People used to say that television rots your brain. I’ve never believed this to be true. But, watching a story play out as opposed to envisioning it in your head as you read are quite different.
As a writer, there is something special and freeing about a book. You are only limited by your imagination. No budgets. No “we can’t make that happen.” Even gravity doesn’t really matter. It’s just you, the page and your brain. In television and film, you are constrained by what is feasible, what is affordable.
While I love a good book, I truly appreciate when books are made into a movie or a television series. Of course, it’s a great honor. Translating a story from something you read to something you watch isn’t easy – and it tends to grow your audience. The mediums aren’t seamless. But, seeing a story translated into a visual experience is special too.
I can remember when I first read Ender’s Game in middle school. That would have been in the mid/late 90s. And, controversies involving Orson Scott Card aside (I was a middle schooler, I knew nothing of those things), I remember distinctly while reading this book thinking, ‘I can’t wait until technology is advanced enough that they are able to make this into a movie. It would make a great movie.’ Fast forward to 2013, and technology finally caught up.
Over the last twenty years or so, the numbers of books (specifically Fantasy and Science Fiction) being turned into a film or television series has skyrocketed. Technology has allowed filmmakers to finally tap into the world and the imagination of the author. While they are still limited by budgets and tech, they are achieving something truly glorious, in my humble opinion. From The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and more recent iterations like the HBO series His Dark Materials based on the Philip Pullman novels about Lyra and ice bears and the whole bit, my little fantasy-loving heart is just incandescently happy. Even if you look back through the age of the many Star Wars films, you can’t help but see how technology has changed visual storytelling.
This topic came to mind for me as I’ve been watching His Dark Materials and have become completely enamored with the story and the saga all over again. It’s been several years since I’ve read the series, so in some ways, I am definitely discovering it anew. Watching this series has been helpful in other ways too. I’ve been stuck in a lengthy dry spell as far as creativity goes. Watching this series has really helped to wake up my imagination again.
Another reason that I love seeing books turned into film or television is the “legitimacy” that it brings to the genre. Let me explain. I can remember as a child reading fantasy and also writing it and witnessing the disparaging of the genre. Fantasy wasn’t as good as other genres. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t true. People who read fantasy or sci-fi were nerds or losers or what have you. Some of that is school-age drama. But, I still draw a distinct feeling of satisfaction when I see a fantasy or sci-fi story hit the mainstream and go big.
Translating a book into a new medium like film or television isn’t easy. The different medium changes perspectives and can limit narration in ways that books do not. This can change the whole perception of a story or a character. But, I will always be game for watching my favorite books in whatever medium they appear.
What has been your favorite book to see translated into film or television? Did you think the producers did a good job? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!