Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ranty McRantypants: Book Adaptations

In Hollywood's quest to find a sure thing, they've been adapting all sorts of books for screens both big and small of late. The YA market in particular sees a lot of this, but for every Harry Potter, there's a Golden Compass that just doesn't quite hit the mark. We're starting to see this cross over into adult fiction as well. As a junkie for this type of thing, I've put far too much thought into where some go wrong while others can get away with murder (or avoiding murder as the case may be). 

When making an adaptation there are basically three options:
  1. Follow the book as closely as possible without bogging down the filming.
  2. Stick to the book for the most part but change things here and there to prove it won't be predictable. 
  3. Use the book as little more than a jumping off point for something different but with vaguely familiar characters. 
A fourth option, that tends not to sit well with book fans, is to start one way and then jump into a different option--particularly if you start with options 1 or 2. 

In particular right now, I'm thinking of Bitten. (Before I start into this, I want to make a point that I do not blame Kelley Armstrong for any of what went pear-shaped with this show. She sold the rights because fans kept pushing for it, and then the studio did what they do--they did their own thing. She's had to deal with a lot of fall-out and we fans are far more to blame than her.)

When the casting was announced, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Elena was too pretty. The guys weren't pretty enough. Jeremy wasn't even remotely Asian… Then again, we thought, how many skinny, leggy, plain blonde women can also act? And half-Asian men of the right age and character…okay, maybe casting was just really hard. So most of us decided to give it a chance--even after we found out Clay wasn't going to have a southern accent. (*cries* Really? Josh Holloway wasn't available?)

The first episode was watched with much brow furrowing. Clay, flirting with his students? Elena being not only beautiful but dressing like a model. Jeremy asking for things rather than acting alpha? 

We tried to argue growing pains since they seemed like they were more or less kind of going with option 1. Until a few more episodes in…when characters lived who were supposed to die. And characters died who were supposed to live. Others ignored the alpha because…girlfriend. 

Basically, they shifted to option 2, which fans might have been able to roll with, but then suddenly we hit a wall that took us to plan 3. And there isn't a damn thing left that's familiar other than character names. 

At this point, I think most fans of the books have walked away. We don't have the characters we love, nor did the writers manage to make us care much about the ones they created. Kelley's writing, which was brilliant and real was replaced with wooden dialogue and cliches. The few lines they kept from the book lacked punch because the felt out of place. 

But for me, the worst part is how little the people in charge of the show care about the werewolf aspect. It's a show about werewolves. First, put the money into decent CGI, or (novel idea) use animals as much as possible. But they're barely even using the CGI wolves at this point. We can watch humans fight on any show--that's not going to make people tune in to this. Also…pack. Kelley did brilliant research into wolves and pack mentality. That dynamic shines in the books and makes them believable. It's been completely tossed out on the show. 

It's not only that the characters have become unrecognizable but the entire idea of what makes them a family was lost in translation. Care. Putting care into any of this would have made the show so much better. 

Part of me wants to tell Hollywood to stay the hell away from books from here on out, but I know they are capable of doing great adaptations. I just really wish they could do them more consistently. 

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go re-read Bitten now. The book is brilliant and I sincerely hope people don't judge it based on the show. There's a reason people always say "the book was better"--because 99 times out of 100, is is. 

1 comment:

  1. The odd thing is, Disney went hardcore with their version of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. I don't think I'm revealing anything by saying it showed Captain Nemo died at the end. Children get flunked for writing book reports with that ending, since it shows they didn't read the book. On the other hand, the movie version of Jaws is notably hardcore, but not everyone who died in the book died in the movie.


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