Last week the trailer for The Hunger Games came out, and people reacted accordingly. But something else is brewing. A trend.
The movie looks good! That haunting whistle at the end fascinates me. Also looks like a lot of other movies.
I’m sorry, I had to get that out of the way. I’m definitely not the first person to make a Battle Royale reference. In fact, I’ll be the first to tell you that survival game genre movies have been around for quite some time, even before Battle Royale. However, I can’t help but think of it: An oppressive society. Young people. A televised free-for-all. It’s very, very hard to dismiss the similarities.
But regardless, The Hunger Games is based off another young adult fiction series by Suzanne Collins (more books I haven’t read, yes I’m an awful nerd) and I won’t tell you more than that because, frankly, I don’t know much more. Nor do I want to.
“What?!” I imagine you scream to yourself, eyebrows perking, eyes widening. “But Eric! You haven’t read them! Why are you trashing it already?” Very wrong of you to think that, person who is potentially reenacting everything I have just described! I am not.
There’s something about the adaptation of book series that is not annoying me for the same tired reasons as everyone else (“Hollywood has no original ideas anymore,” “They will ruin it!” etc.), but that a movie adaptation is almost always, always, always going to happen. And when that happens, I fear for the future of books. If every book in the future will become a movie, why even bother writing books? Just write the screenplay.
But have you ever read a screenplay? I am going to shit on someone’s cereal over this, but in my humble opinion I do not feel mentally stimulated or imaginative when I read screenplays than when I read novels. In screenplays, the language is often very dry and concise. This is due to many convoluted rules I will not get into (okayIcan’tresistonepageequalsoneminuteofscreentimeTEEHEEHEEHEE). Some screenplays write the subtext in a metaphorical language; in one of the drafts to The Social Network, the last line in the opening scene literally describes the moment as “a fuse has just been lit.”
You can’t do that in novels. Novels are descriptive, but they cannot (or rather, shouldn’t) tell you when a fuse has just been lit. Good novels will communicate that to the reader in a simple sentence, or even a word. “No!” declares Sarah as she lays on the tattered mattress. “I will not do anal tonight. You said you wouldn’t ask again.”
True, I don’t read as nearly as much as I should. But I respect the noble book, and I have to admit: part of the reason I got into filmmaking was because I always imagined the settings and mentally cast actors who played the characters when I read books for school. Granted, sometimes my brain farted during reading and I tended to miscast the hell out of them. First impressions are everything.
In general, I worry over the state of books. E-reader technology can render books (as in paper) useless in, I’ll be generous, sixty years. This goes for any form of media, really, but in just a year I never thought of bound books as threatened to extinction, ever. Thus, to lengthen the lifespan, a successful book series is almost always going to turn into a movie, and this frightens me. Yes, I am a movie/TV guy. But when a book reaches the bestseller charts, film adaptation rumors begin to light up. And this annoys me. But again, not because I feel Hollywood has run out of ideas.
Whenever anything is released, people seem to forget that it is, at its core, an interpretation. Anything can be molded to fit the artist’s tastes. The Watchmen movie was written by Alex Tse, but David Hayter also had his draft and it differed in many ways. Adaptations and interpretations are like being handed cookie dough and a few cookie cutters. You have the material and you have the tools, but who says you need to have gingerbread men with a head? Do they have to be smiling? While you’re at it, why gumdrop buttons?
Just because it’s the most recent release or the most popular one doesn’t make it official, at least artistically speaking. Legally, yes. But artistically, it’s just one guy’s or gal’s view. Christopher Nolan isn’t the definitive voice of Batman, Warner Bros. just thought he could do a good job making an interpretation profitable. Eureka!
When a book series is turned into a film, people lose their shit for so many reasons. They cut out the best parts, or they didn’t have a scene occur the way they saw it as. Etcetera etcetera. Well, duh. You weren’t working on the film, someone else was. That someone’s interpretations were at work. They were lucky, they’re getting paid to put their interpretation for you — to pay — to see.
Going back to Christopher Nolan, many comic fans were outraged over the loss of a gothic-looking Gotham in favor of a more modern and contemporary aesthetic. That’s just Nolan interpreting Batman the way he’d like to. Go ahead and criticize it, you’re not just welcome but entitled to, but don’t criticize it because he didn’t follow the books.
Yes, legally speaking, they are “official” adaptations, but still an adaptation. It could have been you in the director’s chair, or at the screenwriter’s computer. It’s still someone’s interpretation being worked to fit what a studio thinks is accessible, acceptable, and most of all, profitable.
So when The Hunger Games comes out, when you see people complain that “they ruined it” or “they killed it,” tell them everything I told you.
Or just ignore them, that works too.