Saturday, February 13, 2010

Beware: Vicious Defender of Writers

My husband and I went to see the Lightning Theif, at my prompting. I have been enarmored with Rick Riordan's amazing quintet of modern greek mythology since I first stumbled upon him a few years ago, working the recommendations section at Borders. (One of the perks of this job was discovering new authors as they came out. In other words, I had read Twilight before it was huge) I remember opening the new arrivals box to this interesting looking cover to a story called the Lightning Theif. The book turned out to be incredible. Rick Riordan started out writing for adults, and because of this, I think his 'kids books' have a great multi-generational feel to them. Since then, I have hooked as many people as I can onto these books. I have gotten some of the pickiest readers to dive in and want more. I got my eight year old nephew hooked on these books and my 62 year old co-worker. They are that good. So when I heard a movie was being made, naturally I felt excited. Hollywood had been on a good streak with film adaptations as of late. They had produced several good movies that were relatively faithful to their literary foundations so I was hopeful.

It was the greatest disappointment I have had in years.

I left the theater with the feeling of "I want my ten bucks and two hours back." The movie big shots had slaughtered Rick Riordan's work. Every plot point had been cast aside, characters were drastically changed, and the main villain of the storyline was completely left out. It wasn't even so different that is was good to stand on its own as a movie. Weak acting crippled it there. It was just bad. I knew I wasn't the only one feeling the disappointment, I could feel the murmers around me from several younger kids, who whispered frantically to their parents through the whole movie "That's not what happened."
Hollywood has made a huge mistake, and I hope they pay for it. Its like they underestimated the intelligence of their audience, "Oh they won't notice we changed a few things". Well your audience noticed and they are not happy.
On a personal level it is chilling to watch something like this. I think, in this age, every writer has the secret fantasy their book will be made into a film. I used to consider it flattery, but sometimes, Hollywood takes such liberties that film can become an insult. Truthfully its a matter of the author's involvement. If the studio shuts out the author completely, which I feel they must have to Riordan, then the movie tends to be a piece of drivel like Lightning Theif. However, if they let the writer in, even in an artistic sense, such as the screen writing attempting to channel the writer's essence into their script, it usually makes a much better movie all around. An instance of this is Interview with the Vampire. Anne Rice has a total sign off on it, and it was a great film adaptation. It's subsequent wanna-be sequel Queen of the Damned was the exact opposite. Rice was completely shut out and thus the movie pretty much bombed.
Truthfully I don't know what I will do in the future if I am ever (hopefully, oooh maybe) approached to have a book made into a movie. I don't think I could stand by and let them slaughter my literary child, so really I would be the sort to insist on my presence. I would be barging into offices, criticizing casting, sticking my nose all over the place. I'd be a bloody nuisance. But I'd make sure it was a damn fine movie.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

You're so right. What a conundrum -- bring your work to the masses, taking the risk of having it poorly conveyed, or suffer in obscurity? Most of us would take it to the theaters. Some writers -- Gaiman, Lemony Snicket comes to mind -- can maintain some editorial authority. Some books translate really well to the screen: Ella Enchanted, Babe, even Charlotte's Web was pretty good. Then there are the hugely successful films based on beloved children's books that veer away from the original -- Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz.

But letting someone option your book (I mean they buy the film option -- which is money for the author from someone who reserves the right (the "option") to do a film adaptation) opens it to the possibility of being slaughtered, as in The Lightning Thief, the new Ramona movie, Harriet the Spy (a complete travesty), and many more we could mention.

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