Why don’t movies match the books?
Some of the worst translations from book to screen have come from some of my most favorite books ever. And it seems so simple a thing: the book has it all laid out and yet these dang producers, writers, and directors just could not pull it together to translate the images and story that was SO CLEARLY in my head.
Those works hold a special fascination for me. The films are flops in every general sense of the word, but they all started with some great platform to jump off from. For these movies to flop, it seems evident that one can point the finger at those names that appear in the closing credits. These douchebags were too busy doing blow or taking lunch meetings at the Ivy to actually sit down with the book and deem what was essential to the story and what its essence was that made it great.
For every Roger Zelanzy turning over in his grave about abominations of his work like “Damnation Alley”, so too is there an Arthur C. Clarke who was writing screenplay the same time as the novel. He was working so closely with Kubrick that the director’s stamp is all over his novels. The tonal difference between “2001” and “2010” is all about the difference between a communal vision and a writer’s imagination. In fact, “2001” the novel has the mission to Saturn included, though Stanley cut it from the final version of the movie without telling Arthur. Thus when he continued with the sequel novel, he went back to Saturn to explore what was left behind.
As a side note, just the cut footage from “2001” was enough to inspire a entirely new movie with Bruce Dern called “Silent Running”. It’s a very hippie movie where Bruce was the botanist on a long range space ship who, after he eliminates his co-pilots, teaches the two robots to grow the plants in the biosphere. Then after all that, when he comes in contact with earth he detonates the entire vessel, plants and all. Matching the anger and rebellion of the sixties with a future world confined to a giant space ship with no dicernable mission, he blew up his perfect world rather than let it get sullied by the MAN, man.
So remember you kids, when you start shooting your adaptation, you aren’t just laying down our vision, but the vision of everyone who ever picked up that book. “Lord of the Rings” was pretty good, because it seems that Peter Jackson read every book, which was more than most of us did. But if you are about to attempt the “Nine of Ambers”, that Mercedes steering wheel changes shape five times, and those shapes, in my mind, were pretty wild. Make sure that you keep it that way.