My daughter has a T-shirt that reads: Movies - Ruining the Book Since 1920.
She gets it. I should amend that. She gets it the same way I get it.
Because every time I hear about a beloved book being turned into a movie I get excited. I am old enough to know better. Once bitten, twice shy - that's the way it's supposed to go, isn't it? But I still get excited every. single. time.
Even when it turns out well, the movie still just serves as a nice supplement to the book. My daughter is reading The Outsiders for school right now. I know she'll love the movie, but I am so grateful that she'll be seeing it only AFTER having read the book. Movies are a nice little 2 hour visit with the stories we love. Kind of like looking through a photo album is a nice little way to revisit a favorite time. It's a nice reminder. But it's not the real thing.
I can remember a time when casting Interview With the Vampire was a game played by many. I played it with strangers in bars, once a mutual love of the book was established. Everyone had their picks. NO-one picked Tom Cruise. It seemed like such a ridiculous choice. And then it went ahead and worked. Who'da thunk?
More recently I've heard people in certain circles discussing casting choices for Water for Elephants in a similar manner. I'm staying out of it. (Unless someone wants to play! Then I'm totally in!)
A few years ago I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter and really enjoyed it. I thought it would make a great movie and was pleased when I heard it was in production. Then I found out it was going to be a made for TV movie. Wellllll that's ok, I reasoned, Brian's Song was a made for TV movie... Then I heard it was going to be a Lifetime made for TV movie. My optimism wavered a little at that point. But I watched it anyway. Much to my chagrin. A couple hours of my life I'll never get back. What a pile of sentimental drivel. How did they take such a lovely book and turn it into - that? It was dreadful.
My daughter and I recently had the same experience with The Tale of Despereaux. She loved the book. I loved the book. We marked the calendar for the release date. We watched the trailers. The characters looked great. We could. not. wait. My husband and my other daughter had not read the book. We both encouraged them to. "It's great! You'll love it!" The movie came out before they had a chance. The movie was - awful. We were so disappointed. Leaving the theater the two who had not read the book were looking at us like, "Really? You loved THAT? REALLY?" Well, no, as a matter of fact, we didn't. Despite our telling them that it was almost nothing like the book, neither of them will be reading that any time soon, guarantee.
It shouldn't matter - but it does. It somehow cheapened it.
Sometimes the movie is a beautiful complement to the book. The Kite Runner is an excellent recent example of this, as is The Namesake. Neither was terribly successful, as far as movies go. For what that's worth.
Fight Club amazed me. I couldn't imagine how they were going to make that one into a movie, but they did and it worked BIG time and it accomplished what I always HOPE will be accomplished by this. Folks who aren't big on reading see the movie - interest is piqued - they pick up the book - they look for more by the same author - it's a beautiful cycle, when it works. Movies - GOOD movies - can bring a whole new crowd of people to reading. (more on my thoughts on Chuck Palahniuk's books to movies here.)
A much better example of this is the Harry Potter series. Sure, the first book was wildly popular before the first movie. But AFTER the movie? Forget about it. Kids were READING! Kids were standing in line at midnight for the next installment! Kids and a LOT of grown-ups (jumps up and down, raises hand, "oooh-oooh's" like Arnold Horschack) - because a good read is a good read. (And yes, our calendar is indeed marked for July 17. Our local theater already has it on the marquee. Do you think it's too early to inquire about tickets?)
Do you have a book to movie story? One you loved? One that broke your heart? One you're eagerly anticipating?