Sunday, March 18, 2012

Books Vs. Movies (Babble)

I can’t see movies made from a book I’ve read and liked.  Am I really all alone in this?  I feel like it.

I know this bugs the crap out of people sometimes when we’re trying to pick a movie everyone can agree on, and looks like some weird affectation that borders on simply being snooty.  But I’ve tried to watch films made from books and I don’t enjoy it.  I am so distracted by even small deviations from the story the way I read it that I can barely follow what’s happening on the screen sometimes.  I just start tallying up moments that are in some way or another wrong.

I love to read, and I love the experience of working with a writer’s words to create places and people in my mind.  I don’t want to see actors who don’t look like the people in my head wearing costumes that don’t match images I liked in surroundings that never resemble the pictures I’ve already chosen.  I don’t want all of that getting muddled together.

So, no, I’ve never seen an entire Harry Potter movie.  I’ve caught bits and pieces on TV and found myself muttering unhappily when I did.  I don’t want that castle in my head, I want my castle.  I don’t want those people playing the characters, I want the ones I came up with in collaboration with the author while I was reading the books.

Recently I’ve been making my way through The Hunger Games series.  I read through the first book in about a day and a half and ran out to the bookstore to grab the second and third before I was done with the last chapter because the idea of getting to the end of the first book and having to wait more than a matter of minutes to start reading the next was unbearable.  I understand the hype because the story really sucks you in and propels you forward in a way that the term ‘page turner’ was meant to describe.  It’s a fun read that doesn’t feel frivolous because of the severe subject matter.

I’m fascinated with the cognitive dissonance the book generates by setting the reader up to be appalled by a society that can’t tear itself away from watching children being forced to kill one another, while at the same time counting on us to have the same inability to stop reading about it.  We are guilty observers as we root for the hero just as everyone in the fictional audience is.  That’s interesting.  (The only element I disliked in the first book were the muttations toward the end, because what?  How?  Really?  Mutant dogs are one thing, but generated from dead people in a matter of days?  Maybe something in one of the next two books will throw me a bone on that one but I doubt it.)

Anyway, great book.  Love it.  Can totally see how it inspired a movie franchise.  But I am not seeing that movie.

I know people who already have tickets, who are counting down the days.  I know with the Harry Potter books people would read the stories then camp out at the theaters to see how they were adapted for the screen and it becomes an event.  Lots of people anymore kind of put books and their movies together like some sort of package deal to be enjoyed alongside one another like that’s how it should be.  So I sit on the sidelines with my book and hope other people have fun but I can’t join them.

What I enjoy better is pairing things that complement each other.  I took a film and literature class in college that did a clever job of picking books and movies that had obvious parallels and it was amazing.  We read The Phantom Tollbooth and watched The Wizard of Oz (which I know is also a book, but not one I read until last year), A Rose for Emily paired with Psycho, and Heart of Darkness along with Apocalypse Now.  That was fun.  But a movie drawing inspiration from a book is different from a movie trying to be the book.  I don’t enjoy that at all.

Maybe I have too much attachment to my imagination and should be able to see other people’s interpretations without them obscuring my own.  Or maybe I cling to more details than the average person and they aren’t seeing the little discrepancies that needle me all through a movie adaptation.

All I know is I watched part of one trailer for The Hunger Games and in it the main character is giving her sister a mockingjay pin and telling her it will keep her safe and my brain started screaming, “But that’s not what happened!  It was from the mayor’s daughter to Katniss after she volunteered!  Aaaargh!”  So no, that movie would be no fun for me at all.

Which is too bad because it’s probably a good movie.  Like Hugo which I don’t want to see and people think that’s stupid of me.  But the last time I tried to see a movie based on a book I liked was Pride and Prejudice.  I figured it had been a long time since I’d read the story and maybe I didn’t remember everything and it would be okay.  But then they changed the ending.  And at that point I officially gave up.

A friend once asked me what I would do if someone made a movie out of one of the books I’ve written.  This is as ridiculous as asking me what I would wear to meet the queen because it’s not going to happen.  I’m still doing the crushing work of simply trying to find an agent who could even just make my book into a book.  But in that mythical universe that wants to turn my book into a movie, no, I probably don’t want to see it.  (My friend doesn’t believe me, but unless that mythical universe also lets me eat nothing but donuts and cereal without ruining my health, it’s not a different enough universe that I am likely to have a change of heart.)

I’ve decided I’m done apologizing for not wanting to see movie adaptations of books I’ve enjoyed.  I don’t care anymore if I’m the only one this bothers.

Maybe this is the same part of my brain that can’t relate to what people see in watching professional sports, or who enjoy drinking, or any number of other things I don’t find entertaining that so many people can’t imagine a life without.  That’s okay.  I’m not telling anyone else what they should or shouldn’t enjoy.  Have a blast at the movies!  I’ll eat my Junior Mints out here with my book.
This picture has nothing to do with anything at all.  It’s a drawing Quinn did on the white board back when he was still four and I have nothing to use it with but I love it and wanted to share his little solar system just because I’m his mom.  (It’s a parenting website after all, so I’m allowed a random ‘look what my kid did!’ moment I think.)

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