There have been dozens, if not hundreds of films based on novels. Some of the most successful (both commercially and artistically) films have been an adaptation of a book or short story. With the success of “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger games” there is a lot to be gained from these kinds of films.
Book adaptations are not easily pulled off, either. There have been a number of flopped adaptations as well. An adaptation is the balancing act of fan loyalties, artistic direction, and box office priorities. When it comes down to it, filmmakers must ensure success at both the box office and the hearts of fans by staying to the theme of the novel while still making an entertaining film.
Preserving the soul
It is difficult to cram a 1000+ page novel into two and half hours of film. This inevitably creates a challenge: some of the story must stay, and some of it must be cut for the big screen. This is a bittersweet sacrifice as it makes the story more palatable, but may reduce emotional ties (and perhaps important plot elements) to the audience.
An example is cutting out tertiary themes, as was the case with the first “Hunger Games” film, directed by Gary Ross. He made a film that both newcomers and fans of the original novel could appreciate by discarding certain parts of the book would not translate well to screen. Although the new Hunger Games movie is strictly in theaters, you can find the first film played on cable. Find more information on cable movie scheduling through your provider.
Characters in the mind and the screen
Casting is also an immensely important part of the adaptation process. When someone read’s a book, he or she develops an image of characters in both appearance and personality. Both movie and book fans have certain expectations that must be met.
An example of a great characterization that works was Ian McKellen in his role as Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings.” Not only did he match the physical description of the wizard in the novels, but he was also a well-known actor that is famous for his portrayal of wise characters. His overall friendly demeanor and knowledgeable disposition made him enjoyable to watch for both fans of the novel and newcomers.
It also helps if you have a director like academy award winner Martin Scorsese and acclaimed screenwriter John Logan that are both a big fan of the novel. This was the case for Brian Selznick’s novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Although he played no formal role in the production of the film, he still believes the film version, “Hugo” was faithful to novel and entertaining.
Scorsese made sure that the entire film crew read the book and had it accessible on set at all times. It goes to show that a director who loves original material can help maintain the heart of a novel when it makes its way to the big screen.
In the end it is all about preserving the soul of a novel while making sure it is compelling and entertaining to watch in theater. The goals of both a novel and film are the same, to awe and inspire.