From Paper to Film: Movie Adaptations

Nothing is better than a phenomenal movie adaptation of a book you love. Nothing is worse than when the movie adaptation absolutely butchers the author’s original vision. Sometimes visions are altered for the better, whether to expand imagination or create clarity, and those are commendable, but things go awry when themes, plot lines, and characters are changed beyond recognition.

I write this because I’m currently procrastinating watching a movie adaptation of an incredibly impactful book I read back in college, Cherry. I was all prepared to watch it the night it came out on Apple TV on March 12, but I began to worry about what I expected, so I developed this train of thought: can’t be disappointed if I don’t watch it. So here I am, twelve days later, and I still haven’t watched it.

And to put it off even further, I thought I’d write a post about some movie adaptations that I struggle to enjoy, as well as the ones I love. I fully recognize that taking a book and making it screen-ready is a difficult process, but sometimes screenwriters fail to see what’s most important in a story, and subsequently write a whole new message. And it may be that a movie adaptation pulls on what most people saw in the book and I’m just different in what I picked up. But anyway…


Harry Potter Series

Shocking, I know. I used to really struggle with just watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 because I read the last book so many times, I saw everything they left out. Then I reread all the books over quarantine, and I realized how much they missed throughout the whole series. So much of the plot points and character arcs that make the books so special were left out, and there was poor translation of certain themes, characters, and imagery.

Biggest points of frustration:

  • Ginny Weasley’s entire personality and storylines
  • Where the f*** was Peeves?
  • Overall exploration of life at Hogwarts in the first 6 books/films
  • The Half Blood Prince
  • Why did they cut out so much Quidditch? Harry Potter was a JOCK.

Percy Jackson*

This is something big Percy Jackson fans can talk about very passionately. Having read the books after seeing the movies, I can tell you I didn’t know what was going to happen next because barely followed a single plot line of the book. Excited to see what happens with the Disney+ series, though.

The *star* next to this title is because I actually enjoy watching these movies because I find the male lead to be incredibly attractive.

Biggest points of frustration:

  • Almost nothing was the same
  • Annabeth was supposed to be blonde, and that happens to be the least of the worries in regards to adaptation failures
  • The ending????
  • Why was Hades the bad guy? Hades wasn’t the bad guy

Chaos Walking

Oh boy. I waited for this adaptation since my junior year of college, and while I thought they did a fantastic job creating the world I imagined, they totally changed the ending, and in doing so, lost the heart of the story being told. And it’s tough because the author worked on the screenplay.

Biggest points of frustration:

  • The ENDING was so abrupt and missed two whole books
  • What was the point of the spackle if there was no interaction?
  • Why was Tom Holland’s character so horny the entire film?????

It’s been a minute, but also…

Bridge to Terabithia

I remember reading this book in 3rd grade in Pennsylvania, and after I finished, my mom told me one of my friends back Naperville was taking everyone to go see it in theaters for her birthday. I was flabbergast because I knew how the story ended, and remembered wondering why anyone would want that kind of heartbreak on their birthday. Turns out they didn’t know and everyone cried in the theater. Ellie Bumpus, was this your party?

Anyway, I remember seeing it after reading it, and being entirely disappointed with visualization of Terabithia. I just really imagined a lot more magic, and I feel like the movie showed how the kids were using their imaginations, but didn’t show magic they were seeing. Casting was on point.

The Giver*

Another movie were I thought cast a cute lead, but they focused so much on this aspect individual thoughts rather than the crumbling of a utopian society and the sacrifice the protagonist made to restore free will, which is what made the book so captivating. So this was a loss of theme for me.

Cat in the Hat

What drugs were the movie creators on when they came up with this? This movie is terrifying. That’s all I have to say.


Perks of Being a Wallflower

The book is a lot more subtle than the book is with the heavy themes because instead of being written through Charlie’s letters, we are watching him live through it. And while the ending was subdued through the visualization rather than it being spelt out, it works. This is a story about being the quiet outsider who sits and observes, and as watchers of the movie, we are wallflowers: we get the whole story because we watch, observe, and pay attention. The movie isn’t loud with it’s plot line, but shares it in a humble but profound way and I absolutely love it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

First, it’s important to acknowledge that C.S. Lewis didn’t want his stories being created into movies. I was really young when I fell in love with Narnia, and the first movie was nearly flawless in my eyes. I watched it every night on my family’s portable DVD player when my parents went to bed, and memorized the script for a period of time. The magic of Narnia was developed incredibly here, and the characters were done so well. Some changes had to be made, but I saw this movie as incredibly close to perfection when it comes to movie adaptations. I’ll have to reread and rewatch and see if I still feel the same. If he was able to see this film, I hope CS Lewis would change his mind about his work being created into film.

The Hunger Games

The marketing of this series was a nightmare with the focus on a love triangle that was not the center of the movies. But the movies did an overall great job portraying the themes of dystopia, struggle, and war. And while there are some things I would change and some things had to be eliminated, I feel like what was important was kept and the message at the heart of the books was developed nicely.


I haven’t read the Twilight series since sixth grade, and I only saw 4/5 movies, and while it’s no longer my cup of tea, I was never disappointed with the direction of the movies. I feel like they really did take the author’s vision and put it on screen, so overall a great adaptation for book to movie. Also the love triangle was well-marketed for a series where the love triangle was a key plot point.


Commonly talked about are the following book/movie combos, but I haven’t included them because either I haven’t read the book or I haven’t watched the movie.

  • The Great Gatsby (read but didn’t watch)
  • Divergent series (neither read nor watched)
  • Maze Runner series (kind of watched but have not read)
  • Lord of the Rings (reading it now, will finish maybe before the year 2042)
  • Ready Player One (haven’t watched nor read, but Jackson tells me that the movie is very different)

So onto Cherry…

The reason I’m so worried about Cherry is because, in its semi-autobiographical sense, the book was about someone who was a small part to society, a person who wasn’t going far in a career or their education, a regular drug user and college drop out who went into the army because it was something to do. It’s a story about someone who just isn’t special by any standards and isn’t particularly likable (though the author is rather self-deprecating). And with the underlying message of opioid addiction and the gateway to heroin, people like the main character are the most affected, and if we want to care about the opioid crisis, we need to care about people we dismiss by our societal standards.

The trailer writes it out to be a love story, but I fear that love theme is an attempt at redemption, about creating a special character and reason to get better. Emily was a character in the book, but it wasn’t a story of true love, but rather a toxic relationship where drug use was the bonding factor and through their addiction, they failed to see the abuse they were enacting on one another. And my biggest worry of disappointment is the main character being portrayed as a unique and redeemable individual rather than a part of the whole in this epidemic.

So I’ll watch it this weekend and keep you posted on what I think.


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