Welcome back to my scholarly and sarcastic rant on why books should never be used to judge their film adaptations. If you have not read the first half of my rant, please do so before reading this. In this article, I will discuss a misconception people have about books and film, and I will briefly touch upon another aggravating complaint people often have about film adaptations.
Many people overestimate the relationship between films and their written counterparts. They think that a book and its adaptation are connected in a sort of symbiotic relationship, meaning the book informs the movie and the movie informs the book. They see both works as one entity working together to tell the same story. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. No film adaptation has ever been made where the producers thought, “We are going to make this to help people understand the book.” That has happened literally zero times. The intention of making a film — any film, whether original or adapted — is to tell the best possible story in moving images. A film is a self-contained work, and it must do its best to provide as complete of a story as possible to the audience.
This doesn’t stop people from defending poorly made film adaptations by saying, “Well, it’s explained more in the book,” or, “If you’d read the book, you’d understand that more.” Let’s get this straight: When I buy a ticket for a movie, I am not signing up for a damn treasure hunt. By paying the admission fee, I am not willfully agreeing that after I’m done watching this film, I am going to seek out all unanswered questions in the form of books, Web sites, or macaroni art. I am paying for the movie. If the film does not do a sufficient job wrapping up a plot, it is inexcusable no matter how well the book is written. If the movie fails to do something, it cannot hide behind its source material, because it should be able to stand alone. A movie relying on its book to finish the story is like a little kid running to his big brother for protection from bullies. It doesn’t make the little kid stronger; it just means he has more resources to fall back on. If a movie is going to rely on the book to help answer all the questions, why even make the movie?
One more annoying complaint people stupidly have about film adaptations is when an actor does not look the way you were imagining the character as you were reading. My aunt couldn’t get past the fact that “Emma Stone was too pretty for her character in The Help.” She insisted that the character was supposed to be ugly and unappealing. I asked, “Other than your expectations of her appearance, what did you think of her?” To which my aunt responded, “I thought she was great.” So… what was the problem here? Your imagination was betrayed by reality, so you have to complain about the film?
Many people love the film The Shawshank Redemption, but I’ve never once heard somebody say Morgan Freeman wasn’t right for the part of Red because he wasn’t an Irishman. The character in the book was pale white, with red hair. That’s why they called him Red! But because many people don’t even know that Shawshank was based on a book, they don’t question this and accept the casting choice.
I dream that one day, we will live in a world where people stop comparing things that have little to nothing in common. When a film is made that is based on a book, why must the source material even be considered? If we wanted to read the book, we’d read the book! Stop judging films according to what you expect them to be and just see them for their own merits. It’s like having a delicious watermelon and a sturdy table. You can put your belongings down on the watermelon, and they will naturally fall off. Would you curse the watermelon for being a bad table? You can, but you should also realize that the watermelon was never meant to be a table in the first place. Just because the watermelon is a bad table, it doesn’t make it a bad watermelon. You just expected too much out of it.