Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You're Upsetting The Wor'ms! They're Starting to hy-phe-nate!"

The title quote, from page 313, is one of the reasons I like the Thursday Next series so much, as well as one of the reasons the series wouldn't really work as a movie or TV show. The book worms "had just digested a recent meal of prepositions and were happily farting out apostrophes and ampersands; the air was heav'y with th'em&." (312) The whole series is peppered with jokes like this; jokes that only work if you're reading the story. Sure, I suppose you could have apostrophes and ampersands floating around the screen but how would you indicate that the characters' speech is affected by the worms punctuous gas?

There are a lot of books that have been called unfilmable but this is the only series that I think actually fits this description. I'm not sure why everyone made such a big deal about The Watchmen being unfilmable. It's already set in a visual medium, the graphic novel, so it's part of the way there. Maybe the special effects aren't currently quite at the point that they can seemlessly integrate without taking you out of the story, but SFX are always improving. This series is the first one that I think the story would be severely hurt if it's told via some other medium. But maybe someday, someone will prove me wrong. I don't know if I would like the movies, at least not better than the books.

A teacher once explained to me the reason books are better than their movie adaptations is that with the book you make all of the decisions. You are an active participant in creating the worlds you see so you have, you could say, a vested interest in the novel. I've certainly watched movies, Pet Semetary comes to mind, where all I could think was "well that's not what Church looks like! What's Rachel doing? She doesn't sound like that at all." It took me out of the story for no reason other than the fact that I had already decided these details when I read the story and the movie didn't match.

That doesn't mean the movie always falls short of the book. I know I'm not in the majority with this, but I do not like The Lord of the Rings books. I tried. I tried because, much to my surprise, I loved the Fellowship movie. I hadn't read the book before I saw the movie, so maybe that was my problem. I read the first book after I saw the movie and fully expected to enjoy it. And then I didn't. The setting was described in great detail but I couldn't keep the characters straight. With the exception of Frodo, all of the fellowship members just blended together for me. After making my way through the book I decided I liked the movies too much and saw the second movie before reading that book. I was now familiar enough with the movie to know the characters and be able to keep them straight while reading. I think it was this and not character development on the stories part that actually helped. I didn't like the narrative structure but I plowed through. I couldn't believe I would like a movie better than a book. I only made it part of the way through the third book before I decided I had enough other books to read that punishing myself just to get through this one wasn't worth it. Maybe I'll try again. The books are still on my bookshelf. But I think the decision has been made and I'll never be able to make The Lord of the Rings my own now that I've seen the movie.

Are there any other books that can't be made into movies? Are there any movies that surpassed the book?

Fforde, Jasper. The Eyre Affair. Penguin Group, New York. 2001

5 comments:

petekarnas said...

I recently finished watching the movie adaptation of C.D. Payne's Youth in Revolt and was terribly disappointed. It might seem like a book that could adapt well to the screen - lots of over-the-top gags, outrageous humor, interesting characters. But, in reality, much of what made the book unique and exciting was the thought process of the narrator. Without that to frame the external events, the movie seemed recycled.
As for movies that worked better than the books, some oldies are Jaws and The Godfather. The only recent (within fifteen years) example I can think of is Wag the Dog based on the book An American Hero.

Red said...

I completely agree about Youth in Revolt. I had high expectations for that movie after reading the book and was let down. I think you're right that a lot of the humor comes from the narrator's thoughts, but I was hoping to see Nick's perception of the world compared to how people actually view him. I can't believe anyone actually believed him to be Carlotta.

I've only read Jaws out of the other movies/books you listed, but I've seen the movie versions of all 3. I can't actually remember the book Jaws, which I think in itself says a lot about how good of a book it was. Perhaps I’ll check out the other books

Thomas Chen said...

I think the blame for Youth in Revolt lies in the person who wrote the screenplay. He did a terrible job of recreating the book. The movies does not capture Nick's sociopathic tendencies and does not capture Sheeni's manipulative behavior. And the ending was the complete opposite of the book.

Red said...

They tried to make Nick likable, which not at all what he was like in the book. Maybe the movie was also hurt because Nick was played by Cera. How can you not like him?

Pete said...

Completely agree that Cera was wrong for the role of Nick. He's too well known as an affable sort of guy, not the charismatic but sociopathic guy from the books. An unknown actor would have been much better.

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