Everyone has had the same experience. You’re reading your favorite series, be it Harry Potter (garbage), or Twilight (cliche garbage), or Lord of the Rings (the greatest books you will ever read) when suddenly you find out that they’re turning you’re favorite series into a movie! You patiently wait for months until it premieres, you’re first in line, you camped out early to get tickets, hell you even dressed up like Gandalf and role played your favorite scenes with the guys from the Comic Book Store (I’m pulling out all the nerdy stereotypes for this one). You finally sit down in the movie theater and two hours later (or 8 if it’s LotR) you come out of the theater and it sucked, it absolutely sucked. Why?! Why was Ender’s Game so bad, how did they ruin The Hobbit, what happened to Angels and Demons (I still contest that it was a good read)?! Well if you read the title to this post, then you know that I’m about to tell you.
The first reason is time. Think about it, how long does it take you to read a book? If it’s a big one like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, it probably took upwards of 6 or 7 hours. Now try taking all that information and stuffing it into 2, 3 hours max. You’ll find that a lot of content has to be cut just to fit in the time frame of your average movie. So what gets cut? Basically anything that isn’t vitally important to the plot of the story. That’s why you probably have no clue who the frack Tom Bombadil is, even though he’s an utter badass and he saves the lives of Merry and Pippin. All that extraneous information that pushed the book into your top 10 had to get cut out because there simply wasn’t enough time to explain the origin of the mole on Ron Weasley’s ass.
The next reason book movies suck is because the movie wasn’t what you thought it would be. When you read a book you naturally picture what it’s going to look like in your head. You imagine the halls of Hogwarts and the…baseball fields of Twilight. Sorry, all I know about Twilight is this one scene.
Well when you give that same book to someone else they’re going to picture it differently, and if they’re, oh I don’t know, the director of the film version, then it’s their version that’s going to get immortalized in an 20-part movie series. And when things don’t look like you pictured them that’s when you have droves of fanboys storming the message boards to complain that Gandalf’s hat should have been rounded rather than pointed, Peter Jackson sucks, GAAAAY, RON PAUL 2012!
The third and final reason that I will give is movie tropes. The big one that comes up time and again is the on screen romance. Apparently you aren’t allowed to make a movie unless two of your characters start dating at some point during the movie. Let’s look at the Hobbit (Warning: I am pretty much just going to complain about the Hobbit for the next paragraph, you can feel free to skip to the end). The Hobbit is a short book (well short for Tolkien) about Bilbo going to a mountain with Gandalf and some Dwarves to steal it back from the Dragon that stole it from the Dwarves in the first place. I will accept the inclusion of Sauron and the White Orc, they are actually part of Tolkien’s lore. I will however vehemently condemn the inclusion of the love triangle between Legolas that elf lady and that one dwarf. It serves no purpose other than to distract from the real narrative about Bilbo. I don’t care about breaking down racial barriers, I JUST WANT TO SEE BILBO FIGHT A DRAGON!
Ultimately film adaptations of novels (with a few exceptions) simply don’t work. You have to be willing to put aside your preconceived expectations of what the movie should be if you’re going to enjoy the film. When it’s one of your favorite series like Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars or something, you already have such a high bar that there’s virtually no way that anything is going to come close to reaching that level. The fact of the matter is, translation doesn’t work (in more ways than one). But if your willing to put aside those expectations, condone the manufactured romance, suspend a little disbelief and accept the directors right to creative license then who knows, you might actually enjoy the movie.