You won’t believe the number of times that I have regretted reading the Harry Potter books before I saw the cinematic renditions. Not that the movies were particularly unwatchable, or that the books themselves were subpar! It was only a matter of first impressions, that often tend to last. The books spoilt me.
It’s almost as if the first article that you read on this blog sets the tone for the ones to follow! So if you’ve got the tiniest inkling that you won’t give a rat’s ass about Harry Potter or Star Wars, then go ahead and read this instead.
Anyway, a similar problem of ‘first impressions’ plagued the entire Star Wars franchise from the start. Because the source material for the saga was never a pre-published book, the original trilogy set the tone for the entire series.
God bless George Lucas for not setting the baseline at Phantom of the Menace, the plot-line for which was as irritating as the insufferable Jar-Jar Binks! Mesa glads dat… nope I can’t even try.
The Star Wars, as we know it, isn’t a bad watch by any means. In fact, the cult following for the original trilogy tells a story that is starkly opposed to the core belief that I plan to address in this post.
Speaking of WHICH, I believe that a book should arguably be the ideal entry point to experiencing any saga.
Let the wars begin!
Books, in general, have a distinct advantage over movies – the power of perception and imagination. But ironically, that too is a double-edged sword. However intricate be the writing style, there’s a nine in ten chance that nine out of ten people will perceive the material differently.
If you don’t believe those odds, then just pull-up any early fan-art on the Potterverse, for some guaranteed shocks!
But however diverse the perception, therein lies the beauty of experiencing a world through a book. Your imagination can mould the world as you see it in your head, and suddenly, all the pieces fit in perfectly. You precisely know how the Gryffindor common-room looks like, how the bedposts sprawl across the room, what sort of grills line the windows, and what colour are the bedsheets and blankets!
Now, imagine if ‘A New Hope‘ was first and foremost a book! You could envision the Death Star the way you wanted to. Darth Vader’s helmet could be a lot more like Kylo Ren’s.
I honestly think that the helmet was a winning touch and the only saving grace in the recent mess of a sequel trilogy.
Yoda could have been half a foot taller. Chewie could have looked more menacing than a cuddly teddy bear. And Han Solo… well, you can’t replace Harrison Ford!
Now that we’re talking about things that could have changed in the original trilogy, I wish Mr Lucas had never introduced cute characters such as the Ewoks. They set the horrible trend for forcibly fitting simpleton personas into subsequent instalments in the form of ridiculous Gungans and the aforementioned insufferable Jar-Jar Binks!
Now, although I mentioned a few things that could have been different in my interpretation of Star Wars, I agree that around 70% of the movie was acceptable to me as is, and THAT’s my problem! What if I had never seen Carrie Fischer play Princess Leia? What if Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t a regular white guy with a beard? What if Han Solo did not wear that god awful vest that always reminded me of Hobbits!
We’ll never really know, will we?
I cannot answer THAT question, but it does RAISE another relevant question – does a visual medium to a story kill the viewer’s creative perception or enhance it? And to understand this a bit more, it is probably best to dissect some of the most memorable scenes of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy.
J.R.R. Tolkein is a master storyteller, but he hasn’t been nearly as ornate in his description of the various locales in Middle Earth. I read the trilogy far before I saw any of the movies, the extended cut or otherwise. I loved the books, but for some reason, I could never imagine the grandeur and affluence of some of the iconic landmarks in the story. Lothlorien, in my head, was nothing more than a bunch of pretty tree-houses, connected by wooden bridges. Minas Tirith was supposed to be white of course, but I never imagined it to be a circular fortified city, atop a towering cliff in the middle of nowhere. Most importantly, nothing would have prepared me for the surprise and delight of watching the valley of Imladris unravel in front of me for the very first time in The Fellowship of the Ring.
True story – I have watched that scene around fifty times, and I have always noticed a new detail that has blown my mind away. And THAT is why, in my opinion, THAT trilogy will probably remain, arguably the most successful adaptation of a book ever.
It’s easy to point these things out today, but a million details could have gone wrong based on Peter Jackson’s choices for the LOTR movies. It just so happened, that he checked off many of the correct boxes, and eventually presented a version of the books that elevated the experience to another level.
On the other hand, we’ve had a failed DC universe, the disastrous Chronicles of Narnia and the nerve-wracking final instalments of Potterverse, which are all glaring reminders of movies not being able to withstand the massive expectations of their source material. So which is the right way forward?
This line will probably be the point in my article, where I’d usually crack a joke or twist the ending. But NOPE. Time for some hard truth.
Books are always better.
If nothing more, then a book is at least the exact representation of the original thought that the author wished to present. Let us give their craft the respect that is due, and then move on to the movies.
Worst case scenario, the movie is far off from our perception, and we hate it. No worries, because there is always another director out there who’d want to take a different spin on it, as the many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes have proven time and again.
Best case scenario, the movie beats our imagination and breathes life into the book, similar to what Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings and its wonderful world of Middle Earth. And that’s what we expect from a story, right? – To transport us to another world?
Then so be it! Let’s pick up those books first.
Yousa should do asa say now, okeeday?