Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


I Don't Care About the Books

Posted on November 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM

So much has been said about the Harry Potter films over the years. No matter where you look, people seem to complain that things were changed or not shown or, simply, that the films deviate from the books even in the slightest. Usually they're minor things that fans will naturally complain about because fans are fans and that's what they do.

I don't care about the books, though. I don't watch a film and attempt to determine its quality on whether or not it got everything in a book right. I did it for Lord of the Rings, (technically, a lot of people do it seeing as how many films are based on books...they just don't have the fervor of fans) and I also do it for the Harry Potter films. All I care about is what the film achieves. Does it tell its story? Does it have the characters and their arcs fully realized? Is it simply a film you can watch and enjoy on some level? Sometimes a film outdoes a book, sometimes a book outdoes the film. The point being: I don't care either way.

You don't critique a film by listing all the things you expect it to have and just check them off one by one. It's an all-encompassing perspective. I recall when Lord of the Rings came out and many people getting upset over a minor little scene wasn't exactly as  described (or changed/added), or how a character was portrayed, but would it have changed the entirety of the film to being "bad" or "better" if that scene was altered? Is every subplot within a 700+ page book needed to begin with? Just because it's there doesn't mean it needs to be. Is the film counterpart now "worse" because of some alteration at all? Is it that relevant or are fans just too fickle?

Well, yes, they are fickle, but that's not the point.

When adapting something to a new medium, it's not about being literal. It never has been and some of the best films of all time, based on books, have not been literal adaptations at all. They don't go through every single page and write it exactly as written and detail every single action, set and how someone might be lit. That would be futile and, I'm sorry, pretty uninspired on top of it all.

What an adaptation is and has always been is a transition of spirit. It's the idea and concept that needs to be retained, not every single subplot or whether or not a character looked the way you might have imagined. That is ALL that matters. If someone took War and Peace and tried to make a comedy, then there's a right to be up in arms. But Harry Potter is Harry Potter. I can look at every film and see that and it gets its spirit exactly right.

But again, that's not the point here. The point is I only care about whether or not the film works on its own level, not to the level of literature. While fans of a book can sit there and say it didn't have this or didn't have that in the film adaptation, I could sit there and say the book didn't have certain elements as well, like musical scores and beautiful cinematography. It wouldn't matter either way, but I only judge a film based on film merits - the script, the acting, the plot, the dialogue, the directing, the cinematography and so forth. A book is just a book and a film is a film, and that's all I care about and that's how any film reviewer should approach it. But everyone is a critic on the internet and most don't care...which is why I end up not caring about their criticisms when I see them bring up such points. The minute someone says "well in the book..." to determine the value of the movie is the minute I stop caring what they have to say.

It's fine to compare the two and discuss what's left out or changed, but that doesn't determine on whether or not the movie is good or bad. A movie can be bad entirely on its own, it doesn't need faithfulness of a book to judge it.


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1 Comment

Reply toosmartforbond2
8:18 PM on December 9, 2010 
Man, all the best old movies were books. To Kill a Mockingbird springs to mind.

I think the only reason people even discuss this topic anymore is because the HP books are so damn easy to read that almost anyone can be pretentious about having read them and then compared it to the movie.

That being said ... not every book should be a movie. Nor a game. Nor all three. This does not stop Resident Evil from trying it every few years.