Book -> Movie = angst

The Seeker:The Dark Is Rising is full of differences from the book it’s based on.
As a long-time fan of Dracula, this does not surprise me. It does make me heave a sigh and thank my lucky stars I somehow missed reading Cooper’s novels and thus can go into the movie without a lot of baggage.
I’m starting to think that the Harry Potter movies are spoiling young fantasy fans. They complain about so much with those, but hey, the author is heavily involved, the characters all have the right names, and the broad outlines of the plot as well as they basic characters’ personalities are all there. It’s the little details that are messed up. Ditto the Lord of the Rings movies, which are insanely close to the books about 90% of the time.
Let me introduce you to the travesty that is the average Dracula adaptation.

Nearly all of them mix up Lucy and Mina, often getting rid of one of them entirely or making Lucy the heroine and Mina the early victim. The secondary male characters are often mashed up to varying degrees. The heroine’s relationship to Dracula is often made romantic (Francis Ford Coppola, I am looking at you!), for crying out loud. Dracula’s powers vary wildly from the book, as does his physical appearance and overall goal in coming to England.
What can you count on (heh) in a Dracula movie? Dracula is a vampire. Dr. Van Helsing is a vampire hunter. There is a heroine Drac’s after.
That’s about it.
I vividly remember the rage I felt when I saw Coppola’s “adaptation” of Dracula. After ages of bragging about how close it was to the book by everyone involved, it was … not. Just not. Sure, it got loads of things right that other versions didn’t, but that’s like saying, “well, it wasn’t too bad an injury, I only lost one arm and not two arms and a leg like that other guy.” I was horrified. I spent the whole movie muttering, “that’s not in the book… that’s not in the book … that’s not in the book either… well, ok, that’s in the book, but it happens ten chapters ago…”
I also vividly remember reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen before the movie came out, so I’d be better prepared to review it. I was horrified — the graphic novel is absolutely brilliant, and the film is not only not an accurate adaptation, it’s not even a good movie.
But these experiences taught me a valuable lesson:

  1. Don’t read the book before you see the movie.
  2. If it’s too late for that, take a moment to consciously put the book out of your mind before you go to the theater or even look at much in the way of publicity materials.
    This is because the average moviemaker is NOT a fan of the books. The average moviemaker just thinks some of the elements are neat, and wants to make a movie about them – the rest of the material will be from his/her own mind. As far as I can tell, they put the novel name on it to avoid being accused of plagiarism should they bring their own mix of book and new stuff to the screen without it. Any similarities between film and book should be happy coincidences and celebrated appropriately. Better yet, the film should be regarded as a separate entity and judged entirely on its own merits before being judged as an adaptation.
    I do think it’s kind of sad that this is how things are, but it makes sense. It’s a lot easier to adapt a book to film if you don’t try to get everything right.
    As a side note: The quote from Christopher Eccleston below affirms my belief that while he’s an awesome actor and quite easy on the eyes, he is in fact a gigantic condescending asshat. He’s talking about The Dark Is Rising:

    “No. I’d never heard of the books, but as a child I was hugely passionate about LORD OF THE RINGS. I understand the kind of passion that people feel for these books. I think they should be left for childhood. People say ‘Lord of the Rings was the greatest novels ever written’. You’re like, no, they’re not. They’re childhood. But I read the book for this and enjoyed it very much. And obviously it’s close to me because it’s couched in Celtic mysticism and it’s a very, very intensely British book.”

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