Recently I just watched the film ‘Jane Eyre’ and, although I admit to myself that I did enjoy the film and it did stay true to the novel of the plot, I was somewhat disappointed with how they portrayed Jane in the film. In my mind, Jane was a strong-willed, determined lass whose courage and strong force fueled milled could allow her to achieve anything. I believed the movie somewhat lessened her character and let her appear slightly weaker and more desperate. The film in my opinion, was good, the director of this latest attempt didn’t try to update the film neither give us an education in the previous years hospitality. It is distinctly original in its own right and still manages to capture the raw Bronte passion.
Now, this is just one example of a good film to movie adaptions and I have seen many more previous to this (specifically in my opinion: Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Flies, Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, the list continues for a while) and this will doubtfully not be the last great adaption. I’m not a movie junkie but I do pay special interest to films when they come adapted fresh from a book and I have compiled a list of adaptions which in my opinion are more than poor attempts of film making and adaptation:
Scarlet Letter (1995 Director Roland Joffe)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004 (Director Brad Silberling)
Twilight – (2008 Director Catherine Hardwicke I’m embarrassed to admit I even saw the film, don’t even get me started on the books)
Stardust (2007 Director Matthew Vaughn, actually enjoyable film, but performances from the actors are poor and the book is more rich and darker than what is portrayed)
I am Legend (2007 Director Francis Lawrence)
These are just to name a few, the reasons I have chosen these particular films is because I believe that all of them lack true spirit to the novel, some are updated versions (something you should never do to a timeless classic) and others such as ‘The Scarlet Letter’ (although admitting to being loosely based on the book) is a shocking demise of the beloved novel and has nothing to do with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale of lust, betrayal and sin. In ‘I am Legend’ they instead concentrated on over the top CGI effects’ rather than the painful and lonely realization that you’re the last man alive on earth.
In my view, what it takes to make a succesful movie adaption of a timeless book is to stay true to the characters, stay loyal to the plot and its themes as well as making them clear in the film. Add a touch of originality instead but don’t try to rewrite the novel. Allow characters the morals they had in the books and don’t try to ween them as someone different (a criticism of ‘Jane Eyre’ for me). I’ve yet to find a film, though, that is better than the book and I doubt that I ever, sadly, will find one.
I realize this post is mainly about movies rather than books, but I just feel the need to emphasize my distaste and particularly loathing when some lame arse hot shot Hollywood director decides to take a sleazy shot at directing a film based upon a novel. Half the time the adaptions aren’t at all necessary, just a ploy to earn ‘big money.’ Don’t do it, if you will stain the books legacy and more than that, dissuade readers from actually reading the text if they hadn’t before and definitely don’t attempt if you can’t even stay focused upon the novel itself and spin it all out of context.