Let the Games Begin!

For all of you Hunger Games fans, there’s only fourteen days left until the movie hits the big screen!

My kids and I have watched the trailer a gazillion times, and we discuss all the ways the movie could be great and all the ways it could fall short of our expectations.

As readers, do we expect the movies to be as good as the books? Are they ever? And do they need to be? Comparing books is interesting. Comparing movies is fun. But, when we compare books to the adaptation in movies, it can sometimes be rather frustrating. How could they possibly erase your favorite scene or character? How can a movie feel legitimate when the book is written in the first person and we never see what’s going on anywhere else in the story? Or when most of the plotline is internal rather than external conflict?

I have super high hopes for The Hunger Games movie, and that worries me because there have only been a handful of movies that have been as good as the books.

One of the best that I can recall was John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. That one lived up to the book. The Twilight movies? Not so much. Could any actor live up to the Edward in the book? I think not. That character seemed so perfect, so cultured, so special that no matter how cute other people might find Robert Pattinson, he is clearly not Edward. Not my Edward. Not the Edward that lived in my mind. So, instead of being moved by those movies, I find them kind of funny.

When we do compare a book to a movie, I’d be interested to know whether you saw the movie first. And if that makes a difference. I saw the movie The Outsiders before I read the book, and I loved them both equally. But, I didn’t use my imagination in figuring out what the characters looked like. Not when I had that fabulous all-star cast to recall. Would I have thought Ralph Macchio was the perfect Johnny? Or Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston? I’ll never know. And, oh, my love for Pony Boy…

I recently read the first four Harry Potter books. I never saw the movies because I wanted to read the books first, but I had seen enough previews to put an idea in my head of those charactersl. And I loved the movies as well as the books.

The same can be said for The Thornbirds, Gone with the Wind, and The Notebook. I saw these prior to reading the books, and I loved them all.

There are too many movies to list that have fallen short of the book, for me anyway. And all the ones I didn’t like were the books that I read first. I can’t help comparing and critiquing the movie while I’m watching it. It takes away from the movie experience completely. I wish I could flip a switch and just watch the movie without trying to compare it to the book. I wish I could just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying the movie.

Do all writers do this? Do we pick apart the movie because, in our minds, the written word is more powerful for us? Do we feel kind of sorry for the other movie goers who clearly have no inside information about the backstory of the character? The motivation? The internal struggles that have led to that particular scene?

What movies made from books have disappointed you the most, which ones have you loved, and which ones have surprised you in some way?

With regards to enjoying the upcoming movie…may the odds be ever in our favor!  🙂  (I just had to work that in!)


37 thoughts on “Let the Games Begin!

  1. I CANNOT WAIT FOR HUNGER GAMES. Am scared to death that my expectations are way too high.

    Best adaptations ever: THE PRINCESS BRIDE (William Goldman), RITA HAYWORTH & THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (Stephen King), HOLES (Louis Sachar).

    Best simultaneous adaptation (he wrote it while the movie was being filmed and the actors read their chapters and used it for their motivation) THE ABYSS (Orson Scott Card).

  2. Wow, Alethea! That’s so interesting about The Abyss. That’s one of my favorites of all time. And I wanted to mention The Princess Bride, but I never read the book. 🙁
    I am so excited about The Hunger Games, too! I’m thinking of letting my kids stay home from school a half day so we can go in the morning. I’m not really a midnight showing type of girl.
    I never read Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption either, but I loved the movies. I read that most of his novels weren’t very good as movies. But the short stories made into movies were amazing. Like Shawshank. And Stand by Me. I loved that one!

  3. One of my least favorite Harry Potter books is the 5th one – Order of the Phoenix – sooo angsty. But it’s actually my favorite of the HP movies. Interestingly, it’s the longest book and shortest movie. That’s some good screenwriting.

    I love Bridget Jones. That was a great book to make into a movie. Because it’s written as a diary it lends itself naturally to a movie. 😉

    1. I had heard that Bridget Jones’s Diary was good as both the movie and the book, but I haven’t read the book, so I didn’t feel like I could contribute. 😉
      I haven’t read the fifth Harry Potter yet or seen the movie, but that’s next on my list. My son really wants me to finish the series, but I keep getting sidetracked by other books. Grrrr.

  4. I usually don’t watch movies after I read the books with the exception of the Harry Potter series. I was shocked how closely they followed but I know you have to cut/edit to fit into time issues so I think they did a great job.

    Years ago I saw the movie they’d made from V.C. Andrews, Flowers In The Attic and wanted to die at how horrible a job they did in the movie translation. (Yes, it was my first ‘adult book’ as a teen.) Also, Anne Rice’s ‘Queen of the Damned’ didn’t measure up to it’s full potential (loved the actors though).

    1. Loni,
      I also was extremely disappointed by Flowers in the Attic! I remember reading and rereading the book because (as a young teen, too) it seemed so…so…naughty, but the movie was just awful. Awful. Part of V.C. Andrews genius was in her words, her descriptions, the feelings of those characters. Those kind of books make the worst movies.
      I always feel like there are certain books that lend themselves easier to the big screen. Usually it’s the action-packed or mystery kinds. Most of John Grisham’s books have made enjoyable movies.

    2. Loni – did you ever read V.C. Andrews’ Dawn? I still think about that book – it sort of scarred young Kerri. 😉

      1. Um. All of V.C. Andrews sort of scarred young me. I read the Flowers in the Attic series in about a week in the seventh grade. And didn’t sleep for the entire week (literally, about an hour a night).

        1. Kerri–I can’t remember if I read Dawn or not? I read Heaven . . . and then there were a bunch I missed. But I did read the whole, Flowers In the Attic series.

          P.H.–Yeah, let me tell you . . . V.C. Andrews had some pretty serious situations. Top of her game but . . . whew! Pretty messed up characters. Why we loved reading her at such a tender age (I was about the same age 13/14) was beyond me. 😉

        2. I was the same! Read all of them back to back. Crying at the utter unfairness of their lives.
          More than Flowers, I loved Heaven. I adored her to no end!
          I really should go back and read them just to see how they measure up now.

  5. I have found that book-to-film adaptations work best for me if I assume they are not going to be anything alike. For example: Disney made a version of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was nothing like the book, obviously, but I never expected it to be, so I was able to enjoy it. Meanhwhile, my kids just watched the Percy Jackson movie, and they are STILL muttering about how it was missing tons of scenes from the book. (But it also had words they aren’t allowed to say, so they are willing to watch it over and over again for the illicit thrill. Sigh.)

    Now that I think about it, I realize that I almost never go to the movies, so it’s hard for me to get worked up about differences between versions. I’m just happy about the popcorn and junior mints.

    1. You’re right, Erica! If you go into the theater knowing that it could be very different from the book, you’re not disappointed. But, how to do that? 🙂
      My daughter about had a nervous breakdown with the Percy Jackson movie. She said she doesn’t even know how they plan to make the second one because all kinds of plot information wasn’t even in there. Wonder where she gets this outrage? Not from me, surely!
      What about the Hunger Games? Surely that one will inspire more thought than just getting your greedy hands on popcorn and junior mints…
      Thanks for stopping by! Just finished your second book! Can’t wait for the conclusion! But we already know I’m completely Team Colin, and I just know the odds won’t be in his favor….Grrrrr.

  6. I am totally skeptical of movies made from books, and I tend not to watch my favorite books’ film adaptations. Generally, though, I think action books make better movies, such as Michael Crichton’s Disclosure and Rising Sun. I also enjoyed the BBC versions of the Jane Austen movies, probably because they are so long. It’s hard to capture all the complexities of a book in two hours. And finally, I never read it, but I heard that Legally Blonde was a book first, and that was a great movie!
    And despite all of my reservations about movies made from books, I can’t wait to go see The Hunger Games!!

  7. I know what you mean about comparing the book and movie Kim. I was so disgusted after the third Harry Potter movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, I was ready to start a riot. I hated that the story had been sacrificed in favor of scenery and that so many major plot points had been cut out that would effect the rest of the movies. I felt similar dissatisfaction after seeing Michael Crichton’s The Lost World. I had read the book a few months before the movie was released and knew that it could be incredible on the big screen. Instead, I found myself shaking my head and wondering if the powers that be had even READ the book when Hollywood had dinosaurs running around downtown San Diego, which I can assure you NEVER happened in the book.

    I think a book can be translated into movie format and done well. I just wish more movie directors and screenwriters would remember that the incredible story in the book was the reason they wanted to make the movie to begin with. 🙂

    1. My problem with Prisoner of Azkaban was Sirius Black. I pictured him totally different, and I loved, loved, LOVED him in the book. And the story line with him, his history and his friendships fell WAYYYYY short for me.
      That’s hysterical about the dinosaurs running around San Diego. I never saw that one.

  8. Fun topic, Kim!
    I really try and keep the two separate, and treat the book and the film as different tellings of the same story. I hate comparing them, because they are so rarely equal. Much better for me if there’s a nice gap of time between book and movie. For example, I did read the Harry Potter books. But the length of time between me reading and me watching the movies was so long I’d quite forgotten most of the detail in the book. That made it easier to enjoy the movies as their own individual things.
    Now, though, with Hunger Games it’s going to be tougher, since we use that book to teach Hero’s Journey. Every nuance is drilled into my brain. I’m kinda scared to go see the movie, in fact. But not scared enough to stay away : )

    1. I hear you, Jen! I’m not scared enough to stay away either. The previews do look great, and even though it wasn’t in the book, I would like to see how Gale reacts to the onscreen kissing in the cave and all. 🙂
      What class is this? Hero’s Journey? That sounds like a great class!!! Give me the details.

  9. Hi Kim,

    I totally agree that PERCY JACKSON was an epic fail. Even my eight-year-old son and his friend walked away from the theatre talking about how the film missed its mark. I AM NUMBER FOUR was a total let down for me. The book was just *meh* so I thought the movie would exceed my lukewarm expectations. Boy was I wrong! Also JANE EYRE, while lovely, was lacking. Recent movies that really lived up to the book for me: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and ONE DAY.

    I’m nervously awaiting THE HUNGER GAMES. Due to scheduling, my family will be a week late in seeing it. By then there should be a lot of buzz about how the movie holds up to the book. I’m praying to the Fiction Gods that it delivers. Or at the very least that the odds are ever in its favor…

    1. I loved Water for Elephants, but I haven’t seen the movie yet. Now I will.
      I remember Nora Roberts answering a question once when someone asked her how she felt when directors ruined her book for the movie. She shrugged casually and said something along the lines that the book isn’t ruined. It’s still the same book. Gotta love Nora.
      I’ll let you know about the movie. My husband hates going to movies on opening weekend, but I don’t really see how I can stay away. Yeah, not gonna happen.

      1. Water for Elephants was lots of fun. I had the good fortune to forget most of the book, so the movie was a new experience. Close enough, I’d say. (Reese Witherspoon is kind of old for the ingenue role, tho – just sayin’)

  10. Suzanne Collins has released a statement saying she’s seen a screening of the film, and she’s pleased with it. If she’s telling the truth, I think I’ll be satisfied, too, even if Peeta and Gale aren’t as hot in the movie as they are in my head.

    1. Isn’t that always the way, Melissa? I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Boys are better in books.” Yessirree, they certainly are! Much better.
      That’s kind of unfair for the actors, but it is what it is. The thing I really liked about these actors/actresses in The Hunger Games are that they read these books. They LOVED these books. I think they’ll do a great job because of that. How could they NOT?

  11. I love this topic, Kim. My brother is a huge movie aficionado and we talk all the time about movies vs. books AND whether to watch the movie or read the book first. I find that if I see the film first, I’m much more likely to enjoy it. I also try, like Erica, to have low expectations of the movie if I’ve already read the book.

    My most recent examples are “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” With “Dragon” I read all the books first and went to see the movie with a little dread. But I loved it. I knew all the internal stuff would be hard to show, but the books (wonderful though they were) were very, very long so the movie editing worked well.

    For “Extremely Loud” I saw the movie first, and I loved it. I thought it was sweet and hard all at once and I felt like the characters had arcs and found some growth. Then I read the book and the characters were completely different–they even played different roles in the book. And I found the book linear and depressing with nobody feeling better or learning anything at the end. I’ll never know how I’d have felt had I read the book first — but it was an interesting exercise!

    Thanks for the fun! And put me in the “Can’t wait for Hunger Games” category!

    1. I’m planning to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don’t want to see the movie until I do. I heard they’re great books.
      I’m glad you told me about Extremely Loud. I picked up the book at Target a few weeks back, and I ended up putting it down. That’s interesting that you enjoyed the movie more than the book. That hardly ever happens in our writing world, does it? 🙂 We always think the written word is better.
      Thanks for stopping by! And good luck with your new release, Liz! I love the new title– The Rancher and the Rockstar.

  12. Fantastic post, Kim! I think screen adaptations really do depend on so much–the script, the cast, the production. My disappointment in movie versions of books I love started at an early age. I adored ‘Black Beauty’ as a child and when I saw a movie version that was complete departure from the book, I bawled my eyes out. (Bear in mind I was only 11. 🙂 )

    I recently watched a whole series of Agatha Christie BBC telemovies. Some characters were merged into one and some plots were completely changed, but actually I thought the adaptations worked really well.

    1. Disappointment in movies made from books is a bitter pill to swallow at any age, but at 11, that’s heartbreaking. 😉
      I didn’t start reading Little House on the Prairie until after I loved the show, but I adored both!

  13. What a great post, Kim! I’m always sad that I remember to read and respond to these last thing at night… I remember being totally thrilled by “Gone With the Wind.” I’ve never bothered to read “Jurassic Park.” I loved “The Outsiders” as a book, and stumbled on a late night showing of it on TV when my daughter was a teenager. We had so much fun seeing those boys who had become soooo famous!

    That said, there are a few movies I have refused to see. “Tuck Everlasting.” The Narnia movies. Hmmm, mostly childhood books I couldn’t bear to see sullied by commercial placements.

    And then there are the movies I love so much I don’t want my dreams to spoiled by the task of reading the book. I like that clean living, ya know?

    1. Susan,
      I have never read Tuck Everlasting. I have always wanted to, so I think I’ll place that one on my list, too. I’ve picked up two recommendations tonight. 🙂
      It’s fun when you can share with your own child, no matter the age. It’s been months and months of talking about the Hunger Games, and now we are all equally excited about the movie. It’s a great bond to have with the family. We may not always agree (example: Twilight) but it’s fun to debate it. I always tell my kids that if they bothered to read the books, they would be Team Edward. It’s just because of that werewolf taking his shirt off all the time that they are Team Jacob. LOL.

  14. Kim, all I have to say is I hope Robert Pattinson got paid an extra bonus for having to take his shirt off AFTER Taylor Lautner! LOL!
    Susan, my daughters and I love C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series and we have seen all of the movies. Some of the movies are a bit different from the books, but for the most part they seem to remain true to the spirit of books. It had been a little while since I had read them but I really enjoyed seeing Narnia and all of the creatures C. S. Lewis created coming to life.

    1. Dana,
      I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read the Narnia books and have never seen the movies. Partly because of that darn rule of mine about not seeing the movies first… I have the first few books in the series, so maybe after finishing all the other books that have now been added to my TBR pile, I will finally read them!
      That’s funny about Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. In the books, I always pictured Jacob kind of beastly looking–very big, a bit hairy, and smelling like dog. But Edward. *sigh* He always seemed like perfection to me. But, I do understand why my girls like Jacob better in the movies. I can’t stand the fact that Pattinson barely moves his lips when he talks…does that bother anyone else?!

  15. I am SO excited for Hunger Games movie and SO worried I won’t love it. I LOVE Harry Potter the books and dislike the movies. They’re just meh. All the magic and little characterization dialogue from the books is cut out of the movie for time.

    One great film adapation is Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of A LIttle Princess. It’s beautfiul and magical.

    ALso- I disagree on the Percy Jackson front. I saw the movie before reading the book, and I thought the story telling was tighter with an actual Hero’s journey in the movie. The book rambled a lot more and the pacing was flawed. (Not to insult Rick Riordan cause I think he’s brilliant and the book was wonderful, but I actually liked the movie better)

    1. Lynne,
      It’s interesting that you say that about Percy Jackson. I wonder if you had read the book first whether you would have had the same opinion. That seems to be a kind of pattern with me, anyway. If I see the movie first and like it enough to read the book, then I’m usually fairly happy with both. It rarely works for me the other way around.
      I’ll have to see A Little Princess. Thanks for the recommendation.
      And thanks for stopping by!

  16. Man, I am sorry I am so late to this conversation. I think you all have covered the bases. I wish I’d gotten here in time to pose this question–What about movies you’ve seen that you wish there was a book out there so you could go home and learn even more about the inner workings? I’ve had that happen more times than I can count recently. I haven’t finished researching it yet, but “In Time” with J. Timberlake was a fascinating and original story idea that in my opinion needs a book.
    Anywho, I think the Hunger Games movie will be just fine. Kim, I’m hoping you post about your thoughts and reactions after you see it.

    1. Carlene,
      Apparently there are people who are hired to write a book after a movie. Some don’t like it, but I think it’s really interesting. What kind of backstory would you give someone? For acting like a horse’s ass? Or for being a victim of life?
      That’s an interesting question…
      Are you watching the movie before or after you come to my Hunger Games party? 🙂 We’ll have lots to talk about! I’m such a HG nerd. Seriously.

      1. I actually think that’s kind of cool to write a book based on the movie because I’m a movie junkie.
        Definitely coming to your party before we see the Hunger Games movie. If we can work it, we’d like to go to the drive-in which is playing it that opening weekend. Something about being outside in a big ole grass field, biting my nails when they get to the arena sounds good.

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