Life in the Slow Lane

June 1, 2009

Books to film: What’s the attraction?

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies,Television — pauljlane @ 2:32 pm

I caught a few snippets of MTV’s movie awards Sunday night. Not a bad show, but the world seemed to come to a halt when the “Twilight” stars (the Barbie dolls who were ever-present on stage accepting the awards the 12-year-old girls voted upon them) introduced the trailer to the second film in the franchise, “New Moon.”

Judging by audience reaction that night, and by the subsequent Facebook and Internet chatter in the nearly 24 hours since, this is apparently a big deal.

I’m not sure why.

What follows isn’t meant to be a slap in the face to the people who might be categorized by these words. Rather, it’s a genuine inquisition into a phenomenon with which I’m not completely familiar.

Now, the “Twilight” series, which was first a series of books by Stephenie Meyer, has been the hit of the best-seller list for some time now. it would seem taht most, if not all, of the people who go see the films already read the book.

So if you know what’s going to happen, pretty much word for word, why get so worked up about it?

I asked a co-worker who has read and seen all of the available books and films in the “Harry Potter” series, which would definitely also qualify. She said that a big part of it is just seeing what you read about on screen, comparing your mental image of the actions that were writtena bout with the director’s vision of the text. She also said that enjoying the books is key, because she didn’t like the book “Twilight” and therefore has no interest in the film series.

Her main point is valid, but I would much rather go see a film that will be a surprise than be one of “those people” who will nitpick the differences between the book and the adaptation (these people are invariably the same ones who will say “the book was better” if, for no other reason, than to seem smart by indirectly saying they read a book).

From where I sit, the best book-to-film adaptations are those pertaining to books no one ever heard of (“The Shawshank Redemption” was a Stephen King short story) or a classic book given the classic treatment (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). For every “The Godfather,” there seems to be at least five “The Cat in the Hat” films that forever taint the book’s good name and/or severely, painfully distort the source material.

In other words, it seems as though fans of the books mostly set themselves up for disappointment.

Of course, it’s possible to appreciate books and films on different levels, and to like one while hating the other. But franchises such as “Twilight” seem to depend upon the link between the two media to maximize revenue, which has certainly been accomplished.

Nothing will keep “New Moon” from rising. I just hope, for you fans, that your expectations don’t rise to Icarian heights.

“New Moon” is slated for a Nov. 20 release; the latest “Potter” book to become a film, “Half-Blood Prince,” will be released July 15, with the final book “Deathly Hallows” being made into two films that will from Nov. 19, 2010, and July 15, 2011, respectively.

•••

Here, if you care, is the “New Moon” trailer. I do, for the record, take issue with the franchise referring to itself as the “twilight saga” – the definition of saga is “a long story of heroic achievement,” according to the dictionary, and while some girls may like “Twilight” it is by no means heroic achievement.

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