Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is the Book Always Better?

I'm a fan of Stephanie Plum series.  I have all seventeen novels, each colorful book lined up on my bookcase.  I read them over and over.  The spines are bent.  The pages are crinkled.  And I still laugh when the bird poops on Stephanie.  I can't see Tastykakes without thinking of her.  See I'm a fan. I've attended a few of Janet Evanovich's signings where her daughter gives out gifts.  And I proudly declare that I'm a cupcake. Yes,  Joe has my heart.

Through the years, there has been much talk about novels being turned into movies. If you've been at a signing you know how picky fans are about who will play Stephanie.  Various names had been rumored attached like Sandra Bullock and Cloris Leachman.  Well, Katherine Heigl got the job.  Will she do a good one?

I don't know but I will give the movie a chance and hope that it comes close to the book, that it possesses the humor, the family warmth and wonderful characters.  Yes, I hope it does the book justice. Though books turned into movies rarely do.  If you're older than 30, you remember the The Bonfire of the Vanities fiasco in the late 80s. These movies are generally a bomb and not just regular bomb but nuclear.

Although both are art forms, books rarely translate well to the big screen especially if you are a fan.  I read The Da Vinci Code and the suspense and the twist of information that had impact in the book were lacking in the movie.  Besides, Tom Hanks' hair was too weird for me to forget.   Really, what was that blowout helmet thing?

Few translations retain the spark snapping from the page, an ingredient that usually turns the book into a bestseller or classic, which naturally leads Hollywood to produce a film.  Little Women with Winona Ryder came close and the Swedish versions of The Millennium Trilogy. For me, those Lifetime Nora Roberts flicks are just cheesy.  I can't watch them without cringing for all those involved.

So why is that? What is missing from the translation? Is it the emotional impact?  Is it us as viewers staring up at a scene outside of the story instead of in it, hunched in the story's trenches with the heroor heroine?  I wonder too how this can make our storytelling better for our readers?  Do you know the answers? Tell me -- Tell me, I must know! 

Can you think of any good movies translated from a book?    Or a few sucky ones? How about a book you would like adapted?


Ana Morgan said...

Men dominate film and televion producing, even on the Lifetime channel. Ihis often translates into cookie cutter, unemotional films.

Jill James said...

One, I can not wait for this movie and I haven't even read Stephanie Plum. (I know, disown me) If the preview is any indication it seems like the witty banter is probably in the books too. I'll be getting these books this weekend.

Two, although Jurassic Park didn't totally follow the book, I felt the movie was better in some ways.

Three, we use the writers words and our imaginations for books. We lose that imagination when we are provided with the producter's, director's and writer's imaginations in a movie.

Vonnie Davis said...

Excellent post! I will be there in the theater, popcorn bucket in hand, when the movie opens here. I've read all the Plum books, too. My favorites were the first 3. Every time I read one in bed and start laughing, my husband looks back over his shoulder and asks, "Are your reading Stephanie again?"

We'll all have to compare notes on our viewpoints once the movie's been out for a week. Shall we make a date?

Josie said...

I, too, am a Stephanie Plum fan. I've read the books, and also enjoyed several as audiobooks. Let's hope the movie can deliver the same humor.