I vaguely threatened to write a ‘High Horse’ post on here. Time to follow through.
I read an article the other day which said (rumoured) that The Great Gatsby is going to be made into a movie (again) reportedly with Leo Dicaprio and Tobey Maguire as Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway, respectively.
I immediately choked on my coffee when I read that (which is a form of blaspheme reserved only for special occasions) and severely scolded my laptop for delivering such a nuisance of information.
The GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Made into a movie? Bah, I say, BAH!
Now, I know (before you all can get a word in) that The Great Gatsby has been made into a movie before, starring a then-little-known Robert Redford, which resulted in a shit film and catapulted Redford’s career toward stardom (and legend). The film (see the word ‘shit’?) was absolutely ripped apart by critics, and while I haven’t seen the original, I reckon that the critics felt a little bit the same way that I do about this book being immortalised on the silver screen, which may have tanked the film before it even got to the cinema.
(Oh, I’m very wordy today.)
In the past, I’ve had a huge problem with books being made into movies. And while I admit to sometimes being a big hypocrite, let me tell you that I wish that I was always right about this.
First of all, let me point out that I detest the aspect of Hollywood that is lazy. By lazy, please know that I mean ‘Come up with your own ideas and stop ripping off ideas from successful and imaginative writers.’
It all started for me, when I read The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold.
Loved it? Oh yes. In fact, ‘love’ is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings for it.
Of course, shortly thereafter, it was made into a movie, directed by Peter Jackson.
I was furious. How DARE they? How could they possibly make a movie out of such a beautiful book and do it any justice at all?
Out of sheer defiance, I never saw the movie. I have since (for the purpose of this article) added it to my LoveFilm list. But too bad, it hasn’t arrived yet. I shall, however, post an update when I do see it, to answer my own questions.
Thirdly, I think that making a book into a movie is just an instant buck. A money-maker. It makes me view Hollywood as not a public service entertainment industry bringing beautiful and thought-provoking art to the masses, (and let’s face it: The Expendables comes nowhere near that idea) but as a corporate money-grubbing machine.
Show me the money!!
Ok, that’s fine. We all know that’s what Hollywood is all about, and that’s ok. Make some money.
But DO NOT ruin some of the most beloved books of all time in the process.
Another point to be made is that it encourages lazy readers. You can argue this with me, but I’ll argue your side first.
Subpoint A: Why read the book, when I can just see the movie?
Yes, that is what some people are thinking and inevitably do. This is true. As a character in a play-turned-film once quipped,
I don’t read books, ’cause if they’re any good, they’re gonna make ‘em into a miniseries…
Sadly, this is a true statement.
Subpoint b: However, this is the part where I turn devil’s advocate on myself and say…
Yes, sometimes people see a great movie and turn around and buy the book.
I’ve done it. [ gasp ]
And I’ve been grateful to the movie industry for introducing me to some new favourites. I bought:
- The Reader (though haven’t seen the movie),
- I Am Legend just to see how the book was different from the movie, and promptly fell in love with Richard Matheson
- Push (film: Precious) by Sapphire, which I thought was a brilliant book (not seen the movie).
- …and others.
So, yes, there is something to be said about a film bringing a great book into my life. I admit that.
One aspect of the ‘book vs movie’ debate is the idea that people should appreciate the movie and the book separately, as two entities. Yes, I agree with this. It’s two different mediums, and should be appreciated differently.
But have you tried it? It’s hard!
Most of the time, when I see a movie based on a book, I can’t help but think things like, ‘Well, they left out the part where…’ and other such criticisms. I can’t help it. It happens.
Conversely, I think the same thing when I read a book I’d originally seen as a movie.
As this debate continues in my own head (and while I try to untangle as much of it as possible), I shall leave you, until part two, with these questions:
- Can you give me a list of movies that you loved as books which didn’t quite live up to your expectations?
- Can you give me a list of books that you loved as a movie which didn’t quite live up to your expectations?
And I shall return soon with the next part of my