Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Read it and weep

When the news first comes out that a popular book will be translated into a silver screen rendition, the reactions of the public can swing into two extremes, either one of severe dread or ecstatic euphoria.

However, whatever that initial reaction of public opinion, in this multimedia-consumed society it seems just inevitable that favored printed pieces will make their way to the big screen.

Turning popular books into film versions is not a new concept, even if it does seem to be a more abundant concept today. Some of the earliest Hollywood blockbusters were based on books such as “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

gone with the wind premiere.jpg
Crowds packed in to view Gone with the Wind premiere. Photo credit: The Rapid City Journal


What is that mysterious ingredient then, which makes those films instant classics, that seems to be sorely lacking from the more modern concept? Today’s books-into-movies renditions, such as “Divergent” or “Twilight,” are surely not classics.

“Gone with the Wind,” on the other hand, has become an enduring figure of Hollywood glamour.

At the time the film was produced it was the most expensive movie in film history. Extensive set pieces, more than one-thousand extras and live stunts that feature the burning of Atlanta make up the theatricality of this instant classic, not to mention the great characters that would live on in the hearts of many. This was the golden age of Hollywood that was destined to fade away.

Now Hollywood has no need for thousands of extras on set or extravagant live stunts. With CGI, things can be made more lifelike than real life, and really, that is all that a book or movie is trying to do. It’s trying to pull the audience into a fantasy world.

Rhett and Scarlett’s eyes lock in a heated moment Photo credit: huffington post


The question is: Is it believable?

Sure, Rhett and Scarlett’s love affair completely diminished the realities of the Civil War that the film was depicting, but it was believable that they were so distracted by their own passions that those things did not matter to them.

Perhaps nowadays the fault with books-into-movies is not that they do not create a world of fantasy, but that they do not make the audience believe in that fantasy. There is hesitantance to blame the source works for that fact, however.

Imagine being one of those teenagers obsessed with the “Twilight” books. The characters were pretty riveting, even if some were slightly annoying.

Bella and Edward embrace awkwardly Photo credit: Here & Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson


Bella, like Scarlett O’Hara, makes some pretty odd decisions and complains about her situation in a melodramatic fashion. However, it is a story which compels one to keep reading to find out where Bella’s heart will lead her next.

In comparison, though that same teenager may have seen every film incarnation of the books, they might not jump at the opportunity to own the whole set on DVD.

Why? Even though the basic storyline remains the same, the script and actors’ portrayals of the characters are not convincing. These two things have left the films open for mockery, a pop-culture example of what not to do when making a movie.

Just reference any YouTube or SNL sketch based on the film and you will see. This is not to say that the effects were not spectacular, they were, but the storytelling was lacking.

There is hope, however, for the modern age.

One of the best examples of a modern book-made-into-movie is the Harry Potter series.

There is hardly a person who would not agree that the movie series is excellent filmmaking. The scenes are stunning, the magic seems real, but more than that the viewers want to be a part of it all. People want to get on the Hogwarts Express and start their own first day in “wizarding” school. They want their own adventures, and in fact, they are having their own adventures with their new best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron. And the actors who portrayed these characters will always be remembered for their roles.

Harry Potter promotional poster.


Even now that the series is complete both in print and on the screen, people still beg J.K. Rowling for more, and she is pleased to give them little peeks here and there into the world of her own creation as she sees fit. For instance, just the other day she announced new background information on how Harry’s family had so much money to pass down to him.

It’s all-consuming, and that is what good storytelling is all about. You forget about the theater you are in and the world around you, and for about two hours of your life you are another person.


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