Books are an evergreen source of material for movies. But in the process of turning them from their original form into scripts and then finished films, something always has to give. Characters change, plot points are lost and storylines compressed, oftentimes provoking an outcry from fans of the original tomes. With Jurassic World, the latest movie spawned from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (though not based directly on it) headed to our screens, we thought we’d take a gander at some tricky examples of novel-to-film adaptations and how the authors responded to the differences. And yes, before anyone shouts at us, there are naturally SPOILERS for all the stories involved. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The Book: Michael Crichton actually planned his 1990 techno-thriller as a screenplay, before switching to the novel format because he feared his ideas would be a little too expensive to bring to the screen. In the book, a series of strange animal attacks unsettle residents and tourists on Costa Rica and its surrounding offshore islands. Palaeontologist Alan Grant and his paleobotanist graduate student, Ellie Sattler are asked by greedy, scheming billionaire John Hammond to act as fresh consultants for the ambitious “biological preserve” full of reconstituted dinosaurs he has created on Isla Nublar. Already present are the much more sceptical chaotician Ian Malcolm and lawyer Donald Gennaro, sent by Hammond’s investors who are worried about recent security lapses at the park.
When chief programmer Dennis Nedry shuts down the facility’s security system so he can steal some of the dinosaur embryos for a competitor, the animals start to overrun the park, attacking those on a tour of the place, including Hammond’s grandchildren, young tomboy Lex and older brother Tim and PR representative Ed Regis, who is killed by a young T-Rex, while Malcolm is left badly injured by its mother and proceeds to gradually die for the rest of the book. Grant helps the children as they try to make it through the park back to the visitor’s centre while scientist Dr. Wu, game warden Muldoon and engineer John Arnold try to restore power. Wu and Arnold are killed by velociraptors that have escaped their enclosure, while Muldoon is injured. Grant and the kids sail down a river and learn that the island’s ship, the Anne B, which is transporting employees to safety from a tropical storm, has two stowaways aboard – young raptors. Hammond, taking an ill-advised walk to ponder the future of his park, is startled by a recorded T-Rex roar and falls down a hill, where he becomes dinner for a group of Procompsognathus.
Grant, Settler and some of the others escape the raptors still on the island and go to investigate their nest, discovering that the frog DNA added to the animals’ genetic make-up has led to some of them switching sex to facilitate breeding. Rescued by the Costa Rican air force, Grant argues that the island should not be destroyed, but the military decides to napalm the place, killing the animals. The survivors are kept in confinement at a hotel, where Dr. Martin Guitierrez visits Grant and explains that dinosaurs have spread to the mainland and that none of those who left the island – possibly besides Tim and Lex – will be allowed out of the hotel any time soon.
The Film: The basic structure is similar, with the park and most of the characters the same. Grant and Settler in the film are in a relationship and Grant has been switched from the kid-friendly sort to a grumpy scientist who only learns to be comfortable around Tim and Lex through his experiences in the park. Muldoon in the book is much more of an old school (and older), hunter type. Hammond is very different, recreated as cuddly Richard Attenborough and his greedier, more negative aspects are given to Gennaro, who replaces the missing Ed Regis as the person killed by the T-Rex. Dr. Wu is a much less prominent character (something that actor BD Wong addresses in our Jurassic World feature), while John Arnold becomes Ray Arnold (and takes the form of Samuel L. Jackson) to avoid confusion with Hammond. Many of the dinosaurs in the book are missing from the movie (budgetary reasons – lizard action makes up just 20 minutes of the film), though some elements, such as the dino attacks early on ended up being used in the sequels. And, of course, the island is not destroyed. Oh, and Ian Malcolm does not die, because you can’t kill Jeff Goldblum.
The Backstory: Crichton, thanks to his own filmmaking experience, was the first person Steven Spielberg asked to write the script, which was eventually re-written ready for shooting by David Koepp. “I think everyone’s feeling was they liked the book in its overall shape and structure, and they wanted to keep that,” Crichton told Cinefantastique before the film came out. “So the question was how to get it on film since there are some parts – but not a tremendous number of parts – where it’s clear that you can just lift it out and the structure remains. It was a question of paring down and trying to keep things from the original, simplifying.”
The Book: Gillian Flynn’s 2012 bestseller chronicles the slowly disintegrating marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne, who have moved back to his hometown of North Carthage, Mississippi after both their jobs are downsized and Nick’s mother’s health worsens. Nick opens and runs a bar with his sister, Margo, while Amy tries to adapt to life in the stifling small town. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy vanishes, and the clues begin to add up to Nick having killed his wife. There is blood in the kitchen, and police later dig up a stash of items, including violent pornography that Nick denies owning.
Initially, the story is told through Nick – who narrates the present situation – and Amy, who recounts their meeting, romance and the struggles of their marriage. In the second half of the book, Flynn flips the narrative, showing both partners to be hiding big secrets. Amy has planned her disappearance, and carefully arranged the clues to implicate Nick. And he is revealed to have been cheating on her for months with a college student. Though he discovers that Amy is framing him, he can’t prove it and is soon the target of a police investigation spurred by her wealthy parents. Nick tries to turn the tables and plead for Amy to return to him while she is hiding out, and is robbed by two fellow guests at the motel she was staying at. She reaches out to her possessive ex-boyfriend Desi, who agrees to help her but then imprisons her. After Amy kills him, she returns to Nick, impregnates herself with his sperm and threatens to turn his child against him if he doesn’t stay with her. Nick chooses to keep up the charade.
The Film: Flynn wrote the adaptation of the book for director David Fincher, and together the filmmakers decided on the changes that would be necessary for the film. Mostly they involved compacting plot elements to better fit the runtime of a thriller and reducing certain characters (Amy’s parents, for example, play a much more substantial role in the book). Almost all references to Nick’s father (aside from him showing up once) and his effects on his son are excised. Plot points such as Amy’s stalking of a high school friend and Tommy O’Hara are cut down or cut entirely, though Nick seeks out O’Hara in person instead of the book’s phone call. Amy in the novel poisons herself with antifreeze and vomits it up, freezing the result and storing it so she can have more leverage over Nick, but he discovers and disposes of it. That’s missing from the film. But while there are the usual trims and compromises, there are also changes and additions, including the script showing how Amy and Nick got engaged and expanding the scene where Amy murders Desi (his mother, prominent in his story in the book, does not appear in the film.)
The Backstory: Flynn’s close connection with the movie meant she was inclined to be happy with the final result. "You have to find a way to externalize all those internal thoughts and you have to do more with less room and you just don't have room for everything. But the mood, tone and spirit of the book are very much intact," she said during a Reddit interview. “I've been very involved in the film and loved it," she said of her experience working with director David Fincher, before dissecting the differences between writing for screen versus print. “Screenwriting definitely works different parts of your brain than writing a novel. I do love that with novels, you can really sprawl out – it feels quite decadent. With screenwriting, you have to justify every choice. It's a nice discipline, but definitely not decadent.”
The Book: Stephen King’s 1980 horror thriller novel finds John Daniel “Jack” Torrance and his family – wife Wendy and five-year-old son Daniel – living at the Overlook hotel, an isolated, haunted resort in Colorado. Jack has taken a job as winter caretaker of the place, hoping the isolation will help him write a play to kick his career into gear. The hotel has a dark history, including the suicide of the previous caretaker, who also killed his family. Danny, possessed of psychic power known as the “shining”, starts seeing visions of ghosts and danger, but decides not to tell his parents, as he knows his father needs the job. He does, however, find a confidante in Dick Halloran, the hotel’s chef, who senses his abilities and tries to explain them to him. The hotel’s dark forces, which have already tried to infect Danny, start to work their devious magic on Jack, who encounters spirits both dead and alcoholic. Soon he’s suffering from a massive case of cabin fever and starts to hunt down Danny and Wendy. Though they’re able to lock him in a walk-in pantry, Jack receives help from a ghost who encourages him to kill his family. With Wendy and her son locked in a bathroom, Jack starts trying to batter the door down with a mallet. Danny sends a psychic SOS to Halloran, who tries to help and is attacked by the hotel garden’s topiary animals and Jack. Torrance briefly recovers enough of himself to tell Danny that he loves him and that he should escape, before heading to the bowels of the hotel to try to relieve the pressure of the malfunctioning boiler. He’s too late, and the hotel is destroyed, as Halloran helps Wendy and Danny to escape.
The Film: Stanley Kubrick, who wrote the script with novelist Diane Johnson, was unflinching in his approach to streamlining the book. Beyond the usual timeline changes, he altered details big and small, from Danny’s age (he’s seven in the film) to Wendy’s look (blonde in the book compared to Shelley Duvall’s dark locks). In the book, the hedge animals, a hosepipe and an elevator take on a life of their own, but the film opts for just the blood-filled lift. The dangerous room in the book is 217, but Kubrick agreed to replace that with 237 at the request of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which was used for exteriors. They were worried that no one would want to stay in the room, so a non-existent number was used instead (but don’t try that explanation with the conspiracy theorists of documentary Room 237). Jack doesn’t have the job at the start of the film, but is being interviewed, presumably so more easy exposition can be crammed in up front. The ghost who frees Jack from the pantry doesn’t exist in the film and the movie’s most iconic scene – the Jack attack with the axe – replaces the mallet action from the novel. Other changes? A weird dogman is seen in the book, but it’s a man in a bear costume who only gets a brief cameo in the movie. Dick Halloran does race to the rescue, only to end up with an axe in the chest courtesy of Jack, and dies from his injury. Instead of the explosion, Danny leaves a false trail for Jack to follow in the snow and Torrance Sr. freezes to death, with the hotel remaining intact.
The Backstory: “With The Shining, the problem was to extract the essential plot and to re-invent the sections of the story that were weak,” Kubrick told journalist Michel Ciment for his book of interviews with the director. “The characters needed to be developed a bit differently than they were in the novel. It is in the pruning down phase that the undoing of great novels usually occurs because so much of what is good about them has to do with the fineness of the writing, the insight of the author and often the density of the story. But The Shining was a different matter. Its virtues lay almost entirely in the plot, and it didn't prove to be very much of a problem to adapt it into the screenplay form.”
King, however, hated, hated, hated the adaptation. "The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there's an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he's crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene,” King told Rolling Stone. “I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I'm thinking to myself the minute he's on the screen, 'Oh, I know this guy. I've seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.' And it's so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that's just me, that's the way I am."
The Book: Kathryn Stockett saw her 2009 novel become a huge success after five years’ work and rejections from numerous literary agents. Set in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, it follows the story from the perspective of three women: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, the college-educated youngster looking to find out why her family’s African American maid suddenly left; Abileen Clark, a maid who is working her first job since her 24-year-old son died; and Minny Jackson, a brilliant cook whose attitude constantly gets her into trouble with her employers. Skeeter starts to investigate working conditions among the maids and decides to write a book about the differing treatment of the races in her hometown. Initially reluctant to help for fear of sparking reprisals, Abileen and Minny do eventually tell their stories, and have others recount theirs. While Minny scores a new job working for a young woman named Celia Foote and deals with her abusive husband, and Abileen helps Skeeter write a column on cleaning to aid her in getting a job as a writer. Meanwhile, the town’s queen bee, Hilly Holbrook starts a campaign to enforce rules about separate toilets for the “coloured help” which causes friction between Skeeter and her former friend. Skeeter also has issues to do with her mother’s wishes that she marry, starting a tentative romance with Stuart Whitworth. And when the book is eventually published, the ramifications for the town are huge.
The Film: Stockett entrusted childhood friend Tate Taylor to adapt and direct the film version once DreamWorks picked up the rights. Given their close relationship and Taylor’s knowledge of the book, it was natural for it to hew closer than many adaptations. But changes were still necessary, especially given the novel’s overlapping, interwoven storylines and multiple narrators. Some strands are naturally cut down, such as Skeeter’s troubles with her beau, but other elements are shifted to give a little of the focus more towards her, including that she comes up with the idea for the book, when it’s Abileen’s idea in the novel. Skeeter’s mother – played in the film by Allison Janney - receives a cancer diagnosis during the book’s story, but she’s sick from the moment we meet her in the movie. Other moments, such as Minny – played by Octavia Spencer, the inspiration for her character’s nature and who won an Oscar for her performance – chasing a naked man out of Cecilia’ Foote’s house are completely taken out and even Hilly Holbrook’s racist attitudes are slightly downplayed (though still very present). Finally, in the novel Abileen takes over the housekeeping column when Skeeter takes a job in New York, but that doesn’t happen in the film.
The Backstory: Stockett was, somewhat naturally, happy with the film, even complimenting Taylor on making Hilly work better on screen than she managed on the page. She was also not eager to fight too many battles over the characters and story. “I wrote this book in 2001. I got an agent in 2007. It was published in 2009. He shot it in 2010. So, you know, I was kind of over it,” she told Movieweb. “I was ready to move onto a whole different set of problems. There's only so many times you can write The Help. By the time they got around to shooting the movie, my head was back in the 1930s, writing the next one.”
My Sister’s Keeper
The Book: Jodi Picoult’s 2004 tome followed the story of Anna, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization to be a perfect genetic match for her older sister Kate, and has been mostly happy to donate what her sibling needs to fight her disease. But when Anna turns 13, she’s informed that she’ll be donating a kidney, a traumatic operation that could still kill Kate and leave Anna’s life seriously affected. So she decides to contact a lawyer and, advised by her court-appointed guardian Julia Romano, seek legal emancipation from her parents so that she may make her own decisions. Their brother Jesse, meanwhile, feeling left out of the attention given to his sisters, acts out, setting fire to abandoned buildings and taking drugs. During the trial, it emerges that Kate asked Anna to sue for emancipation so she wouldn’t have to donate the kidney. The judge rules in her favour and her lawyer is given medical power of attorney. But as he drives her home, a truck hits his car and an injured Anna is rushed to hospital. Declared brain dead, her family agrees to donate her kidney and Kate enters remission. Jesse cleans up his act and joins the police force.
The Film: There are enough changes between the book and the film that an entire section of the movie’s Wikipedia entry is dedicated to listing them. Among the shifts? The story’s setting (from Rhode Island in the novel to California in the book), the complete deletion of Julia Romano, Anna’s age (she’s 13 in the book but 11 in the film), the depth of Kate’s relationship with fellow cancer patient Taylor Ambrose, Anna’s favourite sport (hockey changed to football) and the breed of the family’s dog (what, no German Shepherds available? Were Collies more screen friendly?) Oh yes… And the film ends with Kate dying before Anna can donate the kidney. Anna survives and the family visits Montana, described as Kate’s favourite place in the world, a fact not mentioned in the book.
The Backstory: Picoult was involved with the early development of the film, but wasn’t thrilled with how things turn out. “Hollywood thinks we are the least important piece of the puzzle and by and large authors have zero control over a film,” she told the blog Film Vs. Book. “You give a baby up for adoption, you hope it goes to a good family and sometimes you're disappointed which is surely what happened to me with My Sister's Keeper. In my case, the director knew that I thought it was very important that the ending stay the same and when he met with me, he read the book and said, 'You're right, that's the only ending for the story. I'm not going to change it. If it does change, I'm going to tell you why and tell you myself.' I then spent a year working with him, creating a script that was very close to the book until one day a fan that worked at the casting agency contacted me to ask if I knew they had changed the ending. I called Nick (Cassavetes), the director, at his house and he wouldn't talk to me and I flew to the set and he kicked me off the set and I went to the head of New Line Cinema and I said 'You're going to lose money on this film' and he said, 'We know what we're doing'. And sure enough they lost a lot of money on the film.”
A Clockwork Orange
The Book: Anthony Burgess’ dark dystopian near-future tale arrived in 1962 and follows the exploits of Alex, the leader of a gang called droogs, fond of “the ol’ ultra violence”, which boils down to them roaming the streets, high on drug-spiked milk consumed at their favourite hangout: the Korova Milk Bar. Along the way, they perpetrate a variety of dreadful deeds, including robbing a shop and leaving the owner and his wife bloodied and unconscious, beating a tramp and fighting with a rival gang. They steal a car, go for a joyride and then break into an isolated cottage and assault a couple, beating the husband and raping his wife, a scene that also contains a meta reference to the novel’s title – it’s part of a manuscript the husband is working on. All the while, we’re shown that Alex, despite his sociopathic tendencies, is also an intelligent, quick-witted sort, fond of classical music that nevertheless acts like a wild animal. Among his other crimes? Drugging and raping two 10-year-old girls. When his gang abandons him after an attack gone wrong, he’s picked up by the police and sentenced to prison, where he undergoes an experimental behaviour modification treatment known as the Ludovico Technique and appears to renounce his former ways. But encounters with people from his past – including the writer, who doesn’t recognize Alex, but reveals that his wife died from her injuries – land him back in trouble. Most tellingly, the book’s final chapter finds him contemplating a life settled down and having children, even as he worries that they will be more violent than he ever was.
The Film: Another Stanley Kubrick adaptation, who was initially given the book while he was busy developing his dream Napoleon project, but picked it up again when that film fell into development limbo. “I was excited by everything about it: The plot, the ideas, the characters, and, of course, the language. The story functions, of course, on several levels: Political, sociological, philosophical, and, what's most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level." Kubrick wrote a screenplay faithful to the novel, saying, "I think whatever Burgess had to say about the story was said in the book, but I did invent a few useful narrative ideas and reshape some of the scenes." There aren’t as many differences as with some of the films on this list, but a few things have been altered. The girls that Alex has sex with are teenagers in the film, and the sex is more consensual, which is almost surprisingly toned down, given how controversial the movie came to be. Some of the other attacks are similarly altered, and one or two entirely sliced from the story, most likely for timing reasons. The film inserts the use of the song Singing In The Rain as the reason Alex is recognised by one of his former victims, while the mention of the manuscript is excised – no explanation is given for the book (and film’s) unusual title. Most tellingly, the final epilogue is completely missing, as the film ends with Alex in the hospital being de-conditioned.
The Backstory: Burgess is on record as saying he doesn’t blame Kubrick for the loss of the final scene, since many American editions of the book omitted it. But though they enjoyed a mostly cordial relationship, Burgess was angered when Kubrick sat back during the harshest criticism levelled at the film. “As for the terrible theme – the violence of the individual preferable to the violence of the state – questions were asked in parliament and the banning of the film urged,” Burgess wrote in the second volume of his autobiography, You’ve Had Your Time. “It was left to me, while the fulfilled artist Kubrick pared his nails in his house at Borehamwood, to explain to the press what the film, and for that matter the almost forgotten book, was really about and to affirm the Catholic content.”
The Book: Huge empires go to war over a precious commodity in Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic. We’re introduced to a universe 21,000 years in the future, where the aristocratic Great Houses rule the inhabited planets, skirmishing between themselves but still paying heed to Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. Duke Leto Atreides is granted the right to control and mine the lucrative spice output of the desert planet Arrakis, home to harsh conditions and the dangerous giant worms that roam under the surface, attracted to vibrations of anything above it. But the seeming opportunity is also a trap, one that Atreides sees coming and initially thwarts the efforts of rival House Harkonnen. Betrayal and treachery eventually lead to their downfall, and the Duke’s concubine Jessica – part of a matriarchal religious order committed to improving the human race through selective breeding – and his son Paul escape, eventually ending up among the native Fremen, who have long since adapted to the planet’s tough conditions. Jessica ingests poisonous water and survives, becoming a Reverend Mother, while her unborn daughter Alia receives similar mental abilities. Paul, who has his own abilities brought to full power by the Spice of the planet, starts to plan an attack to take the planet back from House Harkonnen and the Emperor, eventually becoming the new Emperor and ruling Arrakis, controlling the spice and therefore the universe.
The Film: Dune was one of those books long deemed impossible to bring to the screen due to its sprawling narrative and outlandish ideas. Alexandro Jodorowsky was among those who tried and failed (his attempt is chronicled in the fascinating documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune) before David Lynch came along. The result was something still regarded as a messy blend of visuals and a story that almost demands you have read the book first to make sense of what is happening. Unusually for a film like this, Lynch tried to keep as much as possible from the source material present in the movie, to the detriment of the finished product. And the changes Lynch made seemed more geared to amping up the weirdness for his own style than helping to translate the novel’s concepts. Lynch focused more on the Spacing Guild, even opening the film with a giant Guild Navigator that never features in the original book (they’re in Dune Messiah, although in far less monstrous form). He also added a pet pug for the Atreides family (who doesn’t love a doggy?); made the Harkonnens, particularly the Baron, more visually unappealing; and had Paul (played in the film by Lynch stalwart Kyle MacLachlan) use his powers to create rain on Dune at the end, speeding up a process the book claims will take years of terraforming and ultimately kill the worms.
The Backstory: Herbert, unlike many critics, was actually fairly happy with the final result. “I get asked a specific question a lot of times, if the settings, the scenes that I saw in David’s film match my original imagination, the things I projected in my imagination,” he said during a video interview that also featured Lynch. “I must tell you that some of them do, precisely. Some of them don’t, and some of them are better. Which is what you would expect of artists such as David and Tony Masters. I’m delighted with that! Why not take it and improve on it visually? As far as I’m concerned the film is a visual feast. When you’re doing a film from the written word, you’re translating into a different language. It’s as though you’re translating from English into Swahili. The visual language is a different language.”
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Book: Long considered one of the greats of American literature, Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, loosely based on the observations of her family and neighbours, is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The story follows young Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout, and older brother Je, who live with their divorced lawyer father Atticus Finch. The children, alongside friend Dill, are consumed by the mystery of Boo Radley, a local recluse whom no one ever sees leave his house, but who appears to leave gifts for the kids in the tree outside it. But their attention is also focused on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman, with Atticus assigned to defend him. The racial tension in the town amps up, with Scout, Jem and Dill at one point defusing a mob that is attempting to lynch Tom. Robinson, thanks to Atticus’ efforts, is found innocent, but killed while attempting to escape prison. The young woman’s father, Bob Ewell, who had brought the original case, decides to attack Scout and Jem, leaving Jem injured. Boo Radley helps the children and fights off Ewell, who dies during the struggle.
The Film: Robert Mulligan’s 1962 film largely honoured Harper Lee’s book – after all, do you really want to be the person responsible for screwing up the adaptation of one of the most famous books of all time? But he and writer Horton Foote still made some changes, mostly the standard compressions and edits to serve the film’s needs. The biggest difference is the elimination of Atticus’ sister, Aunt Alexandra, Scout’s big nemesis early in the book. Other characters are combined for storytelling efficiency and there are changes during the trial, particularly in how Mayella Ewell responds’ to Finch’s cross-examination.
The Backstory: Lee was happy with the film adaptation, and particularly Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus. "When I learned that Gregory Peck would play Atticus Finch in the film production of To Kill a Mockingbird, I was of course delighted: here was a fine actor who had made great films – what more could a writer ask for? Years later, he told me his secret. When he played Atticus Finch, he had played himself, and time has told all of us something more: when he played himself, he touched the world."
The Hunger Games
The Book: Suzanne Collins’ first novel in the incredibly popular Hunger Games trilogy appeared in 2008. It tells of a world where an apocalyptic event – most likely a war – has devastated America. Now known as Panem, it’s split into different, relatively poor districts, which all feed resources to the ruling Capitol, led by the charming but diabolical President Snow. As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are annually chosen as “tributes” to represent their district and sent to fight to death in a high tech arena. When her sister, Primrose, is selected in the lottery, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place. Alongside fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark, Katniss is sent to the Capitol to be trained and styled ready for combat. Upon arriving in the arena, nearly half the tributes are killed on the first day, but Katniss’ keen survival skills help her make it through. As she fights for her life, the wider world becomes convinced that she and Peeta are star-crossed lovers and are eventually allowed to win the games together as a couple. Katniss is treated as a hero and a potential rallying point for a revolution against the Capitol, even as she struggles with her feelings for her friend Gale and her actions towards Peeta.
The Film: Gary Ross directed the first of what would become four Hunger Games entries (the last one is due later this year), and while the film keeps to the largely faithful style of recent adaptations, there are still some big changes. Katniss in the novel has a friend name Madge who was trimmed from the story for timing reasons and to help boost the connection between the heroine and her sister, Prim. A moment when Peeta injures his leg is downplayed in the film – it’s a much bigger part of the book. And Gale’s presence is inflated for the film – while he’s always on Katniss’ mind in the arena, he doesn’t show up again in the first book, but we see him in the movie. Oh, and some of the books’ grisly deaths are understandably toned down.
The Backstory: Collins was consulted during the making of the movie, though she wasn’t quite as heavily involved as, say JK Rowling in Harry Potter. Still, her reaction was positive. “I’ve just had the opportunity to see the finished film of The Hunger Games,” she wrote on her blog. “I’m really happy with how it turned out. I feel like the book and the film are individual yet complementary pieces that enhance one another. The film opens up the world beyond Katniss’ point of view, allowing the audience access to the happenings of places… like the Hunger Games control room and President Snow’s rose garden, thereby adding a new dimension to the story, narrative and theme, but he’s also brought a rich and powerful vision of Panem, its brutality and excesses, to the film as well.”
The Book: The Hobbit, Or There And Back Again. You might have heard of it. Published in 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy children’s novel serves as a predecessor to The Lord Of The Rings, which followed in 1954. Our hero is the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, tricked by the wizard Gandalf into hosting a party for a band of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield. Intrigued by their talk (and songs) of reclaiming their ancestral home in the Lonely Mountain and its many treasures from the vile dragon Smaug, they encourage him to become their “burglar” and help on the quest. The nervous hobbit agrees and together they start a journey that encompasses encounters with trolls, elves, goblins and a certain former hobbit with a serious ring addiction. After seeking sanctuary at the house of the shape-changer Beorn, they journey into the black forest of Mirkwood, where they tangle with giant spiders. Welcomed by the human inhabitants of Lake-town, they finally make it to the Lonely Mountain, open a secret door and send Bilbo in to scout the place. He steals a gold cup and learns of Smaug’s one vulnerability. Enraged, the dragon swears to destroy Lake-town, but a thrush tells Bard the Bowman of the dragon’s weakness and he’s able to slay the creature with an arrow. Demanding their share of the treasure, the humans and Wood-elves besiege the mountain, even as Thorin becomes corrupted by the power of the treasure. But when goblins and Wargs attack, the dwarves, men and elves band together to fight off the invaders, with giant eagles helping turn the tide of the battle. A fatally wounded Thorin reconciles with Bilbo and urges him to return home with treasure. Bilbo takes a small share and becomes a wealthy hobbit.
The Film: Again, you might have heard of this one, especially since the final entry arrived just a few months ago. Peter Jackson, who had successfully brought The Lord Of The Rings to the screens as a trilogy a decade before, deciding to tackle The Hobbit, though he originally hired Guillermo del Toro to direct it. When GDT left, Jackson took it upon himself, eventually cranking out another trilogy. The size and scale of the films meant Jackson, much as he had with his first three films, made many changes and additions to transform the relatively short book into a two and then three-film story. The differences are too many to list in their entirety, but among the bigger diversions is the actual appearance of Radagast the Brown (and Sebastian the hedgehog!), who is merely named in the book, the use of bookend scenes set during the older Bilbo’s years in The Lord Of The Rings, a much-inflated role for the orc known as Azog the Defiler and his son, Bolg, the use of Galadriel and Saruman, who don’t appear in the book, and Legolas, who is also nowhere to be found in the book. Evangeline Lily’s elf Tauriel is entirely created for the films, and the final Battle Of The Five Armies is greatly expanded and features many more one-on-one confrontations to add to the dramatic effect.
The Backstory: J.R.R. Tolkien himself has been singularly silent in his appraisal of the films, largely having to do with his death in 1973, decades before either trilogy arrived. But given the statements of his son Christopher, one of the keepers of his estate, the family has always appeared less than impressed with the big budget films. “Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time,” Christopher told Le Monde in 2012. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work and what it has become has overwhelmed me. The commercialisation has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.” So… no chance of The Silmarillion pentalogy film set, then?