Aren't films great? Especially book-to-film adaptations. They're so good, this site offers a bit of space to reviews of them! Films like The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent and If I Stay all offer a director's perspective on the story. And I think that's pretty good. But when asked the question, 'book or film?' the answer always comes out as being, 'Books. Obviously.' So why is my answer, 'Books. Obviously?' and why has this never changed. Personally, it's to do with how the films are actually made.
Let's talk about The Fault In Our Stars. It's my personal infinity, pun intended. I loved it, it's the first proper YA book I ever read. I bought it on Boxing Day 2013. Yes, I loved it so much I remember clearly having an argument with the shop staff about how much I'd been charged for it, then remember thinking that I should've just let John Green have the rest of the coins that I didn't end up giving him. So when I found out that it was to be a film in the next few months, I was enormously excited. I took a slightly confused parent to see it and found myself in a cinema full of weeping girls. Literally.
But none of that was my problem. I remember watching the film and thinking, “They've butchered the book to make the film.” Why? Because my dad walked out of that cinema with me and said to me, “Thank you so much for making me watch a chick-flick.” And to me, the book is anything but a chick-flick. I was later told that the production companies did what they needed to make money. And I remember thinking in response (there's a lot of speech in this, I know!), “I regret giving them my money then.” And to this day, I still don't own the DVD. Because I refuse to support it.
If you're going to destroy large parts of the book to make it sell, then you need to reconsider. Sure, Shailene is supposed to make Hazel attractive, and Gus is supposed to be made attractive too in the movie. But think about this: does an ex-basketball playing intelligent philosopher on a prosthetic leg that's 6 feet tall and has a six pack really add up? Exactly.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is another example. I loved the book and I loved the film. They both shed light on the issues that they cover in a beautiful way. But is this contradicted upon in the film? I think it is. I wanted to see more depth in the characters, all the bits of information I could find out from the book I wanted to see there. But they won't add that because information doesn't sell unless you're talking to newspapers.
There's another major problem I find with books though, and it's this. Take Divergent as a good example for this. I made a point of reading the book before seeing it in the cinema, and nearly missed it where I had to fight for that decision. I had a clear image of what I imagined the post-apocalyptic Chicago to look like, and the film ruined that for me. Not only did it infringe my thoughts, it destroys the image you had, so whenever you read it again, all you can imagine is the scene portrayed in the film when you read it.
My point is that adaptations suppress the imaginative powers that books have over people and those powers that people really really like about books. Whether it's Charlie and Lola or Divergent or even freaking Fifty Shades Of Grey, films don't nurture the freedom to imagine the world of the book, they brutally murder it.
It's why I get a bit mad when people say to me that they prefer the film to the book. When I ask them why, they say things like, “Because the director brought that character to life,” or, “That scene was amazing,” or even, “Uh... hello? Did you not see his six pack?!”
You can therefore imagine my disgust when they tell me that they haven't read the book, and the sadness that then consumes me when I realise they will never be able to construct their own image of the character in their head, because the film killed it. You may think I'm being a bit over-dramatic: I'm just speaking what I think. And hate.
Listen: I'm not trying to say that films aren't good. When they aren't adaptations, I'm usually a really big fan of them. But most of the time films are adaptations, which also makes me question how much originality that film producers have, if they have to keep copying books.
But I'm saying that production companies should spare a thought for how much the film actually represents the book and it's original and respective plot. If they ask themselves the question, “Does my film actually portray what the book says?” and the answer is, “Not that much,” then something needs to be done about it or else you'll have me to put up with, although I'm not too much of a threat to you people.
These are just my thoughts on film adaptations, and that's why I'm Team Books.
Please let me know if you agree with me on Twitter @thurrockjosh and @yalovemag.