Book to Screen Adaptation

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Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby starkat » Oct 03, 2013 12:54 pm

What makes a good book to screen adaptation for you?

Word for word transference of the book onto the screen?

Something based on the book, but only loosely?

Something in between? If so, to what degree?

What movies would you use as an example to your fellow NarniaWebbers and if you could sit down and talk to the filmmakers?
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby thephfactor1 » Oct 03, 2013 1:35 pm

thephfactor1 wrote:For me, a good adaptation is not one that tries to simply do everything that the book did in the same way that the book did, because why would you want to watch that kind of movie? Just read the book! Instead, a good adaptation of a book needs to expand and expound, to show us new angles and pose new questions, to show us new sides of favorite characters, and to introduce new ones for them to interact with. Prince Caspian, I thought, did a good job in many ways. I thought it was made less than good by all the teen angst and such. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader made no attempt to really adapt the book at all, in my opinion, the book elements just seemed like a vehicle for their contrived plot and "moral of the story".
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby Reepicheep775 » Oct 03, 2013 5:23 pm

An adaptation has to get the themes right. Film-makers need to understand what the book is really about and then translate that to film. You should take away the same "message" from the movie that you did from the book. If this is done, then I don't mind changes to the plotline. However, changes should be made for a reason (e.g. translating a scene or idea from the page to the screen) and not just for the heck of it, to make it more marketable etc.

In addition to themes, film-makers need to understand characters. Even if there are plot changes, the characters need to react the way they would react in the book. For me at least, themes and characters are what makes books stick with me.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby wolfloversk » Oct 03, 2013 6:12 pm

Not word for word, but certainly not loose... It has to keep the basic themes and points intact... character arcs should remain similar... general locale and time period should feel right... I love when they expand on parts of the book as long as it actually reflects what the story's telling... I good example of this is the bombing of London and evacuation scenes in the first movie... I feel that was essential to setting up the character arcs (especially Edmund's and Lucy's ) and it did not detract in any way from the plot or relations of the book... There are also times when I understand changes need to be made just because of the format... such as reorganizing the timeline of events in PC -in retrospect... talking to people not familiar with the book, I do wish they included more with his nurse and the star scene, because a lot of non-book readers were confused, but I feel if they had kept it exactly as it was in the book as this giant flashback it would have been terrible for the film structurally. It would have impacted the flow and probably led to an equal amount of confusion. So, I still think it was a good decision.

Things I do not like are things that change the focus of the plot or impact character arcs or relationships among characters both from the story and from the series. And changes in location or timescale I just never understood the need, unless maybe for budget reasons, but I feel it just leads to unnecessary plot changes...

Basically, to be a good adaptation it needs to capture the heart of the story and leave it's audience inspired in some way :)
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby FriendofNarnia2 » Oct 03, 2013 8:09 pm

Word for word adaptations are not important, and in most cases would not work at all.

What is important:
- The feeling I get when reading the book and watching the movie should be the same.
- The basic plot structure should stay intact.
- Characters should remain true to themselves.
- The themes of the book should be the themes of the film.

Those are pretty much my requirements. Other than that, I just ask that it be a good film in its own right, so that I could enjoy it whether I had read the book or not.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby King Tirian » Oct 03, 2013 8:35 pm

For me it would have to be based on, but loosely. I'm in agreement that if they want to change or add something it should still be in the spirit of the story.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 03, 2013 9:27 pm

I agree that a good movie does not have to be identical to the book, otherwise it becomes little more than a pictorial retelling of an audiobook. But at least a good movie of a book should be at least set in the relevant time frame. Whilst Peter Jackson might have been right to say that a filmmaker's job is to show how the story unfolds, rather than telling it, it doesn't follow that scriptwriters should take too many liberties with time, space & themes in doing so.

I get annoyed with films that contain anachronistic themes that are irrelevant to the novel, or which twist the movie script to fit in with current notions and movie fashions of family life. For example, a good movie does not introduce romance for the sake of it, and doesn't ramp up romance unnecessarily, either. This was something that was well-done in LOTR, but I don't think it was well-done in PC & VDT, even if they did keep both movies down to PA.

Examples of what I call bad movies include Troy (2006?) where Brad Pitt (Achilles) goes raving on about republicanism when annoyed with the Greek army's royal leaders. In the time of Troy and the Iliad republicanism was no more than a gleam in the eyes of a bunch of barbarian tribal leaders vying to be king if they could get away with it, and so was definitely that movie's "Achilles heel". Greece did go on to invent a forerunner of "democracy" but they invented tyrants and dictators such as Solon and Draco as well. Unfortunately this inaccurate way of treating characters from historic eras has been all too typical of Hollywood films.

Another bad film was the Eagle which would have sent the historical novelist, Rosemary Sutcliffe, who wrote the book it was based on, spinning in her grave. Not only was the movie somewhat more bloodthirsty than the novel ever suggested, but also they left out the lovely, innocent little romance between Aquila and Cottia, his Icenian neighbour. That is just as bad as Braveheart (1990's) where Mel Gibson has William Wallace having a romantic session with Edward I's daughter-in-law. Believe me that might have worked for today's movie audiences, but would have been downright impossible in those times, when marriages, especially royal ones, were arranged by people who couldn't have cared less about 'romance', and would chop off the heads of royal queens/princesses who indulged in such activities.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby King_Erlian » Oct 04, 2013 5:24 am

Recently I bought the DVD of the 1978 cartoon version of "The Lord Of The Rings", which I saw in the cinema when it first came out when I was 14 and really enjoyed at the time. One thing that struck me was that it had far more of Tolkien's original dialogue spoken by the characters than the live-action films from the 2000s. But it felt less like the books. The hobbits were too cute and childish, especially Sam Gamgee whom they'd made very goofy - you couldn't imagine him turning into the warrior at the beginning of Return Of The King. And some of the most dramatic moments, such as the confrontation with the Nazgul at the edge of Rivendell, lacked tension. On the other hand, the cartoon film did include a lot of Tolkien's humour, which the BBC Radio version from the '70s lacked.

I liked the '70s cartoon of LWW at the time, but watching it again recently I thought it was rather bland. Like the LOTR cartoon, it lacked tension in the dramatic bits. I didn't like the BBC Narnia TV series at the time, but I thought it was only fair to give them another chance, so I've just bought the DVD box set of all four stories. Now I just need time to watch them.

For me, the Walden LWW was just about the perfect adaptation. Not a slavish word-for-word copy of the book, but it was the story of the book. The casting was exactly right. Narnia looked like a real place. The effects enhanced but didn't detract. Most of all, I felt that this was presenting the spirit of LWW as Lewis intended.

Prince Caspian wasn't. There, it looked like the makers were thinking, "We've another franchise on our hands, we have to do a sequel, so we'd better start with the next book in the series, but our main concern is to make a movie that as many people as possible will go to see, and most movie-goers are teenage kids, so we need to make a teen-friendly movie." What came over didn't feel like the story that Lewis told. Whilst I don't think that a word-for-word rendition makes for a good adaptation, neither should a filmmaker disregard the text too much; otherwise, why not just write your own story and call it something different? Having said that, I enjoyed the film of PC as a film in its own right; it's just not the story that Lewis wrote, in my opinion.

If PC was too teen-friendly, then VDT was too CBeebies-friendly (CBeebies is the BBC's digital TV channel for pre-school children). Dragon-Eustace looked too Disney-ish and lovable, and the addition of the little girl for Lucy to be "big sis" to seemed unnecessary. I didn't mind the addition of the green mist per se, as something to give the whole film more of a unified narrative. The book is more like a TV series: a series of short(ish) adventures, each filling one or two 25-minute episodes. But the mist wasn't adequately explained, or resolved. It was some "dark magic" that appeared to manifest itself in the mist which caused the danger, but who was behind it? What was their motive? Why should placing the seven swords on Aslan's Table fix everything? I think VDT is a harder book to adapt successfully because it doesn't have as significant a goal as the first two (the overthrow of the White Witch, or the overthrow of Miraz). It's more about the incidental things that happen to the characters on the journey, especially the "curing" of Eustace. But that's harder to realise on screen. Still, I preferred the fact that it focussed on a younger audience than PC. Teen-Narnia is not Narnia, and I'd like to see adult-oriented films of the Narnia books even less. Writing my own adult-oriented Narnia novel, now, that's a different matter...

I really do hope that eventually (and I'll probably have died of old age by the time it happens) we'll have well-made and successful film versions of all the Narnia books, if nothing else to scotch the belief among the Great Unwashed that LWW is the only Narnia story.

One screen adaptation that makes my blood boil: the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians. They turned it into a comedy vehicle for Glenn Close (not that I've anything against her). And then to ignore the book sequel (The Starlight Barking) completely and instead write their own "sequel", 102 Dalmatians... Aaarrgh!!!
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby thephfactor1 » Oct 04, 2013 9:18 am

waggawerewolf27 wrote:Another bad film was the Eagle which would have sent the historical novelist, Rosemary Sutcliffe, who wrote the book it was based on, spinning in her grave. Not only was the movie somewhat more bloodthirsty than the novel ever suggested, but also they left out the lovely, innocent little romance between Aquila and Cottia, his Icenian neighbour.

I was disappointed with The Eagle as well, but the only problem I had with that one was the poor acting. I was glad they took out the romance bit, it seemed extraneous and not very interesting. The violence was portrayed realistically, it wasn't "more bloodthirsty". What I liked about it was the ridiculously good production design and locations. I wish they would make one of my favorite Sutcliffes like The Lantern Bearers. :/

Anyway, I agree with a lot of things people are saying in this thread. And it's definitely important that a film be good film in it's own right as well. As far as Prince Caspian goes, I thought that the only thing wrong with it was the unnecessary and distracting teen angst. Other than that I would use it as a perfect example of a good adaption of a difficult book. There were no real significant departures from the basic plot and purpose of the story, and, apart from some unfortunate detours, the changes they made seemed to all be for the better.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 04, 2013 2:28 pm

I agree with many people here - consistent theme, plot, and characters.

I thought LWW was the best film in its own right. PC was the best adaptation (minus the teen angst). Faith screamed loud, as it should have. VDT failed on both counts and it was incredibly cheesy! /:)

Depending on the book, updating an adaptation in terms of time or place isn't always a bad idea. Examples: King of Texas (Shakespeare's King Lear, 2002), What Maisie Knew (Henry James, 2012), Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1998), Clueless (Jane Austen's Emma, 1996). Some adaptations are more successful than others, but I'm not against the idea if it works.

What is necessary to Narnia is magic and wonder (bringing it back in PC was part of the plot). Another necessity is focusing on Aslan. He's the real hero of the whole series and the one who gives orders!
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby narnia fan 7 » Oct 05, 2013 4:01 pm

For me a good Adaptation is:
- Keeping the themes of the book intact.
- The Characters should remain true to the book.
- Keeping the basic plot intact.

In my opinion PC was the best adaptation it capture the themes and the feel of the book although I think LWW was a better movie PC and a good adaptation but not as good as PC were as VDT failed both as a movie and as a adaptation.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 05, 2013 8:12 pm

thephfactor1 wrote:I was disappointed with The Eagle as well, but the only problem I had with that one was the poor acting. I was glad they took out the romance bit, it seemed extraneous and not very interesting. The violence was portrayed realistically, it wasn't "more bloodthirsty". What I liked about it was the ridiculously good production design and locations. I wish they would make one of my favorite Sutcliffes like The Lantern Bearers. :/


Sorry, but that 'not very interesting and extraneous romance' was nothing of the sort. I know that the almost total absence of women in the movie was true historically to the Roman way of doing things. But I found it a distastefully woman-less production, nonetheless. When St Paul wrote the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, he might as well have been referring to Roman society as it was then, as well as for the foreseeable future, since many of the high-up Romans, in particular, had a culture of regarding women as inferior to men, as beneath their notice, and thus were unworthy of men's affection or consideration, except for producing children.

But even then, when women had little or no civil rights, and lived in relative isolation from even their own husbands, fathers, brothers & sons, there were still ways for men and women to meet up privately, and for women to make a sometimes vital difference for good or for evil, or at least be included in the action. This was especially true when money, property and position was less important. And it was one reason why Roman soldiers, who weren't supposed to marry, ended up settling down wherever they finished their service, in places like Gaul, Britannia or Hispania.

Thus Cottia, as a neighbour, could reasonably meet Marcus at the Gladiator games, become Marcus' trusted friend, at least to mind his dog and prized service bracelet, and then, on his return, to become a definite and cogent reason for Marcus Aquila to stay on in Britain to enjoy his rewards as her husband, even though romance, 21st century style, was definitely out of the question.

This is also how authors such as Rosemary Sutcliffe, Geoffrey Trease, and even C.S.Lewis liked to portray the way girls and boys related in their novels - as friends and colleagues, learning to work together, and finding they had interests, values and goals in common, rather than in the way Susan and Caspian were portrayed in the film PC. Not that I thought that kiss any great deal, only that as Susan commented, herself, in the film, it would have been inappropriate to take such physicality any further than what she did.

I agree with you that The Eagle had some good qualities, but they ruined the story, especially Guern's, but also Marcus & Esca's escape with the eagle. Guern in the book recounts what happened to the 9th legion, and why it happened. He makes no bones about his own part in it, and emphasizes if he was to survive at all, he would have been very reliant on the kindness and hospitality offered by less ferocious Pictish tribes, and the good graces of the woman he was happy to have as his wife. Killing a boy for allowing Marcus & Esca to escape was never part of Rosemary Sutcliffe's story, and neither was Guern assembling other missing legionnaries to help with that escape. In the book there was no bloody battle, only a relatively bloodless ambush set by Marcus & Esca and a recognition on both the Pictish and Roman sides of the validity of Marcus's motives in recovering the eagle to avenge his father.

I felt about this ambush in Eagle of the Ninth in much the same way as I felt about Caspian's bluffing Gumpas in VDT (the book). Both incidents were meant by their authors to show how battles aren't always necessary to achieve good results, but were left out by the scriptwriters. So where does that leave this new production? Well, I definitely don't want any unnecessary large battles when finding and freeing Rilian should be the main emphasis of the movie. Nor should there be any romance between Jill and Eustace. They should spend much of the Silver Chair movie learning to trust and rely on each other as close friends, not smooching or anything like it.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby Ryadian » Jul 31, 2014 7:09 pm

FriendofNarnia2 wrote:Word for word adaptations are not important, and in most cases would not work at all.

What is important:
- The feeling I get when reading the book and watching the movie should be the same.
- The basic plot structure should stay intact.
- Characters should remain true to themselves.
- The themes of the book should be the themes of the film.

Those are pretty much my requirements. Other than that, I just ask that it be a good film in its own right, so that I could enjoy it whether I had read the book or not.


I think this is a very good set of "golden rules" for adaptations. I find it very interesting that PC managed to work in actual lines of dialogue from the book (such as the "girls don't keep a map in their head"), but it managed to feel less faithful to the book while doing it--in the above example, by having Peter say it rather than Edmund, and rather uncharacteristically. In the scene where Caspian is rallying together the Narnians, I remember there were some lines directly from the book (mainly from Glenstorm and Trufflehunter as I recall; I can't remember the movie that well at the moment :ymblushing: ), but it feels empty when not even Trufflehunter is expressing faith that Aslan will aid them, and instead it turns into a message of "if we work together, we can fight against our oppressors!"

On the other side of things, there are some movies which feel much closer to the source material, despite being rather poor plot-point-by-plot-point adaptations. The Wizard of Oz is a classic example--admittedly, I've only read the book once, maybe twice, and have seen the movie much more than that, but I know about quite a few of the radical departures from the book. Yet, it's considered a classic movie, probably because it don't compromise a) the feel of exploring a wondrous new world (at least, as much as the special effects would allow), b) the characters, and c) the basic story.

There is one more rule I would add to the list, though: RESPECT THE SOURCE MATERIAL. Really, this is just an underlying factor of everything else that was already said, but I think it bears repeating. I think a majority of the things I dislike in adaptations, especially the Narnia movies, was when the film makers seemed to think that there was something wrong with the source material that needed fixing. Supposedly, Peter and Caspian's characters were too "unrealistic" in PC, so they needed to give them teen angst and have them argue over who was king; VDT "needed" a strong, unifying narrative, so they gave it a generic "collect the artifacts, save the world" plot. Never mind the fact that, in this case at least, the source material is classic literature which has been around for half a century. I'm not saying that you should never make changes from the original source material--after all, wolfloversk described an excellent addition to LWW (the bombing scene) which, while it wasn't in the books, helped to set the stage. It felt very natural because it was in line with what happened in the book, just expanded upon because a movie can't rely on narration that way. But if you choose to alter the source material, make sure that you understand and respect it well enough to make changes that are both natural and help the film.
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby Anfinwen » Aug 04, 2014 9:25 am

FriendofNarnia2 wrote:What is important:
- The feeling I get when reading the book and watching the movie should be the same.
- The basic plot structure should stay intact.
- Characters should remain true to themselves.
- The themes of the book should be the themes of the film.

I couldn't agree more! I will add though, that careful attention should be paid to possibly non-crucial but very important to readers moments. An example would be the scene where Gumpas is kicked out of his own palace. Sure you can change it and the movie will still work, but for many readers this was a scene they really looked forward to, a kind of classic Narnia moment. Such a scene in SC would be Puddleglum getting drunk. It doesn't play an important part of the story, but it's funny! =)) Who knows how many readers have positively rolled at this moment and said "if this is ever made into a movie this scene will be great!"
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Re: Book to Screen Adaptation

Postby Future Narnian » Oct 19, 2014 7:52 pm

I have to admit, one thing I really appreciate about the BBC is it's virtually word-for-word. In general I guess you don't have to keep every line of dialogue, but I like it when they try, especially iconic lines.

Otherwise, there have been individual changes I didn't mind (taking out the Scouring Of The Shire and Tom Bombadil in The Lord Of The Rings, for instance) but in general unless it's to account for the differences in film vs. books (such as changing the flashback in PC or if they alternate between Shasta and Aravis in Tashbaan when they do HHB), my rule is a big fat no. Letting Deathwater Island be the same as where Eustace becomes a dragon was fine. I don't even mind expanding on the nightmare stuff and adding more tension with the dreams they had in the deleted scenes. But the Green Mist was just ridiculous.

I also like expanding on the events before they go into Narnia. That makes sense structurally. What I don't appreciate is changing characters <coughPeter&Caspiancough> . If you don't think their actions are believable, go write your own story. Obviously many people disagree or there wouldn't be support to turn it into a movie in the first place!

One other thing - I think the most important thing is to keep the book readers in mind FIRST as their primary target audience. That's what I liked about Peter Jackson's making the LOTR movies - I really felt he was making the movie to fulfill the dreams of fans of the books. Whereas the Narnia movies feel like they're made because fantasy movies are "guaranteed hits" right now.
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