Posted in adaptations, discussion

What I Look For In Adaptations

More and more we’re starting to see adaptations dominating the new releases at cinemas. It’s starting to feel like almost every day there’s an announcement of another book – primarily Young Adult – that’s been picked up by a film company. This is a good thing on many levels because it feels like Young Adult content is starting to be taken seriously. Fancasting is a common thing in the book community and many of us openly say we would love to see our favourite story in a visual format (I personally cannot wait for the A Darker Shade of Magic TV show). A phrase that’s batted around a lot is “the book is always better than the film.” I am the absolute worst for watching an adaptation with someone and going “you know in this book…”

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I took a module titled “Film and Literature” where, you guessed it, we read a book and watched its subsequent adaptations then discussed them in classes and essays. In my exam, the highest marked question was “All good books make bad adaptations. All bad books make good adaptations. Discuss.” I remember starting at the paper in horror. How was I expected to write a minimum of three pages about how this is entirely subjective? (I tried and failed miserably I still don’t know how I passed the module at all)

I still firmly believe that this is subjective: what may be someone’s favourite adaptation may be the worst thing ever to someone else. So I put the question to various people on social media sites to see what they thought. I was surprised that a lot of the responses I got focused on the feel of it: people seemed rather happy to have the adaptation veer off from the original material as long as it was true to the story. Capturing the real essence of the world and characters was naturally the overwhelming response I received. After all, how can you enjoy it if the meaning of the tale is lost? Naturally another common response I got was about accuracy: as long as everything is exactly as it happens in the book, it’s sure to be good. But with a need to streamline stories, a lot of seemingly unimportant stuff gets cut. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series but the shortest film out of the franchise. (Come on, did you really not expect me to slip Harry Potter in somewhere?

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I am the traditional reader who will pick up the book before going to see the movie. Mainly because I like to imagine everything for myself before that is permanently tainted by someone else’s interpretation of the same story. When I watch the adaptation, I am one of those people who lives for accuracy; even the smallest change can completely take me out of the world. It’s a curse.

So to turn these thoughts I have into something a bit less hypothetical (and probably make this post much longer than it needs to be) I’m going to share two adaptations I really enjoyed and two that are better left forgotten out.
Allegiant (2016) 

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I absolutely adore the Divergent series and the final book is my favourite. I was amazed at how well done the first two films were and often find myself re-watching them. But watching Allegiant felt like being trapped on a train that had derailed over a bridge. Not one once of this adaptation reflects the source material. Nothing was really explained and it felt like the real message Veronica Roth was trying to get across had been muddled in all the changes that were made for the sake of more action scenes. I did a full spoiler review of it on my channel which you can find here if you want to hear me rant.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) 

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It’s only writing this that I noticed I have coincidentally used two examples where Shailene Woodley is the main actress but I had to talk about this film.  I’m sure everyone has heard about this book regardless of whether they’ve read it or not. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, tears rolling down my cheeks while I breathed a sigh of relief. This one of few adaptations to me that really got it right; so much so that I didn’t mind the minor changes. Everything about this is perfect, from the  soundtrack to the aesthetic, to the acting. As I said in the introduction, keeping the message is important and you really do feel it in this film.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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My tolerance for horror and anything creepy is almost non-existent which makes it odd that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. So when I heard that he had signed on to work on a story about peculiar children and there was a book… you can see where I’m going with this. I ended up loving the overall series more than I ever thought I might as it is out of my comfort zone ins some respects. The adaptation is very mixed more me as I really didn’t like some of the actors, and for the life of me can’t understand why the roles and names of Emma and Olive were swapped for the film, but it has some redeeming element to it; mainly the aesthetic. I feel like enough of the world is there and that information is presented in a way that makes it easy to follow (whereas Ransom Riggs’ prose gets difficult to follow at times) but I think it did the right thing in changing the ending as I don’t think it did well enough to work on Hollow City. 

The Book Thief (2013)

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If you watch at least one adaptation in your life, please make it this one. The book is a very dark, haunting read. (What could you expect from a book narrated by death?) With such a strong narrative voice, I felt this might be lost once it was changed for screen and in a lot of ways it is but the acting is absolutely beautiful. I think it’s impossible to watch this film and not feel with every ounce of your being for these characters and the unfortunate situation they’re having to endure. The message is clear, visually it’s gorgeous and while a very slow burn, it’s so worth it for the re-evaluating of your life you’ll definitely do after.

And there you have it. You’ll notice that I didn’t use Harry Potter and that’s for a good reason: I plan to do a whole separate post about the franchise. Stay tuned for that!

What do you look for in adaptations?
What are some of your favourite adaptations and why?

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?