We’ve all been there, ready to throw our popcorn at the screen and walk out of the movie theater in disgust at another film adaptation gone wrong. From Percy Jackson to Artemis Fowl, there’s plenty of box office busts that failed to live up to their written counterparts.
But just why is it so hard to translate books to the big screen? Here are your answers.
It’s not all in your head … or is it? See, if a book is done right, the words can transcend the page and send you tumbling into a world of your own design. With your imagination, you can tailor the scenes and characters to your liking and create a very personal reflection of the book you are reading. When you go to theaters and inevitably see the story portrayed differently than how you imagined, it can be disappointing to say the least.
Let’s face it, your favorite 800-page fantasy novel simply can’t be condensed into a two-hour movie without losing some important plot points along the way. The average length of a feature film makes it impossible to depict the book down to the very last detail. So, when key moments are left out it can be frustrating, but this is the nature of the movie adaptation.
One of the most unique parts about books is the ability to see exactly what a character is thinking in the moment. Unfortunately, with most movies this aspect is difficult to achieve. Unless there is a voiceover or written exposition, a character’s thoughts must be shown by the things they say and the things they do. Ultimately, this means the viewer has less knowledge of what is going on in the character’s mind and may feel less connected to the subject and their motives.
When you hold a book in your hand and feel the pages brush your fingertips, you develop a physical connection with the story. Reading is inherently an active experience while watching a movie is largely passive. At a movie theatre, you are distant from the screen. Your actions and movements have no effect on the content. For instance, you cannot control the speed or pace of the movie, whereas you can read a book at your own pace. On some level, this means you have less connection to the story and this can result in a feeling of detachment from the material.
Moviemakers face a bit of a paradox when it comes to adaptations. If a movie strays too far from the source material, loyal fans will get angry. At the same time, if a movie follows the book to a tee, it can be somewhat boring for those who already know the whole story. In this way, a movie must maintain the difficult task of being faithful to the book while also being inventive in how it translates scenes to the screen. Even if done well, it is impossible to please everyone and at least some faction of dedicated readers will be up in arms.
As is the inherent nature of adaptations, movies face the tough trial of being measured against the original source material. Limited runtime and special effects only add to the challenges with taking a book to the box office. It’s not to say that adaptations can’t be successful, but getting there is a rocky road.
If you liked this article, check out this one: ‘Why I Always Read a Book Before Its Movie Adaption’