The debate about book adaptations is always active and sometimes even the writers themselves join in: the famous novelist Brandon Sanderson considers ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Golden Compass’ to be bad adaptations because they stuck too closely to the original books.
“You don’t keep the same tension”
Brandon Sanderson is one of the most famous fantasy authors of the moment, with sagas like ‘Born from the mist’ or ‘The storm archive’. The writer is very active on social networks and, through his TikTok, he shared his opinion on the subject of literary film adaptations.
Sanderson gave the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films and ‘The Golden Compass’ as an example to explain that adaptations that do not depart from the original material do not work well in the cinema because movies and books have different narrative structures:
The way we pace ourselves in books is more cyclical. We build up the action in chapters, then slow down, build it up again, reach a climax and slow down again.
The novelist explains that such a structure is possible by the length of the bookswhich is different from the time it takes to consume a movie:
The books have a longer format. You don’t maintain the same level of tension throughout the book. In the movies it is different. They generally last between 90 minutes and 2 hours, so expect a constant escalation of tension. This works pretty badly when you’re adapting a book to a movie, although it can work well on TV, since similar ideas are being worked on there.
According to Sanderson, the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films don’t work as adaptations because the author was too involved and they tried to move the novels scene by scene.
Something similar argues about the adaptation of ‘The Golden Compass’, which wanted to be so faithful to the book that it ended up having a negative impact on the rhythm of the film. Above all, the novelist points out that the tape transformed contextual information from Philip Pullman’s book in “very long monologues”: “It’s the fastest way to give you the information but also the most boring.”
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