As a kid I never understood why it took so long for the movie industry to make an adaption of some of my favorite books. Sure, some of them simply weren’t popular enough and never were adapted, but then you had others like my all-time favorite series–Harry Potter.
Now I was a Potterhead back before it was cool to be one. I dressed up as Hermione Granger four years in a row, adn by the last year, a few people were starting to catch on that I wasn’t just “a witch” I was THE witch, the coolest witch ever. But now EVERYONE knows what Harry Potter is, whether they’ve read/seen it or not. It’s just that popular and that well received in our culture.
Harry Potter was probably one of the those books that large companies love and fear to take on. Love because there is almost a guarantee of profit simply because it is Harry Potter, and fear because the fans are ready to rip the movie apart scene by scene to prove why the book will always be better. And let’s be honest–the book usually will be better, but that’s no reason to rip apart the movie. Despite popular belief, a movie can coexist peacefully with its book as entirely different things (Wizard of Oz, anyone?). But then, you can also have a series so ridiculously popular that it simply is unacceptable to mess with the story too far. This is the case with Harry Potter.
Now the first two movies were near replicas of the book, except for the small detail that the book was WAY too long to portray the whole thing in the movie. Since the writers were unable to tread far from the original dialogue and plot, the first two movies ended up being very similar to the book, but almost as if someone had closed their eyes and removed large, important chunks of plot and character development.
But then you had the next movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. By now the kids were coming into their own lanky-awkward teenage years, and the movies also seemed to be entering their newly found independence. Most people probably remember that the third movie was less of this:
And more of this:
It was less about cute kids in wizard’s robes with their pet owls, and more about the adventure and danger these kids face. The costumes were different (suddenly everyone wore muggle clothes… Anyone else find that odd?) but so were the attitudes of the actors and the writers. It was like when they got a new director he just went “Screw this, let’s see how far the fans will let us go” and he just flew with it. Now many people absolutely hate the third movie because of this. They hate that it isn’t as faithful to the book as the first two, or even as later movies. They hate the way it seems to stand out and say “Look at me!” But I’m the opposite, because I like the third movie. It stands on its own as a story and as a movie, and it spices up the things that needed spicing up for a visual storytelling form like the movie industry. Is it perfect? Of course not, but I truly believe it was one of the best things to happen to the Harry Potter industry. It gave the writers freedom to adapt the story when they needed to to avoid the awkward moments where things were obviously taken out and to just let the movies flow.
I think what people forget with adaptions is that the point of a movie adaption of a book is almost never to exactly replicate the book. Harry Potter was one of the few that did seem to try this, mostly because J.K. Rowling had such tight control over her work. But most adaptions are there to spread the story further, to get more people interested, and above all, to tell the story. Movies are NOT the same as books–they have different purposes, different ways of telling the story, and different ways of being received. People get so caught up in their favorite characters, or lines, or scenes that they forget the importance of the story as a whole.
So next time your favorite book is going to be adapted, stop and think for a moment. What is it that you like so much about the book? Do you like it because of that one line that better-make-it-in-the-movie-or-you’ll-die, or do you like it because it’s a powerful story that meant something to you when you read it? If it’s the latter, just think about how great it would be if the adaption can take such a powerful story and touch someone else.