Do We Give Filmmakers Too Much Grief Over Book-to-Movie Adaptations?

Over a year-and-a-half of being in the blogging community, something that I’ve noticed  is what happens when people start talking about a movie. When we hear that a particularly good Young Adult or Middle Grade novel is being made into a movie, there tend to be explosions. People say “I hope they don’t turn so & so into such & such!” and freak when their favorite character has a slightly different physical attribute than specified in the novel.

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Or, when somebody brings up a movie/movies already adapted from a book (think Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings), discussions will spout, criticizing what was and wasn’t left out, how they feel writers ruined what most others see as a great movie.

My question is: how much is too much nitpicking?

When I talk about not criticizing a movie too much, it’s mostly towards movie adaptations of books that were fantastic in the other aspects than the adaptation part: the cinematography, casting, music, etc. So if we have all that, and it honestly wasn’t too terrible of an adaptation, why do we still feel the need to nitpick?

(Note: this does not apply to the Percy Jackson movies. Those were just kinda all around terrible.)

This is mostly  just me rambling because it’s a topic I’m interested in, but still don’t always understand. Why do we need to criticize what is already great? Sure, in the Harry Potter movies, for example, Harry didn’t have the sass he had in the books, and Ginny wasn’t as fiery as her hair, but it was still an amazing movie series, and was otherwise adapted ridiculously well.

I know that really, filmmakers and producers don’t exactly hear what we say, but there are still reviews on places like imdb and Netflix and every other site you can think of that still expresses our opinions.

I mean, it’s impossible to translate the book exactly from page to screen- thoughts, narrations, descriptions are all going to be left out, so why do we find this so irking?

That’s really all I have to say on the subject, but I’m curious as to why you think we nitpick. Do we just want everything to be exactly like it was in our minds as we read the book? Because that’s impossible, so.

Tell all below! Why do you think we criticize book-to-movie adaptations so much?

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24 thoughts on “Do We Give Filmmakers Too Much Grief Over Book-to-Movie Adaptations?

  1. I find myself criticizing movie adaptations a lot, when in reality they probably don’t deserve it. Movie adaptations are based on the book, but that doesn’t mean that they have to fit every tiny detail in there– most of the time that would be impossible! Some things just don’t translate well from page to screen, so I think a lot of the changes they end up making are supposed to be for the better, but we often just view any deviation from the book as a negative thing.
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I read the book first, I usually just…don’t ever find the adaptation as good. Ever.
    I do feel like we complain a lot about not staying true to the book, but in some ways it’s nice for adaptations to be a little different. (Like Howl’s Moving Castle. I love that movie.) And I seem to remember that the ‘Yer a wizard, Harry,’ like is actually kinda different in the books? It would have been nice to have sassy Harry and fierce Ginny and less Ron as comic relief but…yeah. I still think the HP adaptations are pretty darn good, as they go.
    Hmm, I’m not exactly sure why we do it — I think all of us have an picture in our heads when we read the books, and that can never be translated to screen for everyone. Or maybe we want the books to be recognised and not turned into a stupid blockbuster movie? WHO KNOWS? 😛 This is a super interesting discussion! (Also: OMG LOVING YOUR THEME RIGHT NOW.)

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    1. Yeah, generally it isn’t as good, that I agree with…it’s just the nitpicking. I mean, the movie does have to change some stuff to keep a nice film-y flow, ’cause, like Holly above you said, not everything translates well from page to screen.
      Yeah! Isn’t it “Harry…you’re a wizard” or something like that? XD Sassy Harry and fierce Ginny and more friendly Ron would be nice, yes, I just wish people wouldn’t downgrade the ENTIRE movie because of it.
      WHO KNOWS INDEED? It’s impossible, which I think also goes into play as we dislike it…we’re upset that it can never be perfect, which is, of course, silly, but nonetheless. 😛
      (THANK YOU a friend of mine recently started a blog and she found that theme and I was like OMG I LOVE IT. So. I took it. 😛 but thank you!)

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  3. I think I’m more lenient to plot changes as it affects the fluidity of storytelling as opposed to the continual need for Hollywood to whitewash the characters. I’m all for finding talented actors to fulfill the role but the usual dismissal of role fulfillment (given concrete evidence from the text) is just something that leaves something to be desired with a “true” adaptation. Maybe that’s just me though.

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  4. I have to admit, I’m a little frustrated with some aspects of the adaptations of Harry Potter. A lot of my frustrations come from things they COULD have kept from the books but chose not to, or things in the books that added depth with which the movies feel significantly more shallow.

    I know not everything can be included (The Princess Bride is an amazing adaptation that proves this is not a bad thing). But fans will nitpick because the movie is suddenly imposing a visual reality over what they themselves have created, and standards can get incredibly high as a result.

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    1. I don’t have anything against not agreeing with some aspects (out of curiosity, which parts were you unhappy with?) but discrediting the entire movie over something kind of small (not necessarily your scenario, just saying) is what bugs me.
      Yes! The Princess Bride is amazing! So is Lord of the Rings, and they could probably build another series just out of what they left out. Yeah, that’s what I find interesting- how high we set the standards.

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      1. I think that the failure to include SPEW in Goblet of Fire was the biggest misstep. It’s sets up a major aspect of Hermione’s character. Also, I feel like they took a lot of Ron’s strengths and gave them to Hermione, which feels like a misstep because it makes them both weaker characters in the movies than they are in the books.

        I do think discrediting the entire movie for it isn’t a great thing to do, but to each their own. I feel the same way about spoilers, though–why does the one thing spoil the movie for someone? I don’t know.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Those are both good points! I was never to interested in SPEW, but it was a big part of Hermione. One thing that wasn’t my personal favorite is they made Hermione seem like the best friend (not that she wasn’t an amazing friend!) and at times Ron was just kind of annoying instead of the best friend he was in the book. Hmmm.
          I think it’s more like, major character deaths? You don’t want to know who’s going to die before you see/read it.

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  5. Honestly, for me I seldom dislike a movie or show adaptation. Usually the cast, changes in plot, or discrepancies don’t really bother me. Even the movies that most readers hated like Vampire Academy and Ella Enchanted I still enjoyed. Even though they’re nothing like the movie, the originality and humor made me laugh in both films. They have their own merits, I think. And I think as us, readers, we have expectations that our favorite book(s) will come to life with major motion picture… and when it doesn’t happen the way we imagine them it can be disappointing. But I think most people don’t realize that there’s so much detail we can fit in a book into a two hour film. Great post, Evi!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t tend to either (other than Percy Jackson) unless they changed something major in the plot. Minor changes I’m cool with, because stuff doesn’t always translate well, like Joey said a few comments above. Oh, I love Ella Enchanted! I didn’t like the Vampire Academy book, so I don’t know if I’d like the movie… but anyway. If it’s still a good movie and isn’t terribly cheesy, why do we bother criticizing? Standards are set so high, and that’s a bit crazy. EXACTLY. You can’t fit everything in, and some things don’t even go well on the screen.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There are ALWAYS going to be people who think the movie adaptation wasn’t faithful enough. But some adaptations that take huge liberties actually turn out great – like The Princess Diaries, for example. Or Stardust.

    Then there’s ones like…Eragon. *gnashes teeth*

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  7. I think we get really fussy about book to movie adaptations because we love the book/s, and we want a true adaptation (or no adaptation at all. I am seriously perfectly fine with my favourite books never being made into movies). And because if some particular character attribute is really important to someone as a reader, or is really defining to the character, and that attribute is left out … it doesn’t feel faithful.

    To be honest, there are some book to movie adaptations that I have enjoyed more than the books they were based on because what the production did with the story enhanced it. For example: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, and Memoirs of a Geisha. All gorgeous movies I adore, based on books I really liked. But I liked the movies a lot more.

    Anyway, I think the nit picky thing comes from love. We want the thing we love to BE the thing we love, and REMAIN the thing we love, so we don’t want anything about it to change. Although, that being said there is a line between being sad and a bit nit picky and just being a total a-hole and hating on everything just to hate on it T.T

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    1. That is a very good point! If it is a major attribute, or something that is easily recognizable by the fans, it’s weird to change that. But if it’s not even a major detail and is barely mentioned, yet everybody focuses on that, that’s when I feel it’s odd.
      And yes! Movies can totally make the stories even greater.
      That’s sort of my point- that’s okay if you don’t like it, but don’t downgrade the entire movie.
      Thank you for commenting!

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  8. This is SUCH a good discussion. Everyone talks about how hard it is to cope with terrible movie adaptations, but up till now, I’ve never seen a post with this perspective. If I’m being totally honest, I love the way movie adaptations add their own twist to the movie, y’know? Like, I watched the movie for Howl’s Moving Castle BEFORE I read the book, and I liked the movie much better – idk, the book was somehow…bland.

    As much as I would adore a six hour word to word dialogue movie adaptation with my dream actors, alas, that can’t really happen. And, sometimes, the directors adding their own touch to the movie works out.

    As long as it isn’t Percy Jackson (it can’t get worse than /that/. EVER.), I think I’m okay with it. It gives me the excitement of looking forward to something new in the same world. I realize I’m probably in the minority on this, but I never really minded it.

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    1. Thank you!!! ❤ Yeah, that's mostly my point! There's so much they can't adapt, so why shouldn't they try to put their own extras to try to make up for it? (I mean, this can also totally fail. But. In theory.) And anyhow, so much can’t be adapted! Like thoughts? Descriptions? IT’S GOTTA BE SO HARD TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY, OMG.
      Though yes. Percy Jackson is a very awful.

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  9. I was waiting for you to mention the PJ films XD I definitely think people (including me haha) are too negative at times. Books and films/tv are a different platform, changes will have to be made. Writing a screenplay can’t be that easy, especially if there’s already a source material and many fans that love it! Imagine the pressure you’re under if you’re adapting a popular franchise…

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