Monday, 1 February 2016

Epics that lost their Essence in Translation

We love it when a good book gets made into an even better movie. Scratch that - sometimes we just love seeing our favorite characters brought to life onscreen, even if it’s all a glorious mess.

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What began with the Gone with the wind’s legendary movie translation back in the 1930's, has been the inherited by generation after generation of filmmakers.However not every beloved book gets the same careful treatment as it moves from bestseller status to celluloid. Some books move fairly seamlessly onto the big screen while others often get diminished in transformation.Some adaptations, "choke on their own excess," losing nuance one glitter flake at a time, while others manifest lands of sloping mountains, bubbling rivers and pointy ears so vividly that even the closest readers could have never imagined their majesty.

Some novels tend themselves to the big screen. All the Harry Potter series, James Bond’s adventures, the Hunger Games series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Book Thief, the Fault in Our stars, Kite Runner and the legendary ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’, anything by Dickens and most of Jane Austen movie adaptations including Pride And Prejudice seem to stand up regardless of the part of the plot lost while making the movie. The evergreen classics ‘To kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ were undeniably a work of art in both the book and the movie versions. Erich Sehgal’s Love Story and Bram Stroker’s Dracula have managed to retain their charming book self in their movie counterparts and have been instrumental in influencing various writers and filmmakers in adopting a similar story-line with a few twists for their works as well.

Some actually improve by movie magic –such as Jaws, The Bourne Identity or even the Devil Wears Prada, Life of Pi and Tolkien’s unreadable Lord of the Rings series became hugely entertaining screen epics.The same alchemy worked out for the Godfather, The Shining, Forrest Gump, the Social Network and the Jurassic Park.

However, many  times the movies have turned out to be epic failures and have turned bestsellers to a complete waste of pixels. A hugely popular 500-page novel is often boiled down to an hour-and-a-half film, which means the omission of essential characters and plot points. The Great Gatsby, the Divergent series, the Lovely Bones, Eat Pray Love (director Ryan Murphy of "Glee" fame, should stick to high school acapella and asylums for now), the Cat in the Hat , the Scarlett Letter , All the King’s Men ,The Da Vinci Code and Gulliver’s travels : are just few of the books whose movie versions haven’t done them much justice. Percy Jackson Series, Mortal Instruments series, Eragon(when a film's strongest performance is from a dragon, you know something's wrong), the Golden Compass and various others were some literary gambles that fell flat. These movies ended up not only hugely disappointing the fans of their book counterpart from all over the world but have also brought the idea of adapting the remaining series into movies  to an indefinite standstill. Stephenie Meyer’s series, while beloved of millions of girls, never offered much in the way of great writing, so it’s not surprising that the film series quickly became campy B-movie fare which seems more like a parody than an actual movie.

Among the animated genre, the Lorax by Dr.Seusshas been turned into an idiotically musicalized version that thoroughly debases the genius of the good doctor's book, twisting plot points, and replacing Seuss subtlety with Hollywood frenzy, thus making it apparent that some books are better left on the shelves.

2016 holds a ton of highly anticipated big screen adaptations, particularly titles like The Girl on the Train, Me Before You, the Divergent series installment Allegiant and the much-hyped: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

In the end, I think it’s important to enjoy movies for movies and books for books, and try not to constantly compare (I have a hard time with this) and be indignant when a favorite scene from the book ends up on a Hollywood editing room floor. And when a film adaptation of a book is well done and comprehensive enough to even hold a candle to the book, or just work phenomenally well on its own, it’s worth recognition, celebration, and recommendation.

Article by Rishibha Tuteja
Last minute Blogger, fangirl by profession. A Bibliophile by heart, Tech–Enthusiast by choice.
She breathes dreams like air and can be reached at

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