In the annual Academy Awards, there are two separate categories: Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. The ‘Original’ category is for the slick beings that came up with a great movie script by themselves. ‘Adapted’ is for the not-so-slick beings who read a book, got a little fuzzy idea in their minds, asked the author of the book to turn the book into a movie and pass it off as their own creation with nothing more than a ‘Based on the novel by…’ in the credits. Often times, a book will be so great that some bonehead will think ‘good book, better movie’ when it sometimes turns out to be ‘good book, so-so movie’. The reason being is that a good book is usually very long. Putting every mundane detail from the book into the movie would make the movie run incredibly long and most people would prefer a shorter film rather than a movie true to its original source.
Some movies do live up to the book, especially children classics. The 1996 movie, ‘Harriet the Spy’, starring Nickelodeon’s pioneer diva Michelle Trachtenberg, holds a place in the movie cabinet as well as the book by Louise Fitzhugh on my bedroom bookshelf. ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’, although a current fad and perhaps not yet a classic, stayed very true to the book and lived up to the hype that came along with it. Others do not. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was a highly praised novel of the 1950’s and is still one of the most highly studied novels in schools across the United States. The movie, released in 1961, was based off of the book but the main focus had shifted between the two. While the novel described Scout and Jem’s transitional childhood, the movie planted the emphasis on the trial surrounding Tom Robinson. The movie went on to win various awards, but when you relate the ‘classic’ film to its origin, can you say it was truly an adaptation if much of the novel was missing?
Many of Stephen King’s novels were adapted into movies. There were Oscar-nominees, such as The Green Mile, and others that were bad even by B-movie standards, such as Thinner. (Many of you probably have never heard of the last film I named and, believe me, you are not missing a hidden gem but instead a rhinestone from a 50-cent vending machine.) When you churn out book after book of freakish tales with the mind-set of knowing that it will one day become a movie, you have to hope that whoever interprets your art will do it in a way that honors the author, the true source. An author can only hope for an accurate projection of his or her work. A best adapted piece of shit or a best adapted piece of art? Which would you prefer to watch?
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