Debates rage about whether film adaptations of books ever cut the mustard (most people argue no), but perhaps the less-acknowledged, less-celebrated upside to any silver-screen translation is that it sends us rushing back to the book.
I’m going to fess up upfront that I was one of those dedicated fans who turned out for the midnight release of the film version of Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer’s runaway bestselling quadrilogy. And I’m going to admit that I was more than a little excited about it. Had I had time in the preceding days, I would have both re-watched the first two films and—and here’s the most important bit—re-read the first three books. Sadly, my clients and their deadlines weren’t quite so understanding, so instead I turned up to the cinema cold.
It’s been a while since I’ve read the books (I read them twice—but even the second time was a while ago now), and my memory was a little hazy. I knew that Eclipse was my favourite of the three, that it involved Victoria creating an army of newborns to chop suey Bella, and that within its pages the Edward-Bella-Jacob love-triangle really hit its straps. But could I recall specific lines of dialogue or guffaw-worthy paragraphs of clunky prose that somehow didn’t put me off reading it? No.
The joy I felt effectively rediscovering the book through the film on Wednesday night was nothing short of immense. Yes, I spent half the film admiring Taylor Lautner’s upper body (although, for the record, I think he’s less buff in this latest instalment than he was in New Moon). Yes, I laughed out loud at the girly run he does when picks up Bella to carry her across the field in a test to mask her scent with his own wolf one. I laughed even louder at the tongue-in-cheek ‘Doesn’t he own a shirt’ and ‘We both know I’m hotter’ lines that we know the actors would have had trouble delivering with a straight face.
But I also spent half the film comparing and marvelling and making mental notes to—yep—go back and check how the condensed film handled the story arcs and key scenes compared with the lengthier book. And I was unashamedly euphoric as I left the cinema at 2am and was determined to go home and stay up reading Eclipse again—that would invariably have led me to re-read Breaking Dawn too because you can’t leave yourself hanging.
The Twilight quadrilogy might not be your series of choice, but the example extends to all other books. A film adaptation either reminds us of, and reignites, our love for previously read books and sends us back to rediscover the minutiae, the scenes, and the excitement that a necessarily-condensed film cannot deliver but may complement. Personally, I’m ok with any film adaptation, because the book to film journey leads us back to the book. If we’re lucky, it might include some spectacular eye candy visuals that we can recall while envisaging the characters during re-reading, such as Lautner’s impeccable abs.