I think it’s pretty universal that no matter how many times we’ve been burned by book adaptations, we’re still going to scream with excitement about a new one. I mean, sure, there are definitely times that we’re wary, but generally? That wariness comes with a healthy dose of HECK YES FINALLY.
We should probably start with the fact that not every book ever needs to be adapted into something. There are some, like Simon Snow, that I’m honestly very okay with just remaining a book forever. There are others, like one of my recent reads, Late to the Party, which I would like Netflix to adapt as soon as possible, please. They can release it next summer, and we can all fall head over heels in love with it.
Some books, too, I’d like to see as shows instead of movies. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the City of Bones movie (I recognize I’m the only one), but the Shadowhunters TV show is above and beyond better. Some books should have been left as they were, despite the success of a major film franchise, and yes, Peter Jackson, I am looking directly at you. There’s a lot to love and hate about adaptations. Am I finally excited about the new Avatar: The Last Airbender live action show? HECK YES. (I also recognize that A:TLA is not a book to movie adaptation, but it’s an adaptation of sorts, so leave me alone.) Am I as equally terrified of Amazon’s Second Age Middle-age adaptation? Satan save us all.
But, at the end of the day, I really, really love seeing our favorite characters come to life. It’s almost like getting to love them all over again from the beginning. I love Alina Starkov something fierce, and I am so hyped to fall in love with her all over again when Netflix’s Shadow & Bone series finally releases.
I guess the question remains, then–why do we love when our books get adapted so much?
This is it, I promise, this whole post is not going to be LOTR, but it is the perfect example for the first point. Because who doesn’t love to see a cherished world come to light? Like, holy hell, let’s all give a round of applause to New Zealand for just existing. I can remember, so clearly, the first time that I saw Minas Tirith unveiled on the big screen. I saw all of the movies in theaters when they released, and the race of Men have always been my favorite. I love Rohan, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a tattoo of its map on my right thigh, but you know what else I’ve got? The white tree of Gondor on my left thigh because damn if Minas Tirith isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
(Lies, we recently watched a documentary about Everest, and that is the most beautiful.)
Being able to see something like Middle-earth, which is so cherished by so many people, actually be a real thing? Damn, damn, damn. I’m never going to get over watching the Ents walk through Fangorn, or Minas Morgul standing out as easily one of the most terrifying places in the world based purely on the lighting, or how watching the expanse of Mordor unfold is always going to make me wonder about Angband, or the way I can practically smell the Shire. And I know, I know we’ve got our issues with Peter Jackson and even the original trilogy adaptation, I know it doesn’t always stay true to the books, and I know we could pick these apart for ages, but guys. We got to see cozy hobbit holes and the hills that the riders of the Riddermark gallop across and Caradhras looming dangerously above.
I love to see characters brought to life, but I’m always going to love seeing fantasy worlds that I hold close to my heart, that I dream about visiting, unraveling before my very eyes.
I really shouldn’t talk about A Discovery of Witches in this post because I’ve got an entire series + adaptation review coming up, so we’ll just fly through this quickly, and I can wax poetic about why I love the show so much later.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The Sundance adaptation of A Discovery of Witches is better than the books. Much better. In fact, if you’ve heard me talk about how misogynistic Matthew is and how Harkness just drowns people with unnecessary detail, and those things have kind of turned you off from the books, I don’t blame you! Go watch the show instead! It doesn’t do either of those things! Because Matthew Clairmont is a misogynistic asshole, and no one can convince me otherwise. That’s how he was written. Fun fact, though. The show was like okay but it’s the 21st century so you know what he is instead? Supportive of Diana. THANK YOU, SUNDANCE.
It’s very, very rare, I’ll give you that, we don’t normally like adaptations more, and I promise you that I’m always going to love the animated A:TLA more than any live action they can produce, but this is one of those instances! The ADOW adaptation is so good. They’ve managed to take a nearly 600-page book and condensed it into 10 one-hour long episodes that
- keeps all of the main plot points in tact
- still develops the characters appropriately
- gives you just enough information that you don’t feel overloaded, but you do understand
- removes all the shitty bits!
We’re going on for too long here, so I’ll wrap this up with just this: sometimes, adaptations are worth it because they do things in a different way from the books, and they do those different things wonderfully.
Sometimes, you’re just sat there, in your house, minding your own business, and then you realize that not only have you been blessed with one Joe Hill adaptation, not two, but three??? If this is the world we’ve got to live in, I’m here for it. And if you’re surprised to see Locke & Key on this list, well, then, you haven’t been paying attention.
I just realized, when trying to find my review of Netflix’s adaptation, that I haven’t read a Joe Hill in ages, and there’s nothing I can do about that because there are none left for me. THIS IS THE WORST. On the bright side, I also haven’t watched AMC’s adaptation of NOS4A2, so I guess I can bide my time with that. So far, Hill has been blessed with some really amazing adaptations, though. Horns was so damn good. It captured the essence of the book so well, and I loved watching Daniel Radcliffe play Ig more than I’m ever going to be able to put into words. Locke & Key was literally perfect, and I will continue to scream about it for the rest of my days. And really, this is why adaptations are so awesome. Horns was such a hit that the world was like yeah okay, we’ll take another, and then we got NOS4A2! When an adaptation of one of your favorite author’s books does really well, that means you get more amazing adaptations, and I just? UGH YES THANK YOU.
But the absolute best part about this is that you finally get to share your love of someone’s work with everyone else. I love, love, love when an author gets the accolades they deserve. There’s this weird thing in the music world where we get sad when our favorite bands get big because that means they won’t play in small venues anymore, but when an author gets big? My dudes! That just means more books! It’s glorious! And I love adaptations, when they’re good, for how they finally open up the world to so much awesomeness. I’m sure there’s a whole horror subsection of the book community that I’m not aware of that loves Joe Hill (I don’t generally read or enjoy horror, so I’m an anomaly), but I’m not part of it, so I don’t see people yelling about him, and even though it’s only happening a little, the multiple adaptations of his work are getting people in my sphere to read him, and that’s pretty damn cool.
wow, jfc, that was the longest sentence ever
My faves! Look, I mentioned it at the start, we all knew that I was going to scream about Shadowhunters eventually. I unapologetically love this series and any adaptation made of it, so let’s just move on from rolling your eyes at me. Was the movie kind of a trash fire? Yeah, I’ll admit that. Did the show kind of go off the rails a lot? Yes, but I’m pretty sure, if it hadn’t been cancelled, we would’ve gotten a hell of a lot of more good. It was also the only mainstream show that I can remember that had a gay couple as its leading couple for a good, long while, and, look, don’t even get me started on the friendships in this. This whole story is just so wonderful.
And really, for me, Shadowhunters was the thing I love most about adaptations. It was just another way for me to express my love for the universe. I love books, I really do. And I love movies and TV shows, too. I love that, sometimes, those loves can blend together, can be an extension of the other. I love that, while getting ready to embark on The Dark Artifices (FINALLY), I can also turn back and rewatch my favorite scenes from the show. I love that the love I have never gets to die, and that there are so many different ways I can love it. I don’t always want to reread a 500-page book. Hell, I almost never do. But I love rewatching things, and it’s just another way to be able to drop back into the universe and remember why it means so much to me.
I’m going to be wary about adaptations for the rest of time, but I’m also pretty much always going to be excited about them, too. I could ramble on forever and ever about specific reasons why I like or dislike certain adaptations, but we’d literally be here all day. Really, it all boils down to that I’m just grateful we get adaptations at all, and I hope we continue to get them forever.