28 November 2005

Books to Big Screen

I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this weekend.

While the special effects were good, and the actors continued amazingly to embody these almost iconic characters, the people I feel who deserve the most kudos are the screenwriters who boiled J.K. Rowling's 734-page book into a 2.5-hour movie. I suspect doing so was comparable to one of Hercules' labors.

Yes, they changed a few things. Yes, they cut out most of the book's subplots. They also managed to keep the flavor of Harry's world, the quirkiness that makes Rowling's books what they are.

This is harder than it sounds. A film student friend of mine has taken several of my short stories to turn them into short films. As a writer, first it is hard to give the story over to another's hands. Swallowing the changes -- even if they are good changes -- is even harder because there is a feeling of losing control of what you worked so hard to create in the first place.

I wonder how J.K. Rowling feels about how the movies are turning out. I wonder how C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, or Jane Austen would feel about the movie versions of their classics? I wonder how John Irving could write the screenplay for "Cider House Rules" that is so different from his own book? I wonder if Michael Chabon agonized over the screenplay for the upcoming movie of his Pulitzer-prize winning novel, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay?"

Maybe if the story is good enough, changing the delivery from print to film is no big deal. Maybe though instead of disparaging the movie for not being like the book, we readers should applaud the work of the screenwriters for their talent for giving us a complete story arc on film.

1 comment:

stay_c said...

I haven't seen it yet, mainly because I want to avoid the crowded first weekends.

But a part of me will always wish that they hadn't done the movies because it changes the picture in my head when I read it.

On the other hand, some visuals are just too good to pass up.