Saturday, January 18, 2014

The book vs. the movie

One of the perks of being in Thailand was finally going to see several movies. Amongst these were two movies based on popular books, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.* The former, while a good movie in its own right, was a terrible adaptation of the book. The latter, was both a good movie, and an excellent adaptation. It got me thinking about making movies from books and how difficult it is to get the tone and story right.

The upcoming year brings us several adaptations of YA fiction. First up is Divergent based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. This is one of my favorite science fiction YA series. It also features a female action hero. Also, Kate Winslet, who is highly watchable in any movie (even Revolutionary Road, which was a terribly depressing movie). That being said, I think the movie looks terrible. The one scene that has been released makes it look like a mope-y Twilight rip-off, with the lead characters making googley-eyes at each other and finds a reason to get the male lead to strip off his shirt (an amazing feat in a less than two minute clip).

Here, you judge for yourself:

Even the thumbnail of the video is a picture of his bare back. I don't care if the scene was in the book (which, I don't think it was, but it has been a while since I read the first one), it comes off as contrived.

Let's get that bad taste out of our mouth.
The next in line is an adaptation of the amazing novel The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The movie doesn't have a trailer yet, but a poster was recently released, which caused quite a ruckus because of its tagline "One sick love story."
Image via (which redirects to their Facebook page)
I am trying to temper my hopes for this adaptation. I think it has the potential of being amazing, but I don't want to get too excited and have a letdown of Ender's Game proportion. Shailene Woodley, who also plays the main character in Divergent, is a great actress (if you haven't seen The Descendants you really should). The director is relatively unknown, which is sometimes a good thing because they're not set in their ways yet, but also bad because they feel like they have to prove themselves to the studio.

The third that I'll mention here is The Giver, which is being released in August. We've been waiting for an adaptation of the novel by Lois Lowry since it was released 21 years ago, but I never really thought this would be a film-able/watchable movie, so much of the book takes place inside the main character's head. If you haven't read it, I'm going to spoil a main plot point right now.

The book was life changing for me when I first read it. I very clearly remember the moment I realized they didn't have color in their world. Even now, thinking about it, I get chills. I'm not really sure how that will play out in the movie, will it be a Pleasantville-type situation where they're all black and white and then color starts appearing?  I have high hopes for the movie, because it features Jeff Bridges as the Giver. On the other hand, it also has Meryl Streep, who I really can't stand. Don't try and convince me she's great, I realize it's irrational for me to dislike her, she is such a great actress. I am interested in the movie, but I'm hesitant, because the book was such a touchstone during my adolescent turmoil.

I was going to finish by listing the other movies, but I found a Buzzfeed article that did it better.

*I also saw Frozen (good, although not necessary for it to be a musical), American Hustle (I felt decidedly meh about this movie, except for Jennifer Lawrence, who should play manic more often), and Captain Phillips (which I realize is based on a book, but doesn't really apply to my arguments in this post). 

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