Friday, January 20, 2012

Page to Screen

By Pat Gulley

Movies based on Books, and how well they are interpreted.

I once read that when she first started her Kinsey Millhone series, Sue Grafton said she would never let Hollywood get their mitts on her books. And I was split 50/50 with her on that because 1/ I assumed any sale to Hollywood meant hundreds of thousands of dollars, but 2/ I’d seen so many characters and stories slashed to ribbons on the screen that I felt she was justified.

Well, I’ve learned since that like advances for books, only a few get those big bucks for their work. And I’ve seen enough movies based on books to know that Sue had a major point in rejecting the big and little screen. I’m inclined to wonder why Hollywood buys these books, if they intend to rewrite them, change the characters and make them unrecognizable to fans of the original work, why bother?. It has been suggested that they just want to piggyback on the success of the author and her/his work, and I’m inclined to accept that.

But there are always exceptions.

I recently went to see Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the English version with that cutie pie, Daniel Craig. (I’ve always liked him ever since I first saw him in Minette Walters’ The Ice House, which by the way was a real chop job.) I say English version as I did see the Swedish version too. The Swedish version did cut the book up and just went with the mystery. If you haven’t read the book, the part that captures everyone’s attention is the character of Lisbeth Salander and her story, however it is also an excellent cold case murder mystery (with a major twist), investigated by a journalist and high tech researcher, and a family saga. The part that got the least attention was the main character and his story, Mikael Blomkvist. His story encompasses a lot of political history and corporate intrigue of Sweden, as well as how a journalist and his publication can get sued over stories, and didn’t seem to interest a lot of people. Frankly, having lived through the hippy era, and the number of people running off to that land of ‘seeming’ perfection, I found it very interesting. OTOH, I’d already read, The Laughing Policeman. (I’d also seen the movie, AND wasn’t that the most ghastly interpretation!!!!)

Oh yeah, Mikael. So was I ever pleasantly surprised to see the English version taking up his story, too. Yes, they changed a few bits, but nothing that would harm Stieg’s story. (For those of you who have read the book, no Australia—you know what I mean.) It was a long movie, it had to be to take in this much, but I didn’t find myself anything but engrossed the whole time. It did leave out Salander’s mother and father except for a few comments, but it did include her first advocate. I’m inclined to believe the makers of this film will also do the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire and add in all of Salander’s back story.

I saw it with my Swedish American friend, Barbara, and she actually like this version more, too. We are both very fond of the whole series, and I’m sure we will be watching it again from Netflix.

I honestly believe Ronney Mara deserves every award she is or will be nominated for, as she did a fabulous job, but so did the actress, Noomi Rapace, in the Swedish version. Noomi also did a good job in the Swedish version of The Girl Who Played With Fire, but it too was much abbreviated. The Swedish movie must have been well received in Europe, because while the first movie had subtitles, the second movie was dubbed and you could have it in several languages.

If you have seen any of these, your pros and cons are most welcome. Any good examples you’d like to chime in with? By the way, I mean individual movies, not series like Lord of The Rings.

Oh, and another book coming to the screen that we all have our claws and fangs ready to extend for is One For The Money. Get Ready.


Gina said...

I thought most of the Harry Potter books were well done on screen, keeping the essentials, at least up to the Order of the Phoenix, the point at which the books clearly became too complex to translate well to a standard length movie. Ditto Interview With the Vampire and most of Stephen King's works, i.e., Cujo, The Dead Zone, Delores Claiborne, etc. I haven't seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but, having read the book, can't imagine how so much detail and so many crimes could be crammed into a single film.

We have to remember that films and books are very different forms of art. I'm happy if a film captures the essence of a book, whether or not it crams the details in.

C.L. Phillips said...

I find that if I really love a book, know many of the details, that the right movie can evoke those details without slowing down the pace. So I feel like an insider.

But when the film deviates from my mental image or the book's details, I am disappointed. I feel like the filmmaker used the book like bait, and I am the fish. Or at least my $10 for the ticket was.

Thanks for provoking some thought on my part this morning. :)

Karen in Ohio said...

The Last of the Mohicans is a perfect example of how a movie can come from a book, but bear absolutely no resemblance to it.

I was so taken with Daniel Day Lewis's portrayal of the Deerslayer that I went and got the entire series of James Fennimore Cooper books. What a waste of time. There were a few characters in common, and two or three incidents (out of the entire series, not just that one book); otherwise, it was unrecognizable. And I felt that the movie had taken some concepts to the utmost limit, mostly with gratuitous violence. In comparison, the Cooper books were dry, dull, and listless.

But, oh, that DDL. He was such a hottie in that film.

I've not seen all the Harry Potter movies (in fact, maybe three?), but I was so amazed at how closely they matched my own imagination. The same with one version of Pride and Prejudice, maybe the one with Colin Firth? Can't remember now.

From the previews, it looks as though One for the Money is going to be totally different from the original first book. But that's okay with me. They are not the world's most priceless plots, anyway.

Jenna said...

I tend to agree about the Harry Potter books. For the most part I thought they were pretty good, considering how much they had to leave out due to time constraints. If the movie makers were to keep everything that was in each book, we'd be looking at mini-series for each and every one.

I haven't read Stieg Larsson's books. Tried to start the first one once, and couldn't get into it. And I'm not someone who'll struggle through the first 100 pages because "it's awesome after that." I've realized I don't much enjoy books there's that much hype about, anyway. Didn't like Twilight, didn't like the DaVinci Code.

I am looking forward to the Stephanie Plum movie. And you know, Karen, compared to the more recent Plums, the first few weren't too bad. The first is one of the best, as far as plot goes. I have hopes.

Patg said...

Well, I'm pleased to see how much each of you have had to say. I love good discussions.
I had a heck of a time with Cooper in school, yes very dull. And I'm not much of a fan for King's books, so the movies kind of went in one ear and out the other.
I agree that the Harry Potter first few Harry Potter books were well done, I could rewatch the first one endlessly, it so captured the wonder.
I agree with you on Twilight, Jenna, books and movies are boring to the bone. OTOH, the Larrson and Brown books are some of my favorite. And, I agree with you, Karen, I don't think we will recognize our Stephanie in One For the Money, Lula maybe, but not Stephanie.

Gloria Alden said...

Some books like To Kill a Mocking Bird were pretty faithful to the book, but maybe I felt that way because I thought Gregory Peck was perfect as Atticus. But My Sisters Keeper was changed too much, especially the ending which was a shocker - and not a pleasant one.

As an aside, did you know "Stop Sopa" popped up on both side of your blog. Kind of strange for a writer's blog, since I imagine most writers would like their rights protected from piracy.

Joyce Tremel said...

Gloria, unfortunately SOPA/PIPA would actually be detrimental to writers. It goes way too far--many, many websites that have nothing to do with pirating material could be shut down. That's why there was such a massive outcry from Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, and writers everywhere.

Anonymous said...

If I have read the book and the movie comes out I do not expect it to be true to the story therefore I am not disappointed. To a non-reader of Stephanie Plum the movie will be entertainment and just another movie. To readers it will be a whole other game. I thought Jennifer Esposito of "Blue Blood" would have made a good SP and have rest of the cast made up of unknowns. Debbie Reynolds as Grandma! :( If Hollywood wanted to re-write Ray Bradbury what more can you expect!

Patg said...

Anonymous is my friend Jo, and I so have to agree with her about Grandma. That part is really going to disappoint.
:( indeed over Bradbury.
Oh well.

Jenna said...

I must agree. Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur is a travesty. Joe Morelli doesn't look like the Joe in my mind, but he works. In the trailer, you can kind of see why she'd carry a torch for him for years. And while Ranger looks a little too pretty and nowhere near dangerous enough, he works well enough. He doesn't have enough to do in the trailer to really be able to determine how well he'll work, though. But that's one movie I'm definitely going to see!