OPINION // Adaptation
A while back a trailer came out; current it-girl Jennifer Lawrence Winter’s Bone, X-Men First Class was running through a forest, bow and arrow in hand, destination and hunter unknown, and two weeks ago these ambiguities were answered when the official promotional clip for The Hunger Games was released.
Based on a series of novels developed while author Suzanne Collins was simultaneously watching coverage of the Iraq War and a reality television program, the fact that The Hunger Games is both a novel-turned-film and that anticipation has already begun to mount – five months shy of its 2012 release date – confirms a mounting zeitgeist (if Twilight and Harry Potter hadn’t already done so): we are seriously loving films based on novels.
It’s hardly a new phenomenon. Pierce Brosnan made and Timothy Daulton broke their respective careers playing James Bond and classics like The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have enjoyed multiple moving picture incarnations. However, have we ever before enjoyed the adaptation with such veracity? Lying in bed watching Harry Potter re-runs mourning the end of the book franchise (and with it my ability to enjoy any form of popular culture ever again) I know I certainly haven’t.
“The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds – the same as a goldfish,” noted the BBC in an article at the turn of the century. The internet has irrevocably altered the way we engage with entertainment, apparently spending less than 60 seconds on an average website. One would be lucky to read a page of a novel in that same time period, let alone 300. Films provides the perfect resolution between our thirst for culture and our inability to consume it; sure we’re talking two hours but that’s significantly less than the couple of weeks most casual readers may take to finish the same subject matter. Furthermore, we can watch said movie in bed while eating, skyping, insert multi-tasking pursuit of choice here, instead of having to focus on the mottled black and white of the newsprint page alone.
Apart from the fact that this trend is arguably a contributing fact affecting the decrease in literacy internationally, does it matter that we’re watching rather than reading? It’s unfortunate that both this transition and the economically unsound trend towards escapism have resulted in a cloud of idiocy called Twilight, a series serving only to purport the weakness of both Kristen Stewart’s acting and the plots of Stephanie Meyers. Teens are unlikely to turn the pages of Orwell, Hemmingway or F Scott Fitzgerald now they’ve got Facebook, Just Jared and Rookie. Surely political totalitarianism is easier to consume as Natalie Portman is falling for Hugo Weaving in the Wachowski brothers adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta, than in Orwell’s classic. And while I can’t tolerate musicals the isolating nature of contemporary American society will hopefully be both entertaining and educational in Baz Luhrmann’s adaption of The Great Gatsby – as long as he doesn’t make Tobey McGuire and Leonardo DiCaprio sing.
The adaptation of the novel can be a powerful way to delineate our most important authors to a broader audience than those who still read. It just depends whether people actually care enough to choose the brilliant over the blockbuster.
- Courtney Sanders