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Old 07-05-2018, 07:35 AM   #1
pwalker8
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Movies versus Books

Just watched "Ready, Player One". I enjoyed the movie, but it very, very different than the book. That got me thinking about all the different movies that have been made from books, how different they were, were the differences necessary and did they work. Looking at some of the better known film adaptions that worked.

I watched the Gregory Peck version of Moby Dick last week. That was fairly close to the basic plot line of the book, with differences basically being because of the change of media.

The Harry Potter series had some bigger changes, but at least stayed within shouting distance of the book plots. The biggest changes were removing certain characters and plot lines that turned out to be important in the books. Personally, I thought this caused issues in later movies and removed one of the most interesting and powerful under stories of the Harry Potter books, i.e. why Snape did what he did.

The LOTR series had even bigger changes, but the basic story line was still there. The Hobbit on the other hand was massively different with whole new story lines added. Personally I think that at least some of the changes to the LOTR series where unnecessary and took away from certain aspects of the books, especially in the Return of the King.

The Bond series is famous for only keeping the name of the title character and name of the book. This is one where I think the movies were better than the books.

What say you? What movie/book combos can you think of, were the changes needed, and where they for the better or worse?
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Old 07-05-2018, 09:14 AM   #2
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The interesting one I can think of is Bladerunner / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? where the film is aesthetically very different to the book, the story doesn't have a whole lot in common, but the most important theme - what does it mean to be human? - is still there and handled well.
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Old 07-05-2018, 10:20 AM   #3
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It is important to understand that the target audience for movies and books is different. Reading is quite different from movie watching -- where one needs to create all visuals in their head while reading, it is less creative while watching.

Harry Potter was mentioned, which I believe to be a bad movie series by itself. Without being knowledgable about the books or having read them the movies make little sense at times. It has the feel of trying to cash in on the same audience again that already read the books. Harry Potter tries to be exactly like the books, IMO.

LOTR was a tall order to begin with - there is no way to do the book justice, especially with the author long dead and gone. And then again, it allowed Peter Jackson to be as creative with changes as necessary. One step further and The Hobbit is not even trying to be a "copy" of the book, but losely based on it. Stand alone those 6 movies work great as movies. It is a bit unfair that LOTR got bashed by changing too much from the book.

I enjoyed Ready Player One very much as book for what it is - a homage to old style video games. The movie? I was hoping for a closer to the book adaption. Something more like the movie Pixels. I have based this merely on reviews so far -- as I understand it is an enjoyable movie, which I am waiting to go down in price before buying. If I want to relive the book, I just read the book again, which doesn't cost me any additional money.

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Old 07-05-2018, 10:23 AM   #4
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I was hesitant to watch Ready, Player One because I enjoyed the book so much. (really I was surprised at that too). The movie was decent, and would have been great if I had never read the book.

I want to give movies the benefit of being a different medium, but I almost always miss something from the book. It's like looking through the world with foggy glasses, or an expressionist paintings. There are just good details left out.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:15 PM   #5
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What movie/book combos can you think of, were the changes needed, and where they for the better or worse?
I like to look at The Shining where Kubrick took only the bare bones of King's story. You could watch the movie and read the book and have two very different experiences. I don't feel that either form of the story is clearly superior. They are both powerful works in their own way.

(There is the TV miniseries version of The Shining that is much closer to King's book and it was something of a failure, but I blame that on the director. Mick Garris has a long history of adapting King's works and none of his adaptations are really spectacular.)

Over the years I've come to believe that a movie adaptation of a book shouldn't try to slavishly follow the source. Jaws, Dune and Bladerunner all deviate from their source, but all work as movies (to me).

There is a limit to how far you can split, but I'm not sure where that line is. The Will Smith I, Robot was an okay movie, but it felt like a slap in the face to Asimov. I'm not really sure why they kept the Asimov connection. Making it wholly original probably would have helped the movie. It's not like there's been blockbuster Asimov adaptations.

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Old 07-05-2018, 12:27 PM   #6
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LOTR was a tall order to begin with - there is no way to do the book justice, especially with the author long dead and gone. And then again, it allowed Peter Jackson to be as creative with changes as necessary. One step further and The Hobbit is not even trying to be a "copy" of the book, but losely based on it. Stand alone those 6 movies work great as movies. It is a bit unfair that LOTR got bashed by changing too much from the book.
I disagree with The Hobbit working as three great movies.

I had no problem with changes to LOTR. But The Hobbit felt like a victim of LOTR's success.

Jackson had trouble for years getting approval for LOTR. At the time, multi-part movies were a rarity and a risky gamble. Producers kept pressuring him to try to whittle the story down to a single movie.

By the time The Hobbit went on to production, the landscape had changed and I believe there was pressure to expand The Hobbit into a trilogy.

That book should have been a single movie, or maybe two short movies. To expand the book to a trilogy they had to add so much extraneous stuff that you wouldn't be blamed for forgetting who Bilbo was.

The Hobbit is a childhood favorite and I was a Peter Jackson fan well before LOTR. Those first three movies were amazing. But I've never managed to get through all three Hobbit movies.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:41 PM   #7
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It is important to understand that the target audience for movies and books is different. Reading is quite different from movie watching -- where one needs to create all visuals in their head while reading, it is less creative while watching.

Harry Potter was mentioned, which I believe to be a bad movie series by itself. Without being knowledgable about the books or having read them the movies make little sense at times. It has the feel of trying to cash in on the same audience again that already read the books. Harry Potter tries to be exactly like the books, IMO.

LOTR was a tall order to begin with - there is no way to do the book justice, especially with the author long dead and gone. And then again, it allowed Peter Jackson to be as creative with changes as necessary. One step further and The Hobbit is not even trying to be a "copy" of the book, but losely based on it. Stand alone those 6 movies work great as movies. It is a bit unfair that LOTR got bashed by changing too much from the book.

I enjoyed Ready Player One very much as book for what it is - a homage to old style video games. The movie? I was hoping for a closer to the book adaption. Something more like the movie Pixels. I have based this merely on reviews so far -- as I understand it is an enjoyable movie, which I am waiting to go down in price before buying. If I want to relive the book, I just read the book again, which doesn't cost me any additional money.
I think that some of the knock on LOTR isn't that they changed too much, but some of the changes were not necessary and took away. The whole battle of Gondor, with the charge of the Gondor army against dug in orcs, rather and a holding action against an overwhelming host and the army of ghosts sweeping the fields wasn't needed and took away from the idea of the valor of the Gondor people. The major changes to the Faramir character, from someone who wants nothing to do with the Ring to someone who is barely able to resist the Ring is something else that gives some Tolkien fans heartburn.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:44 PM   #8
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I disagree with The Hobbit working as three great movies.

I had no problem with changes to LOTR. But The Hobbit felt like a victim of LOTR's success.

Jackson had trouble for years getting approval for LOTR. At the time, multi-part movies were a rarity and a risky gamble. Producers kept pressuring him to try to whittle the story down to a single movie.

By the time The Hobbit went on to production, the landscape had changed and I believe there was pressure to expand The Hobbit into a trilogy.

That book should have been a single movie, or maybe two short movies. To expand the book to a trilogy they had to add so much extraneous stuff that you wouldn't be blamed for forgetting who Bilbo was.

The Hobbit is a childhood favorite and I was a Peter Jackson fan well before LOTR. Those first three movies were amazing. But I've never managed to get through all three Hobbit movies.
I found the Hobbit movies enjoyable, but they really had very little to do with the book, which was more of a children's book and very light hearted. I agree that they likely expanded it out just for the money potential.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:52 PM   #9
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I like to look at The Shining where Kubrick took only the bare bones of King's story. You could watch the movie and read the book and have two very different experiences. I don't feel that either form of the story is clearly superior. They are both powerful works in their own way.

(There is the TV miniseries version of The Shining that is much closer to King's book and it was something of a failure, but I blame that on the director. Mick Garris has a long history of adapting King's works and none of his adaptations are really spectacular.)

Over the years I've come to believe that a movie adaptation of a book shouldn't try to slavishly follow the source. Jaws, Dune and Bladerunner all deviate from their source, but all work as movies (to me).

There is a limit to how far you can split, but I'm not sure where that line is. The Will Smith I, Robot was an okay movie, but it felt like a slap in the face to Asimov. I'm not really sure why they kept the Asimov connection. Making it wholly original probably would have helped the movie. It's not like there's been blockbuster Asimov adaptations.
I never really thought that much about the changes to Jaws, probably because I saw the movie before I read the book. Same with Bladerunner, I liked the original movie a lot more than the book. Didn't care much for the movie version of Dune.

For the most part, I don't think that Asimov's material works well in the movies. There are a whole slew of movies where the best way to put it is "suggested by ...." rather than "from ..."
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Old 07-05-2018, 01:08 PM   #10
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The major changes to the Faramir character, from someone who wants nothing to do with the Ring to someone who is barely able to resist the Ring is something else that gives some Tolkien fans heartburn.
This was the one change above all the others that drove me crazy. I could even understand merging Arwen and Glorfindel - at least I understood why. But the changes to Faramir made me mad.


I decided a while back that I'm rarely if ever disappointed if I watch a movie and then read the book. The book just builds on the story and I enjoy both experiences. But going in the opposite direction is rarely satisfying.
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Old 07-05-2018, 02:03 PM   #11
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There are problems when you translate a book into a movie. For example every page of script = 1 minute of screen time so if you tried to put everything in say "Gone With The Wind" the book into a movie version you would have a very long movie. Also a large part of books is description which you don't need to give in a movie since you see it.

I think the reason that "I Robot" the movie didn't do better is that the book is actually a series of short stories rather than a continual storyline. Will Smith's character was an original idea that was supposed to tie things together but was a bit thin. The character of Viki was based on an element of one of the later stories near the end of the book and was a bit of a gimmick. One character (played by James Cromwell) died in the movie but didn't in the book. It was a fun movie in its way but didn't really gel properly I don't think. Maybe if they had based the movie on Dr. Calvin's experiences over time, aging the character from a young woman, through middle age, and then to old age along the way it would have worked better.
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Old 07-05-2018, 02:11 PM   #12
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I never really thought that much about the changes to Jaws, probably because I saw the movie before I read the book. Same with Bladerunner, I liked the original movie a lot more than the book. Didn't care much for the movie version of Dune.
You aren't alone in your feelings towards Dune. There's a reason I followed that one up with 'to me'

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For the most part, I don't think that Asimov's material works well in the movies. There are a whole slew of movies where the best way to put it is "suggested by ...." rather than "from ..."
The best Asimov film adaptation I've seen is Bicentennial Man. That's another divisive movie, but I felt like it captured the feel of his stories (or at least didn't smash the Three Laws beyond repair).
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Old 07-05-2018, 02:19 PM   #13
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I always assume that the book and the movie are going about the story entirely differently. Sometimes though, watching the movie can help you understand a very complex story (particularly helpful understanding Shakespear for instance).

Harry Potter was actually one of the first movies where they made it clear that they were going to try to follow the book as closely as possible. Few directors ever make that a goal.

I once had a class that included a well-known, but now dead director who said that bad books often make the best movies because you can take what is good about it and make it into something better visually. Good books are much harder because their complex plots and/or characters involve many threads, so it's pretty much impossible to follow the book closely.

The Princess Bride as a book sucked, IMHO, but they took everything that was good in the book and used it in the movie and then some. Made a fabulous movie.
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Old 07-05-2018, 02:51 PM   #14
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You aren't alone in your feelings towards Dune. There's a reason I followed that one up with 'to me'
Which version? The 5 hour 3 part tv adaption was quite well done - the single movie version not so much by comparison.
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Old 07-05-2018, 03:27 PM   #15
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I have no problem allowing movies to be different products than the books they're based on. My dislike (or like) of one has no effect on my perception of the one I experienced first. I don't even care if the changes seem unnecessary, or *gasp* non-canonical. Good is good and bad is bad. And a bad theatrical production of a favorite book has no power to ruin or mar my experience with the original. Or vice versa.

I hated The Hobbit movie trilogy, not because it was different from the original, but because I thought the movies were downright horrible in their own right.

I loved the LoTR books and I loved the movies--differences and all (and yes, I noticed nearly every one).

The changes to the Harry Potter books bothered me not in the least when watching the movies. I found both versions worthy of admiration.

Disliked McCarthy's No Country for Old Men but loved the Cohen Bros. movie adaptation of the same (read the book first).

Loved Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books, and I love the new TV series based on it. Even though the latter is barely recognizable (except for the names) compared to the former. I'm honestly not sure why they just didn't call the TV show something else. But it's entertaining just the same.
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