Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coffee Chat 17.0 with S.K. Anthony: Why Some Book-to-Movie Adaptations Stink!

I am SO tired! S.K. and I have been catching up after her vacation, and sitting around watching movies. To keep it from being tiresome, we've been dressing up like the characters in each movie so we're in the proper frame of mind. I was never so thankful to shower as I was when the Lord of the Rings extended version trilogy was done. And those hobbit feet prostheses made my toes sweat something fierce.

She should be here any minute, but I'm not sure what we're watching today, so I don't know what kind of costume she'll be wearing . . . or what she's bringing for me. I wasn't really crazy about my "house elf" outfit when we watched the Harry Potter movies. A dirty pillowcase? Never again, man. Never again.

SK: [Walks up from basement.] Oh hey, Lynda! I wanted to get away from the kids so I came in around two in the morning and went down to take a nap. I'm still glad I had the good sense in making myself a copy of your house keys. 

Here. [Throws Lynda a bag.] Today we watch The Hunger Games. I'll be Katniss and you'll be—

ER: [Opens bag and looks in.] Feathers? Why would I need feathers?

SK: Yes, those are feathers. I thought you might like to stay alive, in which case you can be my sidekick mockingjay. I know she doesn't have a mockingjay by her side, apart from the pin, but it's not like you're a tiny bird anyway. We can make concessions. 

ER: Are you calling me fat? [Sticks out tongue while drizzling butter on the popcorn.]

SK: Stop making faces! [S.K. rolls eyes.] Fine! I thought you might put up a fuss. I guess you can be Rue instead; there's a wig at the bottom of all the feathers. This way we can both stay in our pajamas.

ER: Whatever. I don't know why I have to wear a wig and all you did was braid your hair—and steal my daughter's bow and arrows. Be careful with that thing! [Jams wig on head.] It is kind of a nice 'fro, though. I've always thought I'd look good in one. And it's better than having me dress up as a piece of coal and setting me—and probably my house—on fire.

SK: If you want, I can frizz your hair up. [Grins.] I brought these two cans: one is hairspray and the other one is black spray paint. The fumes might knock you out for most of the movie, though.

ER: Nope, the wig is just fine.

SK: It does look nice. The wig actually brings out the best features in your glasses. I'm excited to watch this movie again. It's one of the few book to movie adaptations I like a lot. They did make some changes, but I think it all worked out great. Doesn't that annoy you? When the producers of a movie make changes that really didn't need any tampering with?

ER: I hate it when producers go to the trouble of making a movie based on a great book, and then take so many liberties that it angers the book fans. I do understand that certain scenes can't be done well cinematically, but when they shuffle around the characters or add things that are not even part of the original storyline, that makes me nuts.

SK: For me, I hated how in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, they made him (Harry) look like a coward. How hard was it to keep Harry frozen, as it was in the book, when Snape killed Dumbledore? Him standing around and not doing anything—even if instructed by Dumbledore—went against Harry's personality. That detail still bugs me to this day. What about you? What are some scenes you wish producers had kept in their adaptation?

ER:  There are a few odd things that stick out in my mind. In Ella Enchanted (based on a terrific YA book, as is everything written by Gail Carson Levine), they altered the story so much that it seemed only the title was the same. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they eliminated a key character and juggled the storyline in a way that couldn't help but affect the subsequent movies. In Prince Caspian, they created a stupid, stupid love interest between Caspian and Susan that NEVER existed in the book, and some dumb sort of alpha posturing between Caspian and Peter, which also never existed in the book. And I remember being VERY disappointed that Tom Bombadil was missing in the Lord of the Rings movies. 

Oh! And, going back to the HP movies, when Dumbledore was replaced due to Richard Harris's death, they got an actor who admitted to never having read the books, and who portrayed Dumbledore in a manner that was totally inconsistent with his character.

SK: [Nods vigorously.] So true! What is wrong with these people? I was thrown off by that Susan/Caspian hint at romance as well. One last thing about Harry Potter, 'cause I'm sure we can go on and on about it, that Dumbledore was not the Dumbledore we all know and admire. I would have loved to see Ian McKellen instead. To me he makes the perfect Dumbledore. Ah, well. Another last thing with HP: I did, however, love the dragon escape scene from Gringotts.

Anyway, back to ranting. In The Lovely Bones, I'm not sure what the heck happened. I think they missed the mark with the emotional aspect when they focused on making it more of a supernatural thing, boo! And in My Sister's Keeper . . . Anna does die and saves Kate. The fact that they changed it in the movie took away from all that emotional distress I felt with the book. Not that I want to be miserable and cry my eyes out with a movie, but that was NOT the story!

ER: Ian McKellen would have been great as Dumbledore! He’s much more subtle, and that other hack just really didn’t “get” who the character was supposed to be. I read the other books you mentioned, but never saw their movies, so I’m going to take your word for the quality (or lack of).

SK: Exactly! I do have to say, though, apart from the little glitch that annoyed you with the LotR trilogy, it’s still by far one of my favorite set of movies to watch over and over. Umm, also the HP movies follow closely behind. I can just watch them repeatedly and obsessively. What are some of your favorite adaptions you enjoy watching?

ER: I do still enjoy the LotR movies as their own things. In a situation like that, where the movie is definitely high quality, I will force myself to ignore the inconsistencies . . . and I can always read the books at my leisure.

SK: I loved The Notebook, and even though P.S. I Love You had some differences; I did enjoy the movie as well.

ER: What have I been doing with my time? I haven’t read OR seen either of those.

SK: Both Hunger Games movies so far have made me happy and I’m looking forward to the last two. Speaking of, why must they keep splitting the last books into two films? Grrr . . . that drives me nuts. I do like the extra details though, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.

ER: It’s just a ploy by The Man to get us to pay twice for movie tickets! I’m grrr-ing right along with you.

SK: I didn’t get a chance to watch Divergent or The Fault in Our Stars yet, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. Now, Fifty Shades of Grey, no thank you. 

ER: Those first two are on my TBR list, and I’ve heard The Fault in Our Stars is a great movie. That last one? I can’t imagine paying real money or Monopoly money to see Fifty Shades. Is it possible to make a badly written book into a worse movie? If I want to watch someone getting spanked, I could watch movies of when our kids were little and being bad. For free, too.

Oh, and I found a poster up in my attic and brought it down to show you . . . remember when you and I auditioned for The Hunger Games movies? I can’t believe we made it all the way to the final round of cuts. At least they let us keep the promo pictures.

So what do you all think of book-to-movie success? Do you have a favorite, or one you love to hate? Let us know in the comments so we can love or hate them too!

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 


  1. I was annoyed with the changes in Prince Caspian. They killed the series right there, even though there was one more movie. Shame, as I really wanted to see the other four books come to life.

    1. I agree completely, Alex. The third movie almost didn't count, because they'd already lost credibility in most people's eyes. We own the old BBC adaptations, which are interesting in a way only the BBC can manage, but still . . . I was hoping for good things with those movies.

    2. All I can say is sigh . . .

  2. For not any particular movie, I really hate when they take a book series and kill off the main antagonist in the first movie so it makes the rest of the series impossible to do. Another thing is when tahey take a multiple book series and try to shove them all into a single 2 hour movie. (just as a side note, each page of the script roughly equal 1 minute of film time. So they condense thousands of pages to 120) That really sucks.

    1. My apologies to Elle Todd. Last month she raised this issue on her blog (sidebar to the right), and I'm going to plagiarize my own comment, as it applies here exactly. James has hit it squarely on the head. I feel your pain, as does everyone who has ever seen a favorite book butchered by a feeble attempt to make a movie of it. I didn’t understand why until the 1980s, when I got hooked on the CBC production of some of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Jeremy Brett. These followed the stories precisely in what they put on the screen, word for word, scene for scene. What’s the problem? The material used to produce a one-hour TV show amounted to twelve pages of text. Using that standard, to present a 300 page novel precisely translated would require 25 hours of screen time. Nobody is going to sit through that, and nobody is going to risk (or could afford) producing that movie. It’s insurmountable, and when a studio buys the movie rights for a book, everyone understands up front that the book is no more than a guideline. Sad but true…

      That said, if any evil, book-butchering Hollywood studio ever offers a million or two for the privilege of butchering my book, don't be standing between me and the phone!

    2. Guys, I think the answer is: LET THE FANS BE IN CHARGE of making the movies! Umm, with the producers' financial backup and experience, of course. We'll just deny or approve changes to the screenplay.

    3. Another point I am reluctant to bring up but I will because I am evil that way. When a producer/studio buys the rights to your novel, they can butcher it any way they like. It will sometimes go before a panel of screen writers that think they know more about your characters than you do. Then once they get done butchering it. The actors get a hold of it and pervert it again "My character would not do that." is a famous quote from an actor when a character in the script did that exact thing in the book. So, if you sell anything to Hollowood make sure you get paid extra for all the therapy you will have to have after it come out and is a totally different story with different characters ending up with different people even ones that were never in the story in the first place. Look at what Disney did to factual events in Pocahontas 2. So no one should ever expect a movie to be anything like the book. When ever I see any line such as "based on actual events" or "based on the story by" I add loosely to it. Ok, I will get off my soap box now...

  3. The Prince Caspian stuff got me. Well a lot about those movies bothered me, but it is one of my favorite series. I put it above LotR. I didn't mind Tom not being in there. Some things are just better in books. I guess I am the odd one out, I liked the second Dumbledore better. He had more life to him. Still most of the movies you guys mentioned were good movies. The two worst book to movies I have seen were, The Vampire Academy, has to be the worst and The Vampire's Apprentice. OH

    1. Oh, I did like the second Dumbledore better than the first . . . but I wasn't convinced entirely by his portrayal. And thanks for the cupcakes, we've been starving for weeks!

  4. Is SK finally back? She's become quite the jetsetter... here, there & everywhere... lol
    Lucky gal!

    I heard that they were making a movie based on The Book Thief by Mark Zusak.
    If you've read that book, (it blew me away) then you'll know the writing style is totally unique and not suitable for adaptation to the big screen.
    Anyway, turns out I was right. Not that I've seen the movie. I haven't. I'm not really a movie person.
    A friend of mine (who had also read the book and LOVED it), told me she was off to watch it. I warned her not to get her hopes up as it would be near impossible to capture the writing style/voice. Seems I was right. She was highly disappointed.
    I think some stories are simply not meant to be on the big screen.

    1. I'm around and stuff . . . I'm not committing to being here, there, or anywhere. :P

      I have not seen The Book Thief or read the book (gasp!). I did read some good reviews when the movie came out, but maybe they're not 'real' fans. There's usually always something wrong with adaptations, but I do agree that some books are just not meant for the big screen.

  5. Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe. Love the book. The movie doesn't cut it even though Fannie Flagg wrote it.


    1. Hmm, I haven't heard of this one, but now I know to read it instead of watching the movie. Thanks, Janie!

    2. Every time I read the book I cry (and I mean sob), and I feel empowered.

  6. I enjoyed Watchmen. The movie made a major plot change to the graphic novel's ending, but it was necessary to the filmmakers just to streamline a story they had already done as much as they could to duplicate. (Plus, there were budgetary concerns, I assume.) In fact, one thing I dislike about filmed adaptations of books is that you already know the ending (of course). Watchmen almost/kinda/sorta got around that.

    1. I didn't read it, but I thought the movie was okay. Making a major plot change is a huge gamble! But it sounds like you think it was handled well?

    2. As well as could be expected. The story's main effect -- for lack of a better way to put it -- was left intact. It's kind of hard to explain unless you've read the GN and seen the movie, too. :)

  7. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

  8. Hm. I'll give Caspian a miss. Enjoying the back-and-forth! Have a great weekend!

  9. Oh dear, I missed this post. So I'll respond now! ;)

    I started giggling like mad at the sentence "The wig actually brings out the best features in your glasses." Today was SO not a good day for me to go to the eye doctor, but I couldn't change my appointment...

    As for bad book-to-movie adaptations, the worst one I've ever seen was "Dragonball Evolution." Granted, that's more of a comic-book-to-movie adaptation, but it was literally so awful that the only way to get through it was by turning it into a drinking game. I don't recommend this, however, because you will hate yourself come morning... both for the drinking, and for wasting the two hours of your life on that movie.

    However, I would say that sometimes it goes both ways. I have seen movies that changed elements of the book for the *better.* Of course, one can always find disgruntled fans who dislike those movies as well, and I can't honestly blame them. But, for example, I rather liked the changes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in theatres, because I thought they did an excellent job "updating" the time travel elements. The book was super confusing for me at that part. Naturally some people are going to disagree, but that's just differing opinions. In short, sometimes movies present a chance to go back and tweak things so that they flow much better... which of course makes it all the more frustrating when movies go about changing things for the *worse,* for no good reason.

    -H.C. Dallis

  10. The Prince Caspian changes irritated me too--especially the parts between Peter and Caspian. Peter was a much more noble character in the book and changing that aspect of his personality just ruined things for me. I haven't even watched the 3rd one because of it.


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