I did a dumb thing. I was on a very boring business trip, and I needed something else to read. So I bought a book. Despite my usual aversion to buying books republished with movie scenes on the cover to encourage more sales, I did in fact buy The Bourne Ultimatum. I couldn’t help it! The back matter was intriguingly written and I wanted to know what happened. So I bought the book, and I read it.
In and of itself, that was not the dumb thing. The dumb thing was reading the book just a few weeks before the movie of the same name came out. I mean, I have nothing against a good Matt Damon action movie. He’s good-looking, the action was fast-paced, there was lots of suspense and intrigue. It wasn’t a bad movie, nor were its predecessors. And if you’ve never read any of the books and only seen the movies, they even make a great deal of sense. (For a series of contrived spy action movies, I mean.)
However, and I admit that it is entirely my own fault that this annoys me, they have nothing to do with the books. At all. Yes, they star a character named Jason Bourne who lost his memory and turns out to be a super spy. But at that point, pretty much all plot similarity is abandoned, leaving me to wonder why they didn’t just give the character, and the movies, different names, and just not deal with buying the rights to the books or whatever at all. Because it would have been a lot easier, and then the script writers wouldn’t have had to feel so wracked with horrible guilt for completely erasing the plots of a perfectly good series of books for a new generation of people. (And if they do not feel this crushing guilt, they should.)
This is not a new complaint. People have been complaining about movie adaptations of books probably since the invention of movies. The thing is, I think I used to be more tolerant of it. But in recent years, my standards have been somewhat raised. After the recent serious book/movie franchises of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which had an incredibly dedicated and faithful crew working on them, and the Harry Potter movies, which have all been made in conjunction with the author herself, I’ve started to expect a bit more accuracy. I mean, movies always have to make changes to work in their own format, and people will always complain about what got left out, but they’ve been much more concerned about accuracy, and I approve.
I was talking about this with someone else a week or so ago, and he insisted that all the changes in the Bourne movies were due to them being Vietnam/Cold War era stories that needed to be updated. But I’d just read the book, and let me tell you, that had pretty much nothing to do with the main plot of the third book. The details and character backgrounds could have been updated pretty easily without changing the main plot points, and they would have made pretty excellent movies. But instead, the Bourne series is now done in the movies, and they were wasted. It particularly annoys me that they used the same names for the movies as the books when they stopped having any relation to each other somewhere in the first half of the first movie. As a counter example, Shooter was based on the book Point of Impact, and according to Mark, they did a lot of updating changes, but at least they used a different title. (They are, of course, using the movie to shill the book now, with the movie title now in bigger font than the real title of the book, but that’s not the point.)
On the upside, they will probably inspire more people to read the books, and hopefully the plot dissonance won’t be so annoying going the other direction, movies to books.
Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, what do the rest of you think about books being made into movies? Do you think the LotR and Harry Potter movies have had an impact? Do you think movie makers have any responsibility to try to remain as true to the book as possible? Should radically changed movies have to use different titles?
-posted by Dana