Friday, January 13, 2012

Book-to-Movie: Lost in Translation, or Perfected By It?

I'm very excited for the movie version of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which comes out in theaters on March 23.


I absolutely loved the books in that series, and can't wait to see what they do to bring it to life. The intensity willl be amazing, I think, and Jennifer Lawrence seems like she might actually play a good Katniss.

I know some of my friends will have concerns about staying true to the book and the possibility of the movie totally ruining the book in their eyes. I have some similar concerns; would you expect less of someone who has a t-shirt like this?


I don't really believe a bad movie can ruin a good book for me, though. The two are very separate medias, one relying imagination, the other asking merely for eyesight and hearing. And even if the movie isn't exactly the same as the book, it can still be a wonderful movie.

The prime example of this right now is Harry Potter. I've enjoyed pretty much all of the movies, thought not necessarily on first viewing. I detested Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on first viewing, because I thought the movie had turned his inner struggle against Voldemort's evil into mere teen angst.

That didn't mean the rest of it wasn't enjoyable, despite that oversight (especially Umbridge being chased by a fiery dragon). On subsequent viewings, it seems they did subtly emphasize it more as an inner struggle, which (to be fair) is a difficult thing to portray on screen.

On the other hand, there's the post-battle scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, which is completely different from the book's ending: rather than keeping the elder wand, Harry breaks it and throws it over a cliff. At first, this kind of upset me. Why change something as important as the ending of the series - and so radically - when it didn't need changing? Those are the deviations in book-to-movie translation that bother me the most.

Yet thinking on it later, I almost - almost - believe the movie version is more true to Harry's character. What reason would he have to keep the deathly hallows? Why should he want to keep all that power - the elder wand, the cloak, the philosopher's stone? It's not like him. Snapping the wand in half and throwing it away might be a more accurate rendition. (It's also more dramatic for the movie-going audience, which doesn't hurt.)

But regardless, the book is still the book. It was the perfect way to end the series (if you ignore the epilogue). The movie, too, ended the series in excellent fashion. That's part of why I'm not worried about the translation of The Hunger Games from book to movie. If the actors suck, if they change too many scenes, if the special effects fail, then there goes the movie. But the books are still delightful. And who knows? Any changes they make to the movie might improve it.

I still want them to do it by the book, though.

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