The movie as a film consumed by a general audience
The movie as a 1:1 recreation of the book, which is the measure some pedantic fans of the book will judge it by
You can probably infer my opinion on movies ‘ruining’ a book from that. Too often that claim is laid without any consideration for how different media convey things. I love Lord of the Rings as both a book and a movie, but lets face it. Tom Bombadil and Ghan Buri Ghan would have been terrible inclusions in the film. Books can thrive on the type of internal monologue, linguistic lore discussions, and extended descriptory passages that would be death to a movie. And a good book may be crap at telling action, I submit the fight in Balin’s tomb as proof.
Movies don’t ruin books, judge each on their own merits. Did Apocalypse Now ruin Heart of Darkness despite the massive shift in both the setting and story? Absolutely not, it in fact, was a better way to convey the core of the book for a modern audience.
TL;DR I hate when people say a movie ruined a book because they changed something. It is a stupid argument that far too many people make without thinking.
@CraigM and @BrianRubin: the question is phrased poorly, but it is the one you hear the most often. Hollywood isn’t setting fire to the books. “This book deserved better treatment than it got” is more perhaps a more accurate sentiment, but then…
A meh book can make a great movie (Godfather). A great book can make a meh movie (Dune). A great book can make a great movie (Wizard of Oz). A book nobody reads can make a movie everybody sees (Vertigo). All permutations are possible. In the end, both texts survive and we keep what’s worth keeping.
I feel that when adaptations strive to hew slavishly to the source material, it’s usually to their detriment.
It’s weird, too, how reading a book can change your view of a film if you’ve already seen it. For example, I saw the movie 2010 before reading the book, which is SUPER DIFFERENT in a lot of ways…and now I don’t care so much for the film…
Yeah, there have been a few cases of movies improving on books, mainly by streamlining them to their essentials like Jaws and The Godfather. And while I’m a big fan of James Ellroy’s crime novels, I think the movie version of L.A. Confidential is better than the book.
I like this forumulation: (Beware, controversial opinions ahead)
Meh book, great movie - Fight Club (I used to love Pahlahniuk. But he’s kind of a one-trick pony.)
Great book, meh movie - Annihilation
Meh book, meh movie - Under the Skin
Great book, great movie - The Shawshank Redemption
The data (flawed though it may be*) doesn’t show any sort of trend in regards to the thesis. I’ve certainly seen movies that I thought were terrible adapations**, and vice versa***.
*Metacritic Vs Goodreads normalized is pretty lousy. Critics vs general public is not a good basis. I’d prefer to see a plot based on either critics or the public. Maybe it would move the needle?
**I had finally gotten around to reading Starship Troopers, right before the movie came out. I thought the movie was hot garbage on first watch. Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to view movies as stand alone works. If you ignore the fact that the book exists, the Starship Troopers movie is… watchable?
***I have tried, 3 times now, to read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The best I’ve done is getting maybe 2/3 through Fellowship. I’ve watched the movies several times. The same applies to the Game of Thones. Does GRRM even have an editor?
I don’t insist that an adaptation exactly parallel the source material - some stuff just doesn’t translate, and I enjoy seeing alternate takes on a story as long as they understand the source material and the changes they make have a purpose. I think that’s a standard that’s too frequently not met, though.
Harry Potter isn’t an example of Hollywood not ruining a book. Sure the movies were good quality interpretations of the books, but the movies brought a mass market audience to the series, which ended up ruining the series ending, both book and movie. Up until the end, the book series was lining up to be a mature take on growing into adulthood in a world that is a best utterly indifferent to each of us. But the wide audience of suburban conservative popcorn eaters couldn’t handle it, so we ended up with Harry sacrificing nothing, Hermione, who could have been President, instead turning into a domestic housewife, and the world going back to GHG-emitting regularly scheduled programming.
It is also famously basically two books that are interleaved together to make Heinlen’s political stance. The entire ‘service is citizenship’ part of the book is entirely scuppered into a few choice lines. What was a merging of military sci fi as a means of portraying why investing the franchise into those willing to sacrifice for society was a better ideal than universal sufferage is instead a satire of the proto authoritarian tones of the novel itself.
Now let me say I think Heinlin is fascinating and have read most of his major works, and do not regret for one minute. I also think that you can not make a straight adaptation to film because, well, they are so politically personal that a straight adaptation would feel either incomplete or a polemic. Kinda like Atlas Shrugged is either going to have to take an editorial stand for, or against, the source material. Trying to reserve judgment would make an incomprehensible and turgid mess.