Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hints for watching movie re-makes.

In today's economy, Hollywood needs a sure bet--and that's why most of the new releases coming from the major studios are from already successful stories. The movies are re-makes of previously produced films, or movies based on best-selling books. Can we blame them, really? They spend millions of dollars on film production and distribution, so by sticking to the tried and true stories they have a guaranteed audience: fans of the previously made movie or book.

I often hear complaints that the movie is never as good as the book. Admittedly, I used to be a major complainer in that department. However, in studying film, I learned that parts of books I thought were missing in the movie were actually there, but in visual form.

Stories need conflict, and in books the conflict is often internal--through the thoughts and feelings of the character. Live theater or stage plays rely on verbal conflict, or conflict through dialogue. Movies, on the other hand, are primarily visual; even when the movie has what some might consider “snappy dialogue,” visual images still tell much of the story.

Since the trend for Hollywood films relies on re-telling of stories, is there a way for us to enjoy the movies in spite of our preconceived notions of how the story goes? Here are some hints to help you enjoy movies based on your favorite reads:
  • Don’t expect the movie to have everything that the book covered. For a movie to include it all--every detail of the book--it would be way too costly to produce and way too long. A typical short novel made into film would take more than six hours to watch. 
  • Don’t expect the movie to follow the story exactly as the book. Because filmmakers need to fit the story into a two-hour movie, they have to find ways to condense information. Sometimes they combine situations into one scene, for instance, and sometimes they have to eliminate sections that might not be crucial to the plot.
  • Do watch for visual clues. As mentioned, much of the story, especially concerning character, will be in what you see not just what you hear. Think of it as a treasure hunt, watching for clues. Pay attention to the colors, the framing, the props, the expressions, the settings; they aren't happenstance. Filmmakers select those things for a reason. They tell part of the story and give insight into the characters. Filmmakers believe: “showing” is better than “telling.”
  • Do keep an open mind in the re-telling of the story. When a studio wants to create an adaptation of a book, for instance, they contact several screenwriters and tell them, “Give me your ‘take’ on this story.” The screenwriters study it out, return to the studio, and give a synopsis of how they would write the story. The executives select the one they like best—it could be the story that follows the original very closely, or it could be a version making the plot or title of that particular book more of a metaphor. Remember, it is a re-telling of a story, not a regurgitation of what's already been done.
  • Don't expect movies based on "true stories" to be completely, well...true. This is visual storytelling and, quite frankly, even true stories can be rather dull without some fiction stirred in, so expect some twists added for cinematic effect. Consider the movie The Blind Side (2009). In the true story, Michael Oheralready knew how to play football, but wasn't it fun to see Leigh Anne (played by Sandra Bullock) march out on that field and give him pointers?
Hopefully those hints can help you come out of the theater thinking, "Wow! That was an interesting take on that story!" rather than, "That's not how it happened at all! They absolutely ruined the book!"

NOTE: If you are tired of re-makes and would rather see a movie based on an original screenplay, you will more than likely find it from an independent film production company, not a major studio. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the perspective.
    I recently watched "My Sister's Keeper" and they made major changes, which bothered me. Like, a completely different ending!

    I mean, details are one thing, but the whole ending? With a different person dying? It was a bit much.

    They also added a sex scene, which I could have done without, which wasn't in the book--and it was a 14-year-old girl!

    But in general, I see your point, and yes, most of our 'truth' is just a little boring--and we like it that way!