Movie vs. Book

Confession: I haven’t seen HUNGER GAMES yet.

I realize I’m probably the only YA writer out here who hasn’t, and I really have no excuse since one of my husband’s students was in the film as a tribute (a minor one of course…he gets killed like everyone else….but I can’t describe the scene for you since I haven’t…ahem…seen the movie).

The thing is, I’m a big fan of the books, and of Katniss in particular (although her name bothers me….but then again, most of the names in the trilogy didn’t sit quite right with me). In every way, Katniss Everdeen is the ultimate heroine, and one day I hope to explain what I mean by that. Still…I’m reluctant, as in deeply reluctant, to see the film version.


Why, is that, you say?

1.) Harry is Daniel Radcliffe.

2.) Legolas is Orlando Bloom.

I simply can't convince my brain otherwise. 

Won’t the visuals of THE HUNGER GAMES movie hijack, with equal efficiency, the images the book conjured up for me when I read it? Won’t it kill the magic?

"But what about the picture book?" one of my friends recently said.

Okay, I got his point...static pictures are just as concrete as the moving images of a film. In both forms, the artist’s or artistic director’s personal interpretation of a text becomes everyone’s. The flights of a single individual’s imagination become universally recognized and unconsciously adopted. That is the chief pleasure of the picture book form. I mean, one look at FROG AND TOAD, and you’d know Lobel’s creatures anywhere.



And then there’s Beatrix Potter.

(By the way, have you seen some of the newer editions of PETER RABBIT for the very young? Not only have the words been altered and watered down, but the art isn’t even hers! Perhaps if we didn’t have Potter’s original drawings so grafted into the defintition of "Peter Rabbit," I might accept the new illustrations just as fondly. But that isn’t the case. We do have them. And they’ve been excluded on purpose!)

So….I won’t lie. On the one hand, movie versions of books are my absolute favorite kind of film to see. Every Sunday night you'll find me watching the latest Masterpiece Classic on PBS. I remember being tucked into bed as a child and falling asleep to Mouret’s Rondeau from Symphonies and Fanfares for the King's Supper, the opener for Masterpiece Theater, because my parents were indulging in their weekly dose of literary works brought to life on TV. I'm just carrying on the tradition! Masterpiece’s recent showcase of Charles Dickens works, specifically LITTLE DORRIT and GREAT EXPECTATIONS, has been excellent.

But here’s the thing, I’ve never read LITTLE DORRIT, so I had no preconceived images or expectations (ha!) to bring to the series when I watched it. GREAT EXPECTATIONS, on the other hand, I did read in a college survey English class. Of course, it was so long ago I didn’t remember a quarter of the storyline when I watched the movie. But. If I were to re-read the book now, I’m certain I’ll have the same problem as I do with HARRY POTTER.

Maybe I’m just not savvy enough. Maybe I’m just too impressionable.

It does make me wonder though, about the old days, when the ear was the primary sense used to absorb stories. When oral storytelling, not visual or textual, reigned supreme. Did the people around those campfires or in those great halls have it better? In hearing the storyteller—the nuance of voice, the timbre of suspense—were they more actively entertained than we moderns who sit passively in front of a big screen, being spoon-fed the same images as everyone else in the theater? Were their imaginations more acute, as a result? More unique person to person, compared to people of the twenty-first century who find their heads filled with images that are not their own, but instead collective and shared?

In other words, are film adaptations of beloved books worth it? To you? Do you possess some secret power for blocking out movie details when you read the original again? Can I hang out with you so some of that power might, you know, rub off on me?

*Sigh*

I still want to see THE HUNGER GAMES.


But the question is, should I?

2 comments:

  1. Bethany, I'm with you. I like my own imagined pictures for fiction. But I love picture books, too. I think readers accept that PB authors have left room for illustrations readers can love as much as the story. That's why when the illustrations of picture books we love are changed, it upsets us!

    I am just now reading The Hunger Games and have not seen the movie. Frankly, I wonder if I can handle it!

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    1. Good point, Joyce. If I break down and see it, I'll post my thoughts here.

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