The proof is in the pudding. Book-to-movie adaptations don’t need to drastically change the plot, characters, themes, or all of the above to create a box office success and a good movie. This (self-evident) truth is becoming more and more apparent with movies like The Book Thief, based on Markus Zusak’s WWII novel, and John Green’s hit novel (and now hit movie) The Fault In Our Stars.
The Fault In Our Stars is the story of two kids with cancer who fall in love. It sounds like a typical teen romance novel—apart from maybe the cancer—but the quirky wit of John Green displayed through his characters made the book a mega hit with readers of all ages. Of course, most readers worry about their favorite book being turned into a movie, after all there are terrible tales of woe regarding book-to-movie adaptations—Percy Jackson, for example. And all stories must be edited when transitioning from the page to the screen, if for no other reason than time limits. But, as John Green assured viewers of his popular video blog, the makers of The Fault In Our Stars movie are avid fans of the book, and therefore wish to maintain the essence of the plot, character, and themes. The result of such devotion from the moviemakers? A film that is very close to the book. The result of a movie that is close to the book? Critical and financial success.
I always wondered when Hollywood would realize that they could make more money with a close adaptation to a book than with any of their fancy bastardizations. Viewers don’t want to see the altered, doctored version of the story that Hollywood thinks will sell (but usually doesn’t). They want to see the original story—the author’s story—just acted out on a screen instead of inside the reader’s imagination. That’s all that readers want. And that’s what they’ll pay for. It’s what they’ll pay twice, or thrice, to see. Which is why movies like The Fault In Our Stars—movie adaptations that stay true to the book—are successful. They make good movies because the books are good stories. They make money because that’s what people want to see. And finally, Hollywood is starting to realize that.
The closeness of the movie to the book is not the only thing that carried The Fault In Our Stars to the top of the box office. Shailene Woodley’s acting, a well-written script, good publicity, and devoted fans all played an important part as well. And, of course, there did have to be some changes for the story to fit on the screen. But the scriptwriters, the actors, the producers, the director, and everyone involved believed in the story—the author’s story—and they stayed true to that vision. And the result is worth seeing.
I think in the future, we will see more book-to-movie adaptations. Movies like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Fault In Our Stars show Hollywood that there is money in adapting young adult fiction novels into movies, a lot of money in fact. These movies are also showing that staying closer to the original story is better for everyone in the end. It is a good time to be an avid reader and moviegoer. There’s going to be a lot of overlap now. Though I’m still waiting for a movie adaptation of one of Maggie Stiefvater’s novels. Any one will do.