Would I be going too far to say that it’s a dream come true to watch your favourite books turn into movie blockbusters? Would I be exaggerating? Would I be laying it on a little too thick? Would I be guilty of a bit of hyperbole?
Probably, but who cares?
Because despite what people say, despite all the adaptation admonishers and the novel Nazis and the screenplay Scrooges (I may be losing control of this a little bit), there really is a certain magic to it.
Cast your mind back to 2001 when the first Harry Potter book came to cinema. The excitement of seeing the characters you’d been picturing in your head for years finally coming to life! The thrill of finally seeing J.K.Rowling’s vision of what Hogwarts looked like! The eagerness and dread of finally seeing Voldemort in the flesh! (Well, stuck to the back of another guy’s head, but still…)
The world was thrown into, dare I say, absolute pandemonium when The Philosopher’s Stone came out. The entire British nation had never been so proud to be British, as our girl J.K. finally had her dream come true. Whether you liked Harry Potter or not, it was big news.
And it was a smash hit. You didn’t see kids sulking as they came out of the cinema after watching The Philosopher’s Stone going, “Well, that was rubbish. Nothing like the book at all.”
Okay, point taken, they changed a fair amount throughout the eight Harry Potter movies, and I will acknowledge that before all the Potterheads out there eat me alive. (Please be nice! I’m one of you, I swear!) But you’ve got to admit, they did pretty well. I know they got some bits wrong, like Voldemort’s death, never mentioning his inbred family or the redemption of Dudley Dursley — and where the hell was Peeves the Poltergeist?! Although when you stack up what they got right against what they got wrong, it’s a no-brainer really. Here are some of their best Harry Potter book to screen adaptation moments…
- The Battle Of Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows(part 2):
Okay this this scene was hands down awesome. It’s the big one. The final battle scene. The scene where we say goodbye to our favourite good guys and bad guys. It’s where Neville kills Nagini, and where the students of Hogwarts find out Harry is still alive. It’s were we say a tearful farewell to George, and where Molly Weasley finally kills Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, and everything is just so perfectly balanced and beautifully done that we don’t mind the small changes made here and there. (Like the weird cliff dive from the Hogwarts tower with Harry and Voldy. Seriously though, what was all that about?)
All in all? It was a lovely salute to the original novel. Well done, David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves!
The fight scene in The Department Of Mysteries in The Order Of The Phoenix:
So this scene was undeniably cool. When I was a kid and I was reading the fifth book, I really struggled to picture what the Department Of Mysteries looked like, and to see it on the big screen was truly magical. The fight scene in the room with the prophecies was incredible. Watching the Death Eaters come and go, apparating in and out, was just like it’d imagined it. Watching them goad Harry and his friends into thinking they were winning was so chilling and so believable I began to think HP and Co. actually stood a chance at victory — and I had actually read the book! It was just so cool. The spells, the fighting, the chase through the department as the shelves of prophecies started to collapse…! It was just movie magic!
The maze in The Goblet of Fire:
Okay, so this scene ruled. Has anyone else seen that film Maze Runner yet? Apart from being a total rip-off of Labyrinth — it’s basically the same film but in reverse — they also really channelled The Goblet Of Fire, using the idea of a maze that likes to switch and change around. But the reason it was so awesome and worked so well in The Goblet Of Fire was because it was true to the book. Sure they omitted a few bits from the actual novel, like the weird lion-creature thing, and a few other bits, but there is no denying that when Fleur was dragged into the undergrowth, or when the maze started to close in on Harry, that your heart skipped froze. Like I always say, there are two type of people who watch the maze scene in The Goblet Of Fire: people who were scared, and liars. The maze scene was awesome. End of.
- The first time we see Diagon Alley in The Philosopher’s Stone:
Oh, it’s like a trip down memory lane! The first time we saw Diagon Alley come to life! It brings a nostalgic tear to the eye, doesn’t it? We all remember the magic and wonder the first time Hagrid took Harry into the hidden realms of Diagon Alley. We were there with Harry when he picked his wand (or rather when the wand picked him), and we were there for his first adventure through the mines of Gringotts. And most importantly, we saw the first time Harry met Hedwig, the snowy white barn owl we all fell in love with right from book one, and we saw their inter-species romance bloom…
Alright, that got weird fast. Moving on…
The first time we see the Dementors in The Prisoner Of Azkaban:
Okay, so this was a pretty big moment for all the Potterheads out there. This was the moment was all got to see those grizzly, gruesome, soul-stealing, kiss-of-death creatures we’d all been fearing since we first read about them. The Hogwarts Express comes to a jarring halt. Everything goes cold. The windows ice up. And then we see them. The Dementors — terrifying, cloaked things. And they’re just so brilliantly done. They are a faithful tribute to J.K.’s descriptions in the books and they just get better and better in each film as the CGI technology improves. (Except for The Order Of The Phoenix. Those Dementors sucked.)
“Not my daughter, you bitch!” from The Deathly Hallows(part 2):
This scene is perfect in its simplicity, so I won’t waste time saying too much about it. Bellatrix is trying to kill Ginny. Molly steps in to save her as the perfect mother she is — the perfect mother she was written as — and she saves her daughter. Word for word, action for action, this scene was a perfect representation of how it really happened in the book. Bravo.
And of course there are many more, but if I talked about them all, I’d be here all day, and I have cats downstairs that need feeding.
When you weigh up what the films got right in regard to the books against what they got wrong, it’s clear to see that this is how you adapt a YA book to screen without upsetting the readers and causing world war three within its fandom.
And Harry Potter isn’t the only franchise that’s gotten it right. There is a list as long as my leg (and I do have very long legs) of brilliant YA book to movie adaptations. Some of the best ones include:
The Hunger Games, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Divergent, Maze Runner, Twilight(yeah, it was a bad book, but it was adapted pretty perfectly, grumble grumble…), The Vampire Diaries (even though technically that was adapted to TV), Sherlock Holmes, The Fault In Our Stars, and so many more.
When you truly love a book, and you love the franchise and its fandom, you never really want it to end. And when you’re one of the lucky ones and your favourite novel, or trilogy, or series, is turned into a movie franchise then it really has to be done justice, or isn’t it just a mockery of the whole thing?
There have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt YA books to the silver screen. Well known and widely loved YA books flop all the time when they’re adapted. Some of the most famous flops including: Ella Enchanted, City Of Ember, Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants(part two), Ender’s Game, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, Eragon, the Percy Jackson films, The Golden Compass, and heaps, and piles, and stacks more.
But the top three worst YA book-to-movie adaptations of all time have to go to the following three paltry excuses for films. These movies were absolutely diabolical and ruined three of my all-time favourite childhood novels, and for that, they’ll never be forgiven.
Our first offender? Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, based off the Darren Shan series, written by Darren Shan.
Okay boys and girls, sit down, get comfortable, and let Mumma Laura explain you a thing.
Surprisingly enough, movie adaptations don’t work when you try and cram the first eight books of a twelve book series into one 109 minute film. It just doesn’t work. It will never work. Ever.
First off let’s talk about characterisation, and how despairingly wrong they got that. There’s the main character, Darren Shan, who just so happens to have the same name as the bloke who wrote the book! What a cowinky-dink!
Now, in the books, Darren Shan is a fun, caring, somewhat sensible (albeit dim) boy. He’s a likeable character, because he’s been written that way. And then you meet movie Darren, a scrawny, whiney, pathetic oddball of a teenage boy, who does an inordinate amount of crying. Seriously, he cries a lot. You know when you sit down to watch the early Spiderman movies and all you get is Toby Maguire crying for two hours? Yeah, it’s a lot like that.
Then there’s Darren’s co-star, Larten Crepsley. In the books, Crepsley is a vampire with a heart of gold hidden somewhere under all those vests and capes, and he would stop at nothing to protect Darren, his ‘adopted’ son. In the movie he’s a douchebag with a ginger jerry curl. That’s it. That’s all there is to him. There’s literally nothing else to his character. At all.
And lastly, there is Mr Tiny, the baddie. In the books, Mr Tiny is a villainous, nasty, manipulative man who can make grown men cower with fear. In the movie, Mr Tiny is a regeneration of the beloved children’s nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Seriously, he looks like the lovechild of the bald guy from Despicable Me and unmasked Darth Vader. Trust me, go and google him. It’s just a mess, it really is…
And there are a whole other host of problems that surface in this adaption. Things like: bad acting, cheap CGI effects, important bits from the books missing, artistic licence adding in bits that never happened, bad storytelling, and just rushing the whole thing in general.
Time in the slammer given for this criminal movie adaptation? Ten years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take me to get over Larten Crepsley’s jerry curl.
Our second offender? The Host, based off the novel written by Stephenie Meyer.
Right, let me just get one thing straight. This book nearly killed me. I swear to god, if there is such a thing as death by feels, then I’m lucky to still be alive today. Who knew that the same woman who spawned the misogynistic likes of Twilight could also write the masterpiece that is The Host? Never has a book moved me to tears so easily. It was compelling, and emotive, and utterly beautiful.
The film was none of these things. The Host movie was dull. It was boring, and dreary, and deathly uninteresting to watch. They stripped away the minimalistic beauty of the novel, rewriting the body-snatcher story with a needless love-triangle subplot, turning it into another Twilight Saga.
The director seemingly felt the bizarre need to turn the main character, Melanie Stryder, into another Bella Swan. Instead of Melanie being strong, courageous, and level-headed like she is in the books, Melanie’s only priority suddenly turns into “OMG does that boy like me?!”
The filmmakers clearly had no respect for the ethnicity of the characters as Melanie, with her Mexican roots, dark hair, and dark eyes, was played by the little Irish pixie, Saoirse Ronan. Likewise, with Melanie’s little brother, they cast an originally olive-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed boy by a twelve year old, doughy-faced, blue eyed child-actor you’ve never heard of and probably never will hear of again.
Casting problems are many, as is the director’s decision to leave out huge hunks of the story, resulting in the plot making absolutely no sense at all. He then added in pointless scenes that also make no sense, and drag the film out to a whopping 125 minutes. Because if there’s one thing an audience like more than a terrible film, it’s a long terrible film.
Really, I’m not exaggerating. It is a terrible film. Save a life and forward this blog post to a friend.
Time in the slammer given for this movie adaptation? Twenty years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take me to get over the fact that they turned down Ian Sommerhalder to play Ian O’Shea.
Like, seriously? What is WRONG with people…?
And our third and by far BIGGEST offender? (This one really broke my heart…) Inkheart, based off the novel Inkheart, written by Cornelia Funke.
The Inkheart trilogy was one of my favourite book series as a child. It was right up there with Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant. It had everything a fantasy/adventure novel needed. It was funny, fast-paced, interesting, well-written, and each page was filled with magic and wonder.
And then the film came out. And it was vile. Heavy on movie clichés and light on actual story-telling, this adaptation makes a complete mockery of the books. Now, seeing as there are too many things they did wrong to have a rant and rave about each one, let me just list you off a few…
- None of the actors cast to play the characters actually looked anything like the characters they were supposed to play. Like, not even
- Meggie forgives her mother instantly for abandoning her and her father for ten years, when in the book series she never actually forgives her.
- They added in stupid bits that didn’t make sense or even add to the story, like the weird fire/smoke/hurricane/thunderstorm of doom at the end.
- Dustfinger’s magic isn’t real, it’s all magician’s tricks, whereas in the books all his magic is 100% authentic.
- Meggie’s parents randomly invite a much older boy to live with them and their teenage daughter in their home for no reason. This doesn’t happen in the books either.
- The storyline is rushed and makes no sense.
- Brendan Fraser has a stupid face.
- They leave storylines wide open and don’t bother to tie them up.
- You want a satisfying ending that makes sense? Nope.
- Meggie and Farid’s love story never happens.
- Dustfinger magically gets transported back to his own world when it was impossible before, just so he can have a happy ending, when in fact this doesn’t happen in the book series until book two, and it actually makes sense.
- Everything you loved about the book is brutally murdered and stamped out of existence in order to make this crappy film.
- And one more time: Brendan Fraser has a stupid face.
Time in the slammer given for this movie adaptation? Fifty years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take for me to get over Brendan Fraser’s stupid face being cast as Mo Folchart.
No. Just, no.
And there you have it! How to — and how not to — adapt YA books into movies. For success follow the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. For failure cast John C. Reilly as a ginger vampire with a jerry curl.
And for the love of god, if you want your YA novel to become a successful movie, do not, I repeat DO NOT cast Brendan Fraser as the main character. Save yourselves.