This week’s topic:
Not everyone wants a book-to-movie adaptation to happen. But those who think this are few, fortunately…or unfortunately. The majority of us, me included, are open to seeing a beloved story told in another format or reimagined as something else.
From a reader/fan point of view, adaptations provide a new way for me to engage with the story and might even provide a fresh perspective. There’s much debate among book bloggers about how to approach adaptations, especially movie adaptations, which often doesn’t closely follow the source material.
Some peeps prefer to first read the book then see the movie so they can make comparisons or critique how closely the movie follows the book or simply understand what inspired the movie. Others, like me, prefer to read the book after seeing the show. Some people avoid this because watching the movie first spoils the book, but seeing the movie first makes me judge it a lot less harshly and stops me from becoming annoyed when I realize how much the movie had deviated from the book. I enjoy the movie more when I see it first, usual YA book-to-movie adaptations. Instead of focusing on the differences between the book and the movie, I just accept the movie for what it is.
Movies I watched and liked before reading the book:
These days, if I read a book first, I won’t bother to see the movie, or I forget to, which is what happened with Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, The Martian, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But seeing the movie first always makes me want to read the book, which I believe is the publisher’s and author’s intent since movie/TV adaptations often drive up the sale of books.
How adaptations affect book sales
I once thought book-to-movie adaptations as Hollywood plundering publishers for inspiration; but according to this article in the Atlantic, the Hollywood/book publishing relationship is “more symbiotic than parasitic.” The article is from January 2015, so it points to data from 2014 to back up its points, such as that the list of bestselling books for 2014, according to data from the Nielsen BookScan, “reads almost like the showtimes board at your local cineplex.” So almost all the top selling books in 2014 were adapted for movies, or rather, all the books that were adapted for movies in 2014 became top selling books.
For a closer look at how movie adaptations affect sales, there’s this CNN article from 2010 (these are some old-ass articles but they’re the first ones to pop up when I did a quick Google search and since I ain’t writing no research paper, I went with them) that looks at how the movie adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love affected book sales. The article also points to data from the Nielsen BookScan stating that “the book had 94,000 units sold in the week ending August 1 [that’s leading up to the movie’s release date – August 13], which was the same amount of books sold for the entire 2006 year, when ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was first published.”
Book adaptations are less risky
It’s obvious that a movie adaptation is great advertisement for a book. No wonder all the authors want them! Well, I take that back. Some authors would rather not have their books adapted, but I’ll get to that later. Now, let’s look at this article from the Verge that tells us why Hollywood turns to books and comics for their next huge hit.
I thought it was because Hollywood ran out of ideas, but according Hawk Otsby, co-writer of Children of Men and producer on Syfy’s The Expanse who was interviewed for the article, “It’s all about managing risk for the studios.” Apparently, it’s difficult to sell a “blockbuster original script” these days because many avenues are competing for viewer interest, so it’s much more reliable to turn to what’s already popular, recognizable, has a fan base, “and can rise above the noise [and] competition from the internet, video games, and Netflix,” said Otsby.
The article goes on to discuss the benefits of TV adaptations versus movie adaptations, but I won’t get into all that. All I’ll say is that I much prefer TV adaptations because more time is spent making sure that the adapted story has a strong plot, nuanced characters, and better graphics (sometimes). Because of the time limit (and cost) on movies, they can sometimes be a bit rushed and the story loses what made it appealing in book form.
Now with all the movie and TV adaptations we hear of that will be dropping soon, or a year or so in the future (the Verge article mentions Frank Herbert’s Dune, V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings), it’s easy to assume that all authors want a movie/TV adaptation to boost sales and that they all jump at the chance to get it. But I recently realized that’s not so.
Adaptations in the works that I’m excited for:
[Side note: Check out this article on Tor.com for a very long list of almost all sci-fi/fantasy book and comic book film and TV adaptations to come or in the works.]
Not all authors want their work adapted to film
Maybe that’s general knowledge to all bibliophiles and I’m one of the last to know, but I genuinely thought all authors want to see their books adapted to movies. The surprise hit me when I listened to this episode of the BBC World Book Club podcast featuring Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind (which I bought right after listening to this). Around the 45:18 mark, a young lady asks Zafon if he plans to have his book adapted and his direct answer was no, though he has received offers.
The podcast episode is from 2010, so it’s possible that Zafon may have changed his mind since then, or not. But he believed then that he “owes it to readers to the keep the books as they are and not sell them as a piece of merchandise so they become something else;” thus retaining control of what he intends his books to be.
Zafon ranted a bit about book-to-movie adaptations, sharing his displeasure that almost everything has become a franchise (books to movie to toys and other paraphernalia). His opinions on the topic reminded me of another BBC World Book Club episode, which featured the now late Terry Pratchett. Around the 22:34 mark, Pratchett was asked a similar question regarding the Discworld books, and, like Zafon, his response was a negative.
From the interview, I gathered that Pratchett liked selective appeal of the Discworld books, that only those who are genuinely interested in such books, in fantasy, would seek to engage in them. He said that the Discworld books would probably not adapt well to film, which is why I was surprised (again) last month when I read that a Discworld book, Good Omens, would be adapted for a 6-part TV series (it was the first I’d heard of a Discworld book being adapted). Since the BBC podcast is from 2003, it’s obvious that Pratchett probably had changed his mind about adaptations or thought it best that his own company/team should adapt his work. (Narrativia, one of the companies producing the adaptation, was founded by Pratchett.)
A strong point that both Zafon and Pratchett made is that the success of their books afforded them the liberty to choose not to allow their books to be adapted for film. Zafon expounded on this point saying that authors know a film adaptation will boost sales, so some will take a chance on that route especially if there’s a strain on their finances.
George R.R. Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire series that were made into the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, makes a similar point in this episode of a Nerdist podcast (recorded in 2013). Around the 37:10 mark, he discussed his displeasure with authors who agree to film adaptations of their work because of the money they’ll get from it but later complain or denounce the production because it’s not to their liking. Martin sees that as hypocritical because the authors could have refused the deal or asked for creative control of the work so what’s produced is more to their liking.
Authors who disliked the film adaptations of their work:
Which is what Terry Brooks did when his Shannara Chronicles was optioned for an adaptation. In this episode of Speculate SF podcast (recorded in 2015), Brooks said that he’d always been interested in having his work adapted for film but jumped at the chance for a TV adaptation because a TV series allows more time for the story to be told. He made sure that the agreement was worded in his favor so that he could retain some creative control.
But for this fan, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not an author likes the film adaptation of their work. What matters to me is how well it’s done, so I lean more toward authors retaining some creative control when their work is being adapted. I think there’s a greater chance for a book-to-move/TV adaptation to be good, even great, when the author is involved…or at least when more effort is put into it.
My all-time favorite book-to-movie/TV adaptations:
[Note: Only 2 of the 9 above I haven’t yet read — The Prestige and 300 comics. The Strain is a TV show that aired on FX. I loved the first couple seasons, but the plot got weak toward the end. I haven’t yet completed the trilogy.]
Since this post is already quite long, I won’t bother to share what I’m currently reading. I’ll instead leave you with the book-to-film adaptation I DISLIKE the most:
All the Harry Potter movies!!!
Okay, okay, they aren’t so bad, but I really didn’t like them. They didn’t match what I had in mind. My imaginings of the story is way better!
(Also the Hobbit movie. Hated it. And Eragon too. Ugh!)