Shaking Our Fists At The Sun
Chapter 1: Shut Up
By Ash Wakeman
July 6, 2005
More films are based on books than you may realize. Have you read Roderick Thorp's Nothing Lasts Forever? No? But you may have seen the film Die Hard that was based on it. Likewise, most of you probably haven't read the French science fiction novel Monkey Planet. Instead you satiate your need for narratives featuring simian ruled future-earths with The Planet of the Apes and its many sequels and re-imaginings or possibly even your own musings and daydreams. Even films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise are, and you might find this one surprising, based on obscure works of fiction.
Okay, you may have known the last two, but the point I was trying to make was that in your cinema-going lifetime you might be surprised how many films you've seen that have been based on books you didn't know existed. If you were lucky, you may have enjoyed these films. If you really liked them you may have recommended them to friends, talked about them over drinks, rented or even purchased the video or DVD, perhaps written glowing reviews on popular entertainment Web sites, leading to the inevitable stalking of the director or cast.
What we have now is a literary adaptation that you have unwittingly enjoyed. You haven't read the book. In fact, you don't even know it exists, so you were able to enjoy the film without expressing concern about the way a certain character was portrayed, a certain plotline was omitted, or your favourite line script-doctored. The inescapable and revolutionary conclusion is that it is possible for a film based on a book to be enjoyable in its own right.
The preceding is proof. Undeniable, irrefutable proof that it is possible to enjoy a film that is based on a book. While I'm on a roll I'm going to tempt fate by going one step further, by positing a theory that some people may find shocking. That is, it is possible to read and enjoy a book and then watch and enjoy a movie that is based on that book. For many of you I know that will be hard to believe. But it is possible to enjoy a film despite the fact that Gandalf's beard was at least three inches longer in the book. It's possible to have a positive cinematic experience regardless of the fact that in the book Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head was on his shoulders next to the first. It's possible to give the thumbs up to a Hollywood blockbuster despite the fact that the bit with the aardvark and the cheese sandwich isn't in it.
Books and films are different. They will always be different. The presentation of prose and visuals differ in so many ways that it necessitates differences in plot, in pacing, in perspective and in presentation. It is not possible to make a direct book-to-film adaptation without at least a few tweaks and cosmetic changes and more often than not several major ones (the exception to this being Michael Crichton, who I am convinced writes a movie script then erases all the cues and publishes it as a novel).
When they make a movie out of that book you love so much, they are going to change things, maybe a lot of things. It's going to happen. As a result you have three choices.
1) Avoid seeing the movie.
2) Watch the movie on its own terms because you understand that it will not be identical to the book.
3) Watch the movie and annoy everyone around you by constantly complaining that it is not the same as the book.
Of these choices I find the first two completely acceptable. For those who choose door number one, I support the fact that a book is so precious to you that you are unable to bring yourself to witness its transformation to the big screen. Way to take a stand, you go girl and other random messages of encouragement. For the braver souls who dare to venture behind door number two, a hearty bravo and perhaps an encouraging playful slap on the back or buttocks if deemed appropriate. You've come to terms with something that, well, let's face it, isn't really all that hard to comes to terms with. Jolly good show. However, for those of you who go with the third option, time and time again, can I just say, on behalf of myself, your friends and family, those around you, people you converse with on a regular or casual basis and humanity in general...
Please, just shut up. We already know. We know the film is different from the book. We've always known. You know how we know? We know because we have mastered both reading and watching movies. As soon as the lights go out in the cinema we know. When it's too dark to read, we've already figured out we're watching a movie.