, those actors and those sets are the prominent things readers will think of when going back to the source. I, personally, can’t reclaim my original view of Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars now that Shailene Woodley is cast. It’s nearly impossible for me to revert back to how I originally imagined the characters, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the writers who created these people.
There’s so much, really, that a movie cannot capture when it comes to literature. I’m not just talking Tristram Shandy un-filmable crap, but the very essence of a narrative. There’s a certain intimacy in reading that simply cannot exist in a film. It’s impossible to get truly inside a character’s head in a film, whereas in a book we can examine each and every personal motivation.
That said, there is something to be said for truly great movie adaptations. The key is, I think, not taking the book literally. Books and movies are, after all, two different mediums, and they should be treated as such. That’s why Hunger Games worked so well. The movie was able to take the concept of reality television and translate that in a way that the book simply couldn’t. The movie is an independent work.
I’m not sure what I’d want. When it comes down to it, I think it would be pretty awesome to see your world come to life in such a huge way.
What do you think? What’s your favorite book to movie adaptation?
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