The weekend of September the 19th saw the premieres of both Maze Runner and This is Where I Leave You. Two films adapted from books I have strong feelings for.
Movies based off books are tricky, obviously not every detail in the book can be shown in a 3 hour max time limit. Hardcore fans will always struggle with cut or altered scenes. But, to put it in perspective, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Extended Edition caps out at 11 hours and 22 minutes. Now, that’s the condensed version of a 455,125 word trilogy. The Audio books combined take up 54 hours and 9 minutes. Yeah.
That being said, I’ve fallen victim to comparing movies to their books before as well. I’m only human. That’s why I remind myself every time I go see a movie based off a book that I’ve read, that I’m seeing a movie. I know it sounds silly but it helps to curb my perspective and allows me to enjoy the movie for what it is.
There are some books that fall flat, sometimes written word isn’t enough to tell a story. I found that true with Maze Runner. While the book failed to capture me, the movie was so visually stunning I found myself transported straight into The Glade. This is not slight on the author or book, the story they were trying to tell me was just too big for words alone.
Whereas with the movie This is Where I Leave You, the dark humor was so subtle that I feel certain levels of drama were lost in translation. On the other hand, the casting in my opinion was flawless, and the screenplay – written by the original author of the book – delivered the stories main plot points in a timely and entertaining manner. Stepping back and looking at both the movie and the book, I can see why he chose to cut what he did. So, as a movie, I enjoyed it.
I understand loving a story, being excited to see it come to life, then being disappointed that aspects you held near and dear were left out or changed. But, that doesn’t mean as a whole the story that the director told was bad, just different.
Speaking of different, from 2001 to 2011 we bared witness the phenomenal undertaking that was the Harry Potter movies. What I find the most interesting though, was not the details changed for the films but the details changed for the books. After casting, Rowling’s descriptions of character’s appearance began to change. Where the twins started off stocky like their mother, they were later described as lanky like the Phelps twins. Ron’s nose stopped being so pointy and Hermione’s hair lost some of its unruliness. These are just some examples of how the films affected the books.
The change that needs to happen is our perspective when we go see these films.
Should you find yourself questioning a screen writer’s motives the next time you see a film like this, ask yourself the following questions.
Was the cut scene essential to the story? If I had five minutes to explain the synopsis of the story to a stranger would I have included the cut details?
Was the altered scene made easier to understand visually? If I had been in charge of directing this scene would I have made similar choices?
Was the overall plot of the movie delivered? Break the story into 3 acts (Set-up, Confrontation and Resolution), was the essential story told?
Was this a good movie? If you hadn’t read the book, would you have enjoyed this movie?
Like any form of art, medium makes a huge difference. A painter wouldn’t use the same techniques as a watercolor when working with oils. Words, delicately crafted, can touch a person’s soul and films can burn images into your mind that you’ll never forget. Both are important in their own right.
So I implore you, dear Nerdship, a change of perspective can make a world of difference. Allow yourself the suspension of disbelief, break free of your self-imposed forced perspective and remember, you’re watching a movie, not a book.