More and more movies are based on books. While some would call this a beneficial aspect of the film industry, is it really what Hollywood should be doing?
My argument sounds similar to my criticisms of sequels: it simply feels like Hollywood has run completely out of new ideas and is simply pulling from (essentially copying) books and reality, rather than utilizing their own imaginations.
Don’t get me wrong — I love movies based on books. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Princess Bride are fantastic movies and I enjoy watching them. However, I just feel like Hollywood can greatly improve in the creativity department.
Like always, let’s examine exactly why movies based on books are so popular.
It’s a Sure Bet (Most of the Time)
More than 400 million copies of Harry Potter titles have been sold, so is it really any surprise that the movie franchise grossed somewhere around $10 billion worldwide? It just makes sense that books that sell well would translate into movies that also sell well.
The Twilight franchise (unfortunately) made over $1 billion. The Hunger Games franchise made nearly $3 billion. The Jason Bourne franchise has made nearly $1.6 billion. Even the less popular Divergent franchise made nearly $750 million at the box office. Best-selling books make for blockbuster movies.
However, this isn’t always the case. Let’s take a look at Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief (as all demigods roll their eyes in anticipation of what’s to come).
The book has sold over 1.2 million copies and the movie made over $88 million, but it suffered from horrendously bad reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives it the generous rating of 49% (top critics gave it 34%). And it’s really no surprise. The movie barely follows the book and is unapologetically heavy-handed with the CGI. Then there’s the obvious (yet so easy to fix) issues, like Annabeth’s brown hair that was supposed to blonde and Luke’s scar that is mysteriously missing in the movie.
This isn’t the only movie that has suffered this fate either. Eragon, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Ender’s Game all had audience backlash. Though they may have done decent at the box office, the reviews skewered these films.
Overall, though, most film adaptations of books tend to do well at the box office (even if they may weather harsh reviews later).
Fantasy Becomes Reality
The biggest reason movies based on books do so well is the pull of fantasy becoming reality, the idea that what you were imagining is going to be real and displayed right in front of your eyes. The action that was previously only a scene in your head is now being viewed by millions of others, and it’s definitely more exhilarating in real life.
The added excitement is seeing if everyone imagined the same thing as you. Did you think that character had blue eyes too? The author never mentioned it but I just know she had the same color eyes as me. I mean, how else would she be brave enough to save the world?
Plus, you get to figure out exactly how to pronounce that one character’s name (is it Her-me-one or Her-my-o-knee?) or actually listen to what the elvish language sounds like.
SO. MUCH. FANFICTION.
As a closeted fanfiction writer, let me tell you that the biggest plus of a book-turned-movie is the fact that you can finally see what your characters are doing so you can better write them.
Maybe that gesture the author kept mentioning didn’t make sense but now you can finally visualize it. You can finally hear exactly what pitch that character’s voice is in. You couldn’t imagine their hometown but now you’ll never forget what it looks like because you’ve watched the movie 257 times.
It’s a small plus, and one only appreciated by a specific audience, but the audience that the movie is targeting most will be grateful.
Loss of Creativity
With all these pluses, you may be wondering what my problem is with movies based on books.
Well, I don’t have one really. I’m mostly just complaining about Hollywood’s lack of creativity like I always do. It’s fun and it gives me something to do in between binge-watching Cary Grant movies and attending college classes.
I feel like Hollywood has lot that creativity they had in movies past, like Inception, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Citizen Kane, Back to the Future, Rocky, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, Minority Report, and The Prestige. These movies had story lines nobody had ever really seen before. They were fresh, original, and box office hits. You went to the theater not knowing what to expect because you didn’t have any references for it.
But, then again, maybe I’m just longing for a time past. Maybe all I can do is watch as every story I see on screen is simply an adaptation of another story. Maybe I need to just accept that Hollywood is fresh out of ideas for the time being.
Yet, I still hope for that future when movies are no longer sequels, book adaptations, or based on true stories. Until then, I’ll be anticipating the next Star Wars movie and sleeping through the hour of unneeded exposition in Marvel movies just like everyone else.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on movies based on books? Comment down below!
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*Report via Entertainment Weekly