Movies like The Golden Compass, Eragon, and Percy Jackson didn't get very good reviews. Others, like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and The Princess Bride are just spectacular*.
I was SO excited when they announced the making of The Golden Compass, and when it fell flat I was disappointed. But I couldn't quite put my finger on why it (and others) have fallen flat. I think when it comes down to it, it's the ability of the director and screenwriters to translate the book into a movie. Honestly, the acting in The Golden Compass was pretty good (plus there were lots of big actors in it), and the same can be said for Harry Potter. Seriously, Daniel Radcliff's performance in the first Harry Potter was far from oscar-worthy (luckily his acting improved a million times with each film).
So I think the key lies in whether the director knows how to translate the book into a movie. He/she has to know what to put in and what to leave out. They have to know what can be changed without angering the audience too much, and how to flesh the dialogue out and adapt it for the screen.
I absolutely fell in love with Lyra and Pan, Lee and Iorek, and the relationship of Lyra and Will in subsequent books in Phillip Pullman's series. The book itself is so complex and riddled with political commentary, but at the same time weaving a beautiful world of fantasy and souls that live outside the body. I wonder if it was just too much to put in a PG film. (Okay, and honestly, as I'm watching it- it's not too bad. But maybe because I read the book- it's bringing back all those emotional feelings I felt while I read it.)
I always said the problem with Eragon, was it was just a "skeleton" of the book. There was no flesh, none of the rich history to it
Percy just changed a whole lot of things, even though the kid that played him was wonderful in my opinion.
So now I'm a little worried about The Hunger Games movie- what will happen with it? Will it go the Harry Potter route, or the Eragon route? I've also heard rumors about a Sabriel movie which worries me even more- what if it's awful? What if Garth Nix waited all this time (like Phillip Pullman) only to have a not-so-good movie? I just hate that it might not do the book justice, and it will turn people off from reading it.
It also seems like nowadays people are jumping to make all these YA books into movies. They should let them simmer a little...get people excited about the book, let it become a classic, and then they can choose who they want to make the movie. I think part of the problem is many authors have almost no say in how the movie is done. Meg Cabot had pretty much nothing to do with Princess Diaries and Avalon High (which premiered on the Disney Channel the other night) and they were drastically changed with not-so-good reviews.
So what do you think? What books-to-movies did you like or not like? Is there a certain formula they have to follow, or is it just luck/bad luck on how well they do?
*Um, yeah, so I didn't mention Twilight for a reason- so many people loved the movie, but c'mon glittery vampires with make-up lines on their necks, looooong teenage angsty pauses, and dude...where the heck did Carlyle get that accent? So, Twilight's kinda in a league of it's own.