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message 1: by David (new)

David | 17 comments With the upcoming release of the Hobbit, the changes apparent from the trailers (who's the guy with the hedgehog, why's Galadriel in Rivendell, etc.), and the rumors floating around online, I've been wondering: how closely should film or TV adaptations follow the source book?

Obviously, it'd be pretty much impossible to perfectly translate any source novel to film (the length of the movie is a very limiting factor, but there's also things like internal dialogs, etc., which are difficult to do well in film). So, given that any transition from written word to film has to be an adaptation, how much leeway is the director allowed?

Sticking with Tolkien, I know a lot of people were upset that Tom Bombadil didn't make it to the screen, but I was perfectly happy to see him get the big yellow boot--I never understood how he fit into Middle Earth in the first place. But I was very disappointed in the decision to make Gimli struggle in the long-distance hunt across Rohan, making him take on a comic-relief role in (what I feel is) one of the most amazing demonstrations of dedication and loyalty ever written. But cutting a character out is, arguably, a bigger change than tweaking a character's role in a scene...

So, I'm torn. I'm excited to see the Hobbit, but I know that there will be changes I don't agree with. What are your thoughts on converting books to movies? What are some examples where it's been done well? (and the corollary, of course: which ones have failed miserably? :) )

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (Pezski) | 438 comments It's always a tough call; my personal take is that a film adaptation is just that, an adaptation, and often needs changing to fit the medium, but it needs to be done with that difficult, amorphous substance known as 'respect', which leaves so an awful lot of leeway, I know.

The worst adaptations are those that just treat a story as a 'property' (Hollywood code for brand recognition), or reinvent it for no apparent reason.

For me, a good contrast are the Judge Dredd films. Part of the reason the Stallone one was such a disappointment was that the look was damned near perfect, but the scriptwriters and director seemed to take random characters from the comics and give them entirely different personalities and roles, and generally gut the universe, while the recent version, while it had its own problems, caught the essence of the comics spot on.

I know a lot of people seemed to turn on the Hobbit when it was announced that it was to be a trilogy. Personally, I think Peter Jackson and the team have such a love of the story that I trust them to handle it right (while crossing my fingers I won't be proved otherwise). Full disclosure: I already have my tickets to see it in IMAX.

(BTW, I am completely with you on cutting Tom Bombadil - even though that meant losing the Barrow Downs, which I'd love to have seen - and turning Gimli increasingly into a comedy dwarf).

message 3: by Louise (new)

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments This is the main reason I'm not re-reading the Hobbit before it comes out. I adopted a similar approach with LOTR, but fortunately the films were actually pretty good. I couldn't have cared less about Tom Bombadil because, as I've already mentioned in another thread, he doesn't add anything to the story (I have been known to miss the entire section out when reading). Some of the Gimli stuff was annoying, but I remember being more upset by the loss of his wonder at the caves under Helms Deep and the effects of this on his friendship with Legolas. The reason for their eventual connection was lost in the films, I felt.

However, I do like to keep film adaptations separate - they don't change how I imagine the characters for example, which is good, because that horrific film version of Northern Lights is something I have tried very hard to forget. They removed the aspects of the story that made some people so angry, and those people remained angry, so what was the point? I remember being increasingly disappointed with the Harry Potter films as well, that they totally failed to live up to my expectations, missed out scenes I would have loved to have seen played out and added things that didn't contribute at all to making the story any better on film.

I look forward to passing judgement on the Hobbit and hope to enjoy it yet still find lots to criticise (that's the best kind of reaction).

message 4: by Meghan (new)

Meghan (Bobette) | 30 comments David wrote: "who's the guy with the hedgehog, why's Galadriel in Rivendell, etc."

(view spoiler)

As far as good and bad adaptations.
One of the best book to movie adaptations I've seen (in my opinion) is Water for Elephants

The worst has to be The Lightning Thief

message 5: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4604 comments "Allowed" is kind of a loaded word. While I personally believe you should try to capture the essence of a story you're adapting -- otherwise why are you bothering? -- different people will have different ideas of what constitutes a story's essence.


I fully realize this is an unpopular opinion, but I'm one of those few who hated Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, not because I'm a Tolkien fanboy (I read LotR once when I was 14) but because it was stupid.

I mean, if you were Aragorn and tasked with safely escorting Frodo to Mount Doom, wouldn't you just slit Merry and Pippin's throats on Day Two? Those idiots almost get them killed any number of times: outing Frodo to an inn full of cut-throats, alerting the ringwraiths to their presence, enraging the pond monster, bringing down the goblins on them, eating all the food... for the good of all civilization, kill those dumb bastards and claim the orcs are nearby.

And they were only the tip of the iceberg. Gimli's portrayal another case in point. For all the obsessive love poured into the production and the brilliant attention to detail, the script is amateurish.

If possible, he did an even worse job with his awful King Kong remake, loading it up with fanwank nonsense that overburdened a basic adventure tale. Just as Star Wars fans cringe at the word "midichlorians," I shudder at the phrase "dinosaur stampede."

Good examples

For me, the ultimate adaptation-slash-remake is John Carpenter's The Thing. The original 1951 film is a pretty good flick but it's a bad adaptation of the short story "Who Goes There?", which is really more of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type of tale. Carpenter's movie manages the seemingly impossible: it manages to be a faithful adaptation of the story while *also* paying homage to the first film.

Misery is also an excellent adaptation, which I maintain improves on the original. Stephen King is hard to adapt because his plots are all basic. It's his specific way with words that makes his books entertaining. So a point-by-point adaptation of his plots leads to utter mediocrity unless you can find something else to substitute for his prose. Rob Reiner and William Goldman were able to do this with their emphasis on the feeling of being trapped and because the acting was so brilliant.

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