A few nights ago I watched two brilliant films in one night. Funnily enough both were book adaptations; ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and ‘The Book Thief’. It occurred to me that perhaps I judge book adaptations too harshly. The problem is that as an avid reader and literature enthusiast, I perhaps hold books a little too close to my heart. I feel somewhat protective of them. Books have the ability to transport you to another world; a world you have created in your mind. In that sense they hold a tremendous amount of power and perhaps I feel an adaptation somehow diminishes that power.
One of the first books I read as a child was ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ and when it was made into a film a few years later I remember feeling absolutely furious. The actors chosen to portray Harry, Ron and Hermione looked nothing like I had imagined. Nonetheless, I accompanied my giddy friends to the cinema to watch the movie and even watched the second and third films in the series. I was incredibly disappointed by the adaptations however as they didn’t include as much detail as the books. Additionally, the acting and dialogue was at times, atrocious and the characters were not how I had envisioned them. After the third Harry Potter film I refused to watch any of the others. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I think I did end up watching the other Harry Potter films but I found them far less engaging than the books and can barely remember them. However, over the Christmas break some of the Harry Potter films aired on TV and I managed to watch the final two in the series. I still held the same views of the films but I managed to overlook my criticisms and even ended up rather enjoying the films as they filled me with a sense of nostalgia.
Back to the two films I originally mentioned; I’d only recently watched the first Hunger Games film despite having read the book series at the beginning of 2014. Again, I had reservations about the movie adaptations and my concerns were only further fuelled by the casting choices. Jennifer Lawrence was completely the wrong choice to portray ‘Katniss Everdeen’ in my opinion, as was Liam Hemsworth for ‘Gale’ and Josh Hutcherson as ‘Peeta’. Once again, a book series that I had thoroughly enjoyed had been completely dismantled and rearranged. However, I decided to put my issues to one side and watch the first Hunger Games movie. I was quite surprised to find that I enjoyed it. It closely followed the book’s storyline and brought the images in my mind to life. So it did not come as much of a shock when I also enjoyed the second film in the series. I did however find it even more thrilling than the first, although Jennifer Lawrence continued to irritate me. I had a revelation during the film though and realised what it is about her that grinds my gears…her face changes. I watched the film with my brother and we both noted how she could look completely different from scene to scene. I suggested that it was because she had quite unusual features. Her face almost looks like a miss-match of different ethnicities. I realised it was the fact that she continuously looked like a different person that I found deeply unsettling. I even noted she could be a shape-shifter which is ironically the ‘mutant’ she played in X-Men. However, it is because I find her face somewhat unnerving that I find it difficult to ‘believe’ her in a role. Nonetheless, the film’s production, special effects, make up and costumes were incredibly impressive and the plot, as it had done in the book, kept me on the edge of my seat to the very end.
I read The Book Thief a couple of years ago and it remains one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature I have ever come across. I was worried however that this beauty would be difficult to replicate on screen. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by its adaptation. Whilst it was the visual experience and action that made The Hunger Games film in my opinion, it was the choice of casting in The Book Thief that proved most fitting. The young girl portraying ‘Liesel Meminger’ played the part perfectly and proved to be incredibly talented in my opinion, as did the boy cast as Rudy Steiner. Esteemed actor Geoffrey Rush plays Liesel’s loving adoptive father ‘Hans’ and exceeded my expectations in the role. Thus, although already a beautiful story, the actors in the film brought the tale to life. If I had only one criticism it would be that I didn’t think the choice of narrator for the voice of Death was quite right. I would have also liked more narration from this character as ‘Death’ has some hauntingly beautiful quotes in the book.
In conclusion, (this phrase always takes me back to the days of Chemistry lessons in which we would conduct experiments and have to report our findings), I would highly recommend both films 🙂
N.B. I also watched Disney’s ‘Tangled’ but that requires a whole blog post of its own…obviously.