With the release of The Great Gatsby movie and my list of Five Good Film Adaptions, which I will be avoiding like the plague, I got to thinking why can’t they make a good film adaption of most books? It can’t be THAT hard, right? Let’s examine what could help:
Adapt a Crappy Book: I mentioned the Maltese Falcon, and Sierra Godfrey chimed in with the Godfather, movies that eclipsed the book they were based on (Casablanca, too). There is far less pressure in adapting a book that is not widely read and loved. Everyone has read Lord of the Rings and The Great Gatsby, so they will have their vision of what it should be, whereas that mental competition can be avoided nearly entirely but making a movie out of a book fewer people have read.
Adapt a Simple Book. Books with a simple plot are easier to covert to a film format. A deep book will end up with a lot that doesn’t make it into the film, whereas one with a simpler plot will be able to stay truer to the book. The Harry Potter series is incredibly popular for this reason, as are other ‘young adult’ (read: simple) books- they don’t have to be chopped down too much. Similarly, comic books/graphic novels do well, especially since most of the visuals are already there.
Try Not to Screw It Up: This is probably the simplest piece of advice, but filmmakers keep insist on screwing things up like what the hell was up with Liv Tyler as Arwen? Who thought ANY of that was a good idea? Sorry to rant, but her ‘performance’ has been medically proven to cause cancer (although in the interest of fairness and objectivity, I should point out that I made that up). If you ARE going to make a movie based on a book, stick to the source material and don’t get cute, especially if it’s a well-known book (The Chronicles of Narnia aced this).
Maybe Don’t Try: How often do you see a trailer and just groan? All the time, right? I do every time I see The Great Gatsby trailer. Maybe it’s great, I don’t see how it can or will be, though, and I’m not spending $10 to find out. Obviously, it will still make millions and I can’t really blame them for that, but for crying out loud… can we just not make the movie and save us all some aggravation?