Why does every damn book need to have a movie?

halfyear-youngadult

Warning! LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD.

Many novels these days, from recent best-sellers (Water For Elephants) to mass-read classics (The Great Gatsby) have had movies made from them. I haven’t seen or read either of these, but here’s what I did read and see recently:

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Kick-Ass Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl Kick-Ass 2

These three books are good examples of what to do (and what not to do) when making a film or less inspired, blockbuster-craving movie. Although my opinions of them differ, they have much in common: they star teen characters, they’re more-or-less science fiction (if you count a realistic take on superheroes to be science fiction) and they’re all certainly action stories.

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

I can’t decide which I liked more, the movies or the books. (Movies. Probably movies.) Although heroines usually grate on me, Katniss didn’t usually do so. And although I am, by now, tired of seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s face everywhere, watching her as Katniss helped me appreciate the hype. (Disclaimer: Lawrence is a fantastic actress. I simply dislike her because everyone else is currently in love with her. I might be a hipster.)

At first, the sight of Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch was startling, but the more I saw him the more I adored the character. In writing, Haymitch is the surly, sarcastic drunk who needs to be taken care of. On screen, he’s the surly, sarcastic drunk with a sharp wit who doesn’t need help from anyone, probably not even Peeta. Haymitch’s dislike for Katniss’ personality, in either case, is refreshing compared to the “you’re so special” mentality the protagonists of teen and tween stories tend to receive.

Because I watched the movies nearly immediately after finishing the novels (except Mockingjay), the differences between paper and screen were pretty fresh in my mind. I preferred the movie of The Hunger Games and the novel of Catching Fire. In the first movie, riots were shown, whereas in the book series we don’t learn about them until Katniss does in book two. THG can get away with straying from Katniss’ point of view, whereas the novel would break if it strayed from the first person point of view. I, for one, am glad the riots were included in the first movie because it encouraged interest in the second. I enjoyed seeing President Snow’s discussions in the movie, but in the novel of Catching Fire, Snow’s appearance at Katniss’ house was more chilling in writing.

If critics of Catching Fire say book two was all over the place, the movie, to me, was worse because it felt rushed. I was more intrigued by the first half of the novel with the utter uncertainty of the fates of the rioting districts. Once they got to the arena, I lost interest, but even so I wanted to see more interaction between the characters during the Games in the film.

This movie series is so sickening I seriously can’t have a midnight snack while watching it. The filmmakers did such a good job that the movies can stand on their own. Then again, I can’t ignore how once, while reading Catching Fire, I was actually biting my bookmark. Sometime shortly before the Mockingjay movie is released, I’ll look forward to reading the book.

I only wish I could say the same for Divergent.

Divergent

I’ve avoided writing any review on this to prevent myself from going on a rant. The novel was recommended to me, and the same friend let me know the movie was better. She was correct, but I don’t believe either was up to par with The Hunger Games (or any other well-received book). Somewhere in the middle of reading Divergent, I decided not to watch the movie. If the book frustrated me so much, not even a potential blockbuster could be that much better. Alas, I saw it anyway for the sake of this post. (You’re welcome. …Have you thanked me yet?)

“The movie is better,” I repeated during the trailer. But, as soon as Beatrice began her narration, I found myself moaning. No. Don’t world-build your movie with a narrated prologue. With novels, it depends on what you do, but movies? People, have you learned nothing from M. Night Shyamalan?

The Last Airbender

Unless this is the opening theme to every episodes for all the kiddies out there, it’s not needed. It’s simply evidence of hasty filmmaking. Do your world building!

To the movie’s credit, besides the opening and the closing, Beatrice’s inner monologue was non-existent. This was one hell of a step up from the book because things actually happened without her questioning herself at every turn of the page. However, even in the movie I and others were confused about certain things, such as why the Divergent population hasn’t been ruling the city all along and (my personal pet peeve) why it isn’t taboo for Beatrice to have a relationship with her trainer, who helps determine progress scores of all the competitive students.

All in all, this was one film where I was relieved to find out subplots and some of the main plot differed from its original.

I’m not usually a fan of filmmakers taking liberty with creative license for the sake of providing a semi-formulaic plot for the common man, but I make exceptions once in a while.

Kick-Ass!

I saw the first two movies before reading these comics, and I must say I’m a fan of both. Kick-Ass 2 (the movie) is combined with Kick-Ass 2 Prelude (the comic) and I’m okay with that. The plots are different, too. The movie shows more of Mindy’s life in high school and, yeah, gets formulaic with her attempt to fit in with the cool crowd, but as long as Hit Girl is triumphant I don’t think any of us can complain. (On that note, I’d like to address writer Mark Millar directly. *ahem* WHAT THE FUCK, MILLAR? WHEN IS KICK-ASS 3 GOING TO BE FINISHED? You can’t leave a girl hanging when she’s trying to write a post about the whole series!) Despite the plot of the second movie, I’m glad it features more Hit Girl because she’s more fun than Dave.

I find it difficult to decide which I like more: the movies or the books. More importantly for a fangirl, I find it impossible to decide which I dislike more. Even after reading Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, I’m not on board with terribly graphic violence. Just violence? For some reason, yes. The movies are more graphic visually whereas the comics, to me, are more graphic linguistically. Spoken swears roll off the actor’s tongue, whereas written swears linger within the dialogue box. Violence is prominently in the viewer’s face, but the coloring in the comics are more blunt than other comics I’ve read recently (especially Marvel).

Now that I’ve gone on about that, you may be wondering why I’m a fan of Kick-Ass in the first place. I just am. The exaggerated action is part of what makes the series so fun. Superheroes, come on!

The main character, Dave, makes a good point here:

Suddenly I got why they embraced us like they did. Why the movies were created in such a dark decade. Why these characters were created in the first place. We all just need a little color in our lives and the certainty of a happy ending because real life doesn’t work out like that.

Real life isn’t as comic book-y, either, so this is why over-the-top nonsense with a plot is and can be fantastic.

Should all books be made into movies? No. Like real life, some just won’t work out. I have a series that would make a great action film series, but there’s another series I’m working on that would make a terrible movie no matter who directed it.

 

After this post, this reading challenge is done with the über-popular books. I’m off to pursue lesser-known teen titles.

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