Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Adaptations - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

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As much as I love movies, I have even more space in my heart for books. A trip to Barnes and Noble during a sale is one of my favorite things. Finding a book older than my mom at a used bookstore is even better. A good book can be a release, a comfort, or just a kickstart to get me working on my own stories.
Movies that adapt books, however, can be hit or miss. Sometimes the people adapting the story get everything just right, but let’s be honest – that’s rare. It’s more likely that people who love the original book are going to be disappointed. Not as common, but still possible, the movie could actually ruin the book for fans completely. Then there are those adaptations that add more perspective, extending scenes from the book – or cutting out some of the filler – causing fans to love the story more.
There are a ton of ways a book adaptation can go.
In my original article I talked about The Princess Bride (1987), The Hunger Games (2012 -), and Harry Potter (2001-2011). For the most part, all three of those adaptations aren’t bad. I wasn’t so fond of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) as an adaptation, but as a movie it was good.
I would like to add one more adaptation to that list that has affected me in a good way. That film is: Dune (2021).

It’s been a very long time since I read Dune (1965). I remember taking an abnormally long time to read it. It was a great story, but there was so much in the way of slow-paced politics that I hate reading about. That’s a problem because, with ADHD, that makes it almost impossible for me to retain information. There were chapters I had to re-read because I’d finish them and find that nothing stuck. I didn’t remember anything I’d read.
I’m a heavy reader, so it’s rare that a good story will take me all that long to finish. In fact, I read the last book in the Harry Potter series in one night. The only reason the last book in The Hunger Games took me a couple of days to read was because I had to put it down when Prim died and walk away for a bit. I devour a good story like it’s the air I need to breathe. So, the fact that I couldn’t do that with Dune, despite it being a good story, was a problem for me.
Now, Dune has been adapted before, but if you’ve seen those films, you know why they didn’t make much of a difference for me. One of them has a cult following, but it’s certainly not the best adaptation of the book. The 2021 version, though, was incredible.
It brought the book back to my memory and helped me process things I simply couldn’t when I read it. Things made more sense than they did when I was reading and re-reading chapters. It didn’t hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous film with actors that brought every character to life flawlessly. It added something to the reading experience that I lost because of my disability. It was the first movie that really made me understand that sometimes, the adaptation process could be a matter of accessibility.
Unfortunately, not all the adaptations that have shaped the way I view movies are for good reasons.
Let’s talk about Eragon (2006).

I love reading with friends. Either when someone recommends a book to me, or I recommend it to them, I love having the discussions that follow. In the case of Eragon, my best friend came to me with the story. My friend, at the time, was not as big of a reader as he is now. In fact, Eragon was the first series he ever recommended to me (outside of comic books). So, I took it seriously.
I finished them all in about a week. The series was outstanding, and I understood his love for it. Naturally, when we learned about the movie, we were both excited.
We didn’t get to see it together, which is a shame because the adaptation of Eragon straight-up requires emotional support for fans. I’ve never seen a movie get a book so wrong in my life. It felt as if the casting director picked actors out of a hat. Not only was each one of them wrong for their part, but they didn’t even put enough energy into their performances to try to convince fans of the new take on each character. The story barely even went in the same direction as the books, and the dragons felt as if they’d been made by a photoshop novice.
The adaptation was so awful that I have trouble looking back on the books fondly. Every time I try, I remember some bullshit from the film. I have, on occasion, wondered if the author should have tried to sue the production company for defamation.
When movies and books come together, it gets complicated. You can get a masterpiece like Dune, but you can also get a horror story like Eragon. I think one of the best ways to go forward with an adaptation is to include the original author in the movie creation process. When adapting older works, it’s not always possible, but I do wonder how good Eragon could have been if the original writer had been given some control over the final product.

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