Here's Where The Story Ends

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I wanted to start watching Being Erica with my new Netflix trial subscription today, but clearly that didn't happen...yet. I just wanted to post this update about a trail of thought I just had.

'Water For Elephants', a book I LOVED, came out in movie form this weekend. It didn't do spectacularly. I thought the casting was weird from the beginning in terms of cast chemistry - I imagined the castmates a lot closer in age when reading the book - and sure enough, it was a big factor in the ho hum reviews the film received.

This got me to thinking how many books are turned into movies these days. Just as Hollywood loves a remake, they love source material with a strong following behind it. That's why nearly every major chick lit author has a movie to her name these days, with Emily Giffin just weeks away from her six-year-old debut novel showing up on the silver screen, with 'Something Borrowed'.

In some ways, it's a cool thing. I can't tell you how often I've finished a book or series (most recently, the Hunger Games) and then fiended for the movie adaptation. But then I have problem with that. Don't you think it's a little weird that we pay to go and watch inflated versions of what the author already masterfully created in our minds? That we are watching stories we already know the endings to?

I'll admit part of the pull of seeing a movie adaptation of a book is seeing things "come to life", but more often than not, these movie adaptations fail to live up to our expectations...which begs the question, what's the point?

In fact some of the best book adaptations on film come from books that are either kinda crappy to begin with (hi 'Bridget Jones Diary') or better yet, aren't that well known at all, making the film feel like a fresh inventive concept with an author's unique point of view or clever idea 'brought to life' the way it should be - as the SEED of an idea (see: 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' for a solid, if not perfect example). That's why novellas and short stories actually make for better book adaptations - the more complicated the plot device (sigh, 'The Time Traveler's Wife') the harder the film has to work to dilute it down to a singular concept the average, non-book-reading moviegoer can comprehend. So what you get is a film that uses the seed of the book you love...but ties it to a movie genre, instead of letting the story define the genre, or possibly reinvent it.

I just find it weird that Hollywood continues to use books as source material, particularly wildly popular ones, and only hits the mark - and even then 90% of the time you say "Well it wasn't as good as the book but---" - about a quarter of the time. The Harry Potter movies, or to an extent the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are the rare trilogies that have such compelling action that lends it self to movies, and a unique mythology / world not seen on film before, that they consistently succeed...although EVERYONE that's seen them will contend there's so much missing from the films it's impossible to compare them.

I should point out that all of this came from the fact I can't remember the last time a movie script had a ton of lock & key buzz to it. 'Inception' is a decent example, although it wasn't so much about keeping things quiet as there being no simple way to describe what the film was about. That being said, that buzz alone was enough to propel that into one of last year's big blockbusters. And you know what? It stemmed from a wholly original idea.

When I questioned myself, why aren't there more lock & key scripts like that? Ones that get the populus buzzing? It's cause we're simply asking Hollywood to remake stories we already know the ending to...and as a result plot takes a back seat. Instead, we're judging it more for technical elements like 'casting' or 'script' or 'interpretation' (heaven forbid) when we've already made it clear the films can never live up to the books. Problematic much?

- Britt's On

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