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The problem with fiction-to-film franchises.

This week I am using a Guest Blog by Matthew Smith of the UK. I feel he has so succinctly put things I could not have improved, and I wholeheartedly agree!
The problem with fiction-to-film franchises.
Matthew Smith
A lot of fans will be thrilled to see Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 when it hits UK cinemas this Friday, but there will inevitably be some disappointment. Welcome to the world of films based on books, where every project – no matter how big-budget – is subject to the most severe scrutiny, and where a film will never be able to match the expectations thousands of unique human imaginations. Why is it so difficult to please both moviegoers and fiction fans?
Perhaps the answer is in the very essence of reading. Fans of a series of books each have their own impression of every character and scene, and when the saga has as many fans as, say, Harry Potter or Twilight, it’s impossible to match exactly what each reader had envisioned. A million Derren Browns couldn’t achieve this feat, so a few movie producers aren’t going to do any better. This leads to a sense among fans that the series has been ‘stolen’ from them – especially when studios alter the storyline to make it more film-friendly.
But let’s imagine for a moment that every fan was delighted with the end result. Even then, there will be alienation among the hardcore when the fan base doubles with people who have seen the movie, but have never read the (inevitably ‘better’) book. With this comes a sense of the author ‘selling out’, reducing the audience’s rapport with them. On the other hand, the film series could actually encourage more people to read the books, which can only be a good thing, particularly if there are children involved.
That’s not to say that there can never be a quality film based on a book. The Harry Potter and Twilight movies have pleased fans and newcomers alike. But consider less successful conversions, like High Fidelity, which stars John Cusack and is based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby. It’s watchable, Hornby’s book has an authentic London setting, and emulates British relationships perfectly. The film, however, moves the whole thing to America. It’s viable as a movie, but it severely lacks the charm of the book.
Harry Potter has been a hugely successful fiction-to-film franchise so far. All I can hope is that on Friday, when the credits start to roll and the lights come up, everybody is happy, whether they’re fans of the books or the movies – or even just newcomers who dropped by to see what all the fuss was about.
Written by Matthew Smith
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July 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Posted by Estel.