Monday, August 17, 2009

Musing Mondays (1)

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...

How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?

In general, I look forward to seeing movies (or TV series/miniseries) that were made from books... particularly if I've read those books. I enjoy seeing someone else's take on the story, and whether the filmmakers saw the same thing in their head as I did when they were reading the book. Harry Potter (especially the first movie) was a good example of that. So much of what I saw on screen matched really well with what I'd seen in my head (scenery-wise, anyway... the characters themselves were another matter).

If it's a book I like, I'm going to be more critical of the movie. I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books. The movie was just so-so for me. It wasn't horrible, but for whatever reason, it didn't really capture the magic of the book. Jane Eyre is another favourite, and I've seen a few movie versions. I haven't really seen one that I hated; most of them are pretty good (I especially like the newish Masterpiece Theatre version starring Ruth Wilson as Jane). And I tend to like most Jane Austen adaptations... even though I haven't read any of the books in full. I got through half of Sense and Sensibility back in 1995 or so, and I'm in the middle of Pride and Prejudice at the moment. The 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility is one of my all-time favourite movies... and it makes me want to pick the book up again at some point.

I do like to read a book before I see the movie. That's probably one of the reasons I've never watched The Da Vinci Code. I wanted to read the book first. But it's sitting on my shelf, mostly unread. I got as far as the main character trying to escape from the Louvre, and it just went on and on and on... and I got really, really bored. (Yes, I know that was in the first few pages.) So I may just watch the movie and forget about the book; I've heard the movie doesn't follow the book that well, anyway. The Time Traveler's Wife is a movie that I'd love to see. I read the book years ago and loved it. Oh, and The Lovely Bones is coming soon, too. I hope these movie versions can live up to the books.

Sometimes, though, movies just go wrong. The prime example for me is Howl's Moving Castle. A Hayao Miyazaki version was made in 2004. I've never been a fan of that style of animation anyway, but when I saw the movie -- based on one of my favourite Diana Wynne Jones novels -- I almost cried. It was so bad. The characters were nothing like their book counterparts, huge (and interesting) portions of the plot were left out and replaced with some strange shapeshifting nonsense and anti-war commentary, and the voice casting was just atrocious. Perhaps it was better in the Japanese version, but the dubbed English version was laughably bad. Howl was drawn as a bish┼Źnen sort of guy, and then was given a voice that sounded like a bear on steroids.

And then there's Twilight. I saw it in the theatre shortly after reading Breaking Dawn (which ultimately soured me on the whole series... after being bored silly by New Moon and Eclipse, I'd hoped the last book could redeem the series; it could not... and I think it just made things worse). So I went mostly for interest's sake. I wanted to see how the story would be adapted to the big screen. Just like the whole series is a great example of how not to write a book, Twilight (the movie) was a great example of how not to adapt a book into a movie. I highly doubt that Stephenie Meyer intended for any of her characters to be comedic, but that's how they came across. Whether it was the poor casting, the bad wigs, or the questionable acting, the movie was causing a lot more giggling than swooning in the theatre where I saw it. Jasper, who I always saw as a dangerous, reserved, and somewhat tragic character, was reduced to a bit of comic relief, a character who walked around with an expression that alternated between a deer in the headlights and someone with a bad case of constipation. And when Carlisle, supposedly supermodel-perfect Carlisle, walked on screen for the first time looking like the pasty victim of some strange wasting disease, there was a collective snicker from the whole theatre. Perhaps Twilight tried too hard to stay true to the book. Some things just don't translate very well to the big screen. (A lesson to be learned: if hair colour isn't crucial to the story, don't be such a stickler about it. That's probably half the problem with these characters: horrendous wigs and dye jobs. It's hard to take them seriously when you're distracted by that much weirdness. Not everyone can pull off platinum blonde hair *cough*PeterFacinelli*cough*.)

Is that enough musing for Monday?


  1. I am backwards with Howls Moving Castle. Since I am such a HM fan, I saw the movie first, then read it. While they are nothing alike, I still love HM's more for some reason. Maybe it is the romantic in me.

    Totally agree with you and Twilight though. I do not think there is anything nice I can say about that movie. Also didn't you just love how messed up their hair is? Talk about fake looking.

  2. The books is almost always better than the movie.
    I strongly disliked Time Traveler's Wife so I'm thinking the movie might be better.