Dispatches | November 14, 2012

*Today’s post comes to us via Anne Fox*

Jim Carrey doesn’t like adaptations either.

I turned on the TV a few weekends ago and to my delight I found ABC Family’s Harry Potter marathon weekend. Since Harry Potter was a great contributor to the magic in my childhood, I always enjoy watching the movies. However, as I child I was more of a reader than a movie watcher and am therefore am plagued by the symptom of bookworms around the world—I can’t help but critique screen adaptations, big or small, or, more accurately, compare them. It’s true that my friends and family refuse to watch Harry Potter with me unless I don’t talk. They can’t stand my constant stream of alternately quoting the movie word for word or letting out a disgusted roar of outrage at what was left out, changed or forgotten. That is what most novel to screen adaptations struggle with, though, isn’t it? What to leave out and what to leave in.

This last Christmas I was gifted with the first book in George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. The first novel, Game of Thrones, was an interesting read. It wasn’t a book to read during the semester, though. If any of you have read it, you will know what I am talking about: the excruciating detail demands vigiliant attention. Reading the book, you soon learn that if you fail to store even the tiniest of details somewhere in your brain you will be blindsided later on. Martin’s world is extravagant and highly complex. Therefore, when I found out HBO decided to turn the novels into a television series I was apprehensive. How could a TV series capture the details needed to connect Game of Thrones to the end of the uncompleted series (Martin is aiming for seven books, five of which have currently been published)? It seems like a daunting task. so I did what any book obsessed gal would and watched the first season in a very short amount of time. Aside from HBO’s normal habit of inserting unnecessary, risqué scenes, the series seemed to follow the major events and most of the details of the book almost exactly www.myclap.com. There was a bit of the season finale that actually came from the second book, but it made the show easier to understand, and let’s be honest, the plot is more than a little twisted.


They grow up so fast!

And now I’m ready to complain. The first season of A Song of Ice and Fire took liberties that weren’t even hinted at in the first book. For example, Renly, the youngest brother of King Robert (who doesn’t make it to the end of the first book before being killed off, thank you Martin) very obviously likes men. In the books this isn’t hinted at until the second book, and that’s digging seeing how he decides to get married (although I realize this is a shadow of medieval times so expectations may differ). Another thing that completely took me by surprise in the TV series is the ages of the Stark children. They have all miraculously grown a handful of years in the TV series. This also, is understandable. Kids grow up fast and actors and actresses do, too. Yet, I can’t hold on to the fact of how gruesome or, perhaps. more excusable actions become when children are younger. In my opinion, it was this, as well as the behavior of their mother, Catelyn Stark, that took away from the TV series. Catelyn, who is strong willed and very much against her husband becoming the Hand of the King in the book, is fickle and encourages him to serve the king in the series. This basically leads to her urging her husband to his death and spending the rest of the time trying to make up for it, whereas in the book she is fighting in his memory and for their family. 

Such page to screen challenges, such as the age of actors, are understandable, but the deletion of important events or events that only make the story better completely eludes me. To go back to my magical childhood, I loved reading about the Marauders in Harry Potter. For those of you who are clueless about the wizarding world, these were Harry’s father and his three best friends. However, in the movies their nicknames were used, but never explained. Many a lost movie watch asked me why they were calling Sirius Padfoot. I, out of the sorrow in my soul, told them what the movie didn’t. The result is

Bad Austen adaptation

that I hold a childish grudge that just won’t budge. The problem is this childish grudge isn’t even childish because it is Harry Potter. I hold childish grudges with many screen adaptations. One of the bigger ones is Pride and Prejudice. This is one of my all time favorite books. Coincidentally it was also one of my favorite movies. I say “was” because in this unfortunate circumstance I saw the movie (one of the hundred or so versions) before I read the book. The movie is beautifully done, but the book just takes it to a whole new level. My favorite part of the book was the walk Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy went on while she was visiting Mr. and Mrs. Collins. I was distraught when I realized it didn’t make the cut for the movie. That being said, I am talking about the Kiera Knightly version. there are in fact other, and more accurate, versions of Pride and Prejudice out there that I encourage all Austen lovers to read. My grandmother’s favorite ( because Austen is not generation specific) is the one with Colin Firth.

Whether it is an Austen adaptation, a Rowling adaptation or a Martin adaptation, the jump to screen is difficult. It isn’t made easier for old novels or new; it is always a challenge. I’m not saying movie adaptations are terrible as a group, and no one should watch them. I am saying that even though some movie or television adaptations are not as wonderful as their book origins, we should watch them anyways. We should watch them to value our books in our current technologically driven world. The books will always be better, and the books are always the place where we will first see the movie, even before it reaches the screen.

It was all worth it.