Sunday, August 18, 2013

Screenplay Scrutiny

Well, they did it again. They always do. The proverbial “they” – Hollywood. Can you guess what indecency I’m referring to? There are so many lately to pick from but that is a whole other soap-box post. No, I’m writing about the obliteration of a well-written novel during the transformation into a film. More and more it seems the Hollywood powers simply take the novel’s name and then make up a new story-line for the screenplay. I hesitate to refer to plot because from what I’ve observed recently, there hasn’t been much plot development actually happening. 

I am a tough critic of the book to movie adaptation. I freely admit I will, in almost 100% of the situations, prefer the written work over the screenplay. Given my rather snooty stance on these films, I walk into the theater already grimacing. My internal critic grumbling “What are they going change? I bet X character will be left out? Do you think they will get subtleties of Y and Z’s relationship?” I really do give them a chance, I swear. I want them to succeed, especially if the film will draw people to read the novel from which the film was supposedly based. 

We recently went to see the second installment in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Sea of Monsters. Both my daughter and I enjoyed the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan , but she loved it. To date, Madison has read every book five times. I finally forced her to read something else before she could start them again. (I know, I have the worst parenting problems ever, right?) She knows these books in and out, adores the characters, and studies Greek mythology as a result of reading the series. All that said, you can imagine her level of excitement a couple months back when she caught a preview for the next movie. 

When the movie finally opened, she floated into the theater, bounced in her seat until it started, and kept her eyes glued on the screen the entire time. I shifted between watching her and the film wondering if she noticed the same discrepancies I saw. While mesmerized during the film, when we began to discuss it after, she quickly realized just how much of her beloved book never made it to the big screen. 

I know nothing about writing a screenplay, making a movie, or any of that world. I do know this, when you take our stories and our characters and mess them all up, you lose a consumer audience. We owe our storytellers more. They deserve to have their work presented authentically. Readers love and embrace their novels for a reason. Breaking down the story to make it fit into a Hollywood box damages the work, presents under-developed characters and plots, and leaves viewers frustrated. No one wins in that - just ask my inner film critic, she’ll tell you!


  1. I agree so much! There are so many movies made from books that feel completely different. If I go in having not read the book, those movies tend to be better so I actually try to do it that way so I'm not disappointed. Of course, you don't always know a movie is coming out eventually so I tend to have already read the book. I did actually like The Host. Some things weren't the way I imagined them, of course - but that is going to happen in everything because my imagination is only my own. What movies do you feel were fairly accurate?

  2. There have been some good ones, but I'm just so picky. I guess a few that really stick out to me would be Schindler's List and To Kill a Mockingbird. I like them each for individual reasons. With Schindler's List, the cinematography helped to vividly tell the story, as painful as it was. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites because of characters. Gregory Peck brought Atticus Finch to life and personified his character so closely.