I posted these rules over on my Facebook wall yesterday as 25 individual status updates throughout the day, and had some really fun comments on them from like-minded book enthusiasts. I thought I'd go ahead and repost them all here, together.
It started because I saw a trailer for the upcoming Mr. Popper's Penguins movie starring Jim Carrey, and did not care for what I saw, although I loved that book.
After awhile, they're not really rules. They're just my book-into-movie related opinions, of which I have several, it turns out. :)
Sometimes I really love a movie adaptation overall, but dislike specific things in it that were off. That's the case with the two hour Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, which is actually my second favorite movie.
I'm going to start a society that keeps filmmakers from making bad adaptations of books I like. I haven't worked out the details of how I will do that, exactly, but I have a pretty good list of rules in my head.
Rule number 1: No fake penguins.
Rule number 2: Jane Eyre was plain. Not an exquisitely gorgeous woman who was just not wearing makeup. She was actually plain. It says so right in the book. Repeatedly.
Rule number 3: Adding rap music and making the kids bratty does not make any older story seem "fresh & modern for today's audience". It just makes it seem lame.
Rule number 4: Whenever possible, use Emma Thompson.
Rule number 5: If nothing exploded in the book, nothing should explode in the movie.
Rule number 6: You cannot compress 23 chapters of dialogue into a 2-minute music montage. Stop that.
Rule 7: Some children's books were written just to entertain. You do not need to shoehorn a political platform or huge moral lesson into every screen adaptation.
Rule 8: Let us never speak of Anne of Green Gables -- The Continuing Story again. Shame on you, Kevin Sullivan.
Rule number 9: The fake penguins in Mary Poppins are a valid exception to rule number 1.
Rule number ten: Let us rejoice in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, and watch it annually.
Rule number eleven: The antidote to "neurotic, silly, sex-obsessed clotheshorse heroines" is not "humorless, angry, sexless, gun-toting heroines." There are plenty of good novels with nuanced, realistic female characters. Adapt those.
Rule number 12: Marmee was not Susan B. Anthony. Also, THIS is Jo: "Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce, funny, or thoughtful."
Rule number 13: Elizabeth Bennett did not ask Mr. Darcy to call her "goddess divine." For crying out loud.
Rule number 14: Make the actor read the book first.
Rule number 15: Someone needs to make a movie of The Scarlet Letter. (That abomination in 1995 was not a movie, and was not The Scarlet Letter.)
Rule number 16: Crazy weather and dark portents are for the Brontës. Jane Austen liked calm weather but internal turmoil -- sunny day, stormy heart. Maybe the occasional rainstorm, to make Jane sick enough to stay with the Bingleys, but not to add gothic mood. Keep it straight.
Rule number 17: Christianity is neither quaint nor outdated. If the writer wrote about his faith and his God, keep it in the movie. Don't patronize us, Hollywood.
Rule number 18: Matthew MacFadyen.
Rule number 19: No amount of popcorn or Junior Mints will placate me if you mess up Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I mean it.
Rule 20: Thank you for taking a lot of mediocre books over the years and turning them into some truly excellent films, mini-series, and television shows. (This is less a "rule" than a "thanks.")
Rule 21: There is a reason Mr. Darcy and Edward Cullen are bazillion dollar industries. We like chivalric behavior. Controlled desire is attractive. Give us more courtly romance, more gentlemen, and less trash.
Rule 22: Why are there still no decent screen adaptations of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, or Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards?
Rule 23: I bet if you did a Nancy Drew series, and it followed some of the best books very closely, and you set it back in the day, and did right by Nancy and George and Bess, many girls and women would eat it up. The old series is dated and was never great, and the recent movie was a joke. Her hair is TITIAN BLOND. And please don't forget the powder blue convertible.
Rule 24: The Muppet Christmas Carol shouldn't work. It takes a Dickens book & turns it into a musical with Muppets. But it does work, because it is genius, & sticks to the best bits of the book, & has the best Scrooge ever. Let that be a lesson to you, that if you're faithful to the source material, & don't betray the readers, you can take a lot of creative liberties, & nobody will mind that Bob Cratchit is a frog.
Rule 25: In closing, may I say that really all I ask is that you take what is in my head when I read a book, and turn exactly that into the movie, and don't add or subtract from the secret world I've created with the author. But you can join us in our creation if you don't come in and mess it all up. Thank you.