Thursday, August 23, 2007

Media Flip-Flop

How many times have you gone to a movie based on a book you love and rolled your eyes at all the changes? How many times have you loved the book and hated the movie?

I'm not as particular as some people are, I guess. Maybe it's because I can find value in both mediums. Or maybe it's because more often than not I read the book after I see the movie. Well, whatever the reason, I usually don't mind the changes. Most people I know detest the '80's version of Dune, but I always enjoyed it. I didn't read the book until years later and found joy in that too. I loved The Chronicles of Narnia onscreen and in book form both, as well as Harry Potter (in all its forms), and on the small screen, The Dresden Files and Blood Ties.

What is my point, you might ask? Well, I seem to have the opposite problem. There are a few movies I like much, much better than the books. In fact, I find it difficult to get into the books at all. Quite frankly, they bore me, and I know some of you will be up in arms when I mention them as one series in particular is a fantasy classic. Yes, I am speaking of The Lord of the Rings. Now, now, put the fruit down and step away from the screen. I adore the characters. Frodo. Bilbo. Gandolf and Aragon. I love them all, but in this case, for me at least, what translated well to the silver screen was too full of description for me to climb inside the character's heads.

I guess that's the biggest thing for me as to whether I truly love a book or not. I could care less what shade of green the grass is, or whether the lamp is to the left or right of the door. Give me a character with depth. A person I can imagine living next to, someone quirky and full of passion and feeling, then put them into a threatening situation and I'm hooked.

Now, though this is a long winded blog, I do have a point and it's not about Lord of the Rings. No, this post is about another movie I recently saw that I absolutely loved, and the book that has been a letdown.

I'm speaking of Stardust. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about the book that makes it so easy to set aside, but it has become almost a burden to read it, and what fun is reading when it's not fun anymore? Every time I pick up the book I think "It's got to get better," but here I am half way through and it's just not. I can see how it translates well to a visual production because that seems to be what it's all about: description. Where is the drama? Where is the love of the character? It makes me sad because I want to like this book. I really want to like it and I just can't. I'll probably plow through just for curiosity's sake, but I'm already looking forward to picking up something new. Something with some pizazz, that will let me crawl inside somebody else's mind and live there for a while.

Am I alone in this?


Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Oh, I agree! I am the biggest fan of the Lord of the Rings, but I tried reading the books too and just really couldn't get into it. Peter Jackson obviously did and did an incredible job of translating that to film.

I went to see Becoming Jane with Julie Wright and Stephanie Fowers on Wednesday. Stephanie and I had to wait a little for Julie to finish her meeting, so we were examining all the posters. We pondered the one about Stardust and wondered if it would be any good.

I'm SO glad you blogged about this today. Now I'll go see it.

And Karen, if you don't like the book you're reading, put it down. There are too many incredible books out there to waste time forcing yourself to read something you don't enjoy.

Please, please, please don't ever say that about one of my books. I beg of you!

Shanna Blythe said...


I agree. I didn't particularly like the book and although I haven't yet seen Stardust it looks like it will be better than the book, at least to me.

And yes, I prefer the movies to the actual books with Lord of the Rings. I don't know enough of the history of my own world to worry about the history of some mythical place. BORING!!

~paulette said...

well, there's no secret that i'm a terrible reader... there's only been a handful of books that keep my attention well enough to finish in "one go", even if i DO keep buying them every weekend in pairs. :P So, needless to say, of course i agree with you. Though i "wish to high heavens" that i could find more books that "sustain" me through them, because i get a total high out of reading the ones that do...

as for Lord of the Rings... i was told in that Provo conferencce we went to that the reason the author does that (focusing so much more on description than character) is because the books themselves are about the World first, the Ring 2nd, and the characters 3rd (if i remember right) whereas most other books are the other way around. The story was about "Middle Earth"... and not Frodo OR the ring, thus making it the way it is. Least, that's what our instructor said in the Plot class :) (he had all sorts of charts about it) For those of us who are "character" based, it makes it a harder read :)


Karlene said...

Some people think it's whichever version you read/see first that you end up liking best, but I don' think that's the case.

I read LOR in high school and loved it. It's been done in movie form before and I hated it. But this last variation was pretty darn good.

I also loved Dune the book. Thought the movie was a little slow, but there's no way they could pack everything in. Same for HP--love what there is of the movies, but too much of the story is missing.

I watched the first season of both the Dresden Files and Blood Ties. Liked DF a little better on TV than in the books; liked the Vickie Nelson books much better than the show (but it's growing on me).

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I loved Lord of the Rings movie and book. I think they are both incredibly well done. Usually I like the book better than the movie, but sometimes I am surprised and do like the movie better. It always mean I have to try both.

Janette Rallison said...

I've heard good things about Stardust and want to see it!

I know what you mean about some of the movies being better than the books. I always thought that of Mary Poppins, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland. Oh and book 5 of the HP series.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I had a hard time with Stardust the book -- that little fling in the field was way too graphic for me.

If you're having to make yourself read the book, Karen, find something else. Reading shouldn't be a chore.

C. L. Beck said...

Funny how that is. I read "The Chronicles of Narnia" as a kid, and although the last movie was good, it doesn't come close to the imapct I remember from the book.

Maybe that just goes to show that memories sweeten with age!

C. L. Beck said...

Oops, sorry. That word was supposed to be "impact".

Blame it on fat fingers.:)

Karen Hoover said...

Well, thanks to so many of your suggestions I have officially set "Stardust" aside and will pick up "New Moon" tomorrow. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in the movie vs. book thing. I've got so many friends that are opposite me I thought I was just weird. Oh, wait - we already had that discussion. I AM weird! lol I love hearing from all of you. Thanks so much for the comments!