“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” featuring some of the most beloved characters from Middle Earth, released its new trailer last week. As a Tolkien head, sitting through the two-minute trailer filled with excessive CGI and unnecessary plot twists was excruciating.
It immediately became obvious that Peter Jackson and other screenwriters had taken full liberty in tampering with the classic children’s novel - a novel that gave birth to the Lord of the Rings and had one of the most profound impacts on the modern fantasy genre.
However, "The Hobbit" is not the only novel to fall prey to excessive manipulation to suit the needs of the film industry. Examples of similar exploits can be found in the adaptation of numerous other popular science fiction and fantasy novels including the much-anticipated “Ender’s Game” movie as well as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series.
In fact, it may be inaccurate to claim that there is such a thing as an accurate adaptation of a novel. Instead, a book serves as mere inspiration to recreate something through a different medium for a different audience.
One of the most rewarding experiences of reading a book is the special bond created between the writer and the reader’s imagination. This bond often provides the reader with a unique perspective on characters, plotlines and key events. This bond is sacred enough to allow the reader to develop an extraordinary personal connection with the characters, and soon enough the novel becomes an individualized enterprise.
However, when the very same novel is ‘adapted’ for the big screen or for a major network channel it almost immediately loses the personalized sacred bond that the reader had so deftly crafted. That is, however, not to say that the ‘adaptation’ of a novel is necessarily degradation of art, as some critics claim. In fact, on the contrary, it sometimes serves as a mechanism to enhance and even promote certain art forms to a young, diverse audience that might have been deprived of it otherwise.
There is also a significant dichotomy between books and screenplays and it should come as no surprise that most novelists do not associate themselves with screenwriting. This contrast demonstrates how most books are not written in formats that could simply be adopted without significant alterations.
Since writers not affiliated with the original text do most of these alterations, discrepancies between the two mediums are bound to occur. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the “Harry Potter” series where one can even find inconsistences within different movies.
The phrase “Good books do not make good movies” beautifully encapsulates the troublesome nature of film adaptation to suit popular demand and to achieve commercial success.
In order to quell this common theme of story disintegration, screenwriters and directors must make a conscious effort to stay true to the authors’ original visions. After all, they must have done something right if the book is popular enough to be converted into a movie in the first place.