Book vs. Movie: The Giver

giver_bookvmovieThe Giver is an award-winning book written by Lois Lowry about a futuristic dystopian community of “Sameness.” The book was written in 1993 – before the teen dystopian literature era took off so I guess you could say it was before its time in two ways!

Because most middle-schoolers end up reading The Giver as part of their curriculum, I don’t want to go into the novel or movie details. However, I will share that the novel was originally written by Ms. Lowry as a result of realizing her father was losing his memory. This sad, negative situation was developed into imagining a society that had lost its memory; that is, it had no past. Eliminating a “history” means that many ingredients making up that “history” must also be eliminated. The protagonist in The Giver is Jonas, an 11-year old who lives in this resulting community known as “Sameness,” a seemingly utopian society where everything is the same and everything is equal. Jonas, through a developing uniqueness, is able to see past this “sameness” and perceived utopia.

After 18-19 long years of hoping and trying to bring the novel to the big screen, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Giver in the movie, successfully premiered the movie on August 11th and opened it nationwide on August 15th. I have seen it twice: I attended a special showing on premiere night and then saw a regular showing about a week later. I had been anticipating the release of this movie since last August when I first learned that Taylor Swift was going to play a small, but important character role of “Rosemary.”   As a Swiftie and a lover of Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet (of which The Giver is the first novel), my excitement was barely containable!

So because I saw the movie twice within one week, you probably think I LOVED the movie the first time and went back to enjoy it a second time. Not exactly . . .

I was actually disappointed when I saw The Giver movie the first time. I thought the beginning was very rushed. I was annoyed by the changes made in the movie. I sort of expected the movie to be a bit more accurate because I had read they kept writing, discarding, and rewriting the screenplay in those 18 or so years. And I was extremely “let down” that the anticipation of the movie was over.

When I saw it the second time, I went into it expecting to be disappointed again. (I had promised my friend to see it with her.) Surprisingly, I found I liked the movie this time. I really did!! So what changed?

Yes, compared to the book, the beginning is rushed. But you can’t fit a 200+ page book into a two-hour movie. So, I guess I’m okay with that. The “rushed beginning” still set the stage for the movie which was what it needed to do.

As for the changes in the screenplay . . .all the people involved, including Lois Lowry, agreed that the movie stayed true to the book’s storyline. So who am I to get upset with the changes? Yes, the movie is different than the book.   But that’s not necessarily a bad or negative thing.

And as for being “let down” . . . I left the movie the second time feeling more satisfied, happier, seeing the positives more, and appreciating the movie for its differences. I actually LIKE the movie and hope that the other Lois Lowry books in The Giver Quartet also find their way to the big screen!

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Books and Movies: Watch or Read First?

read_or_watchHave you ever wondered which is better: Read the book and then watch the movie, or watch the movie and then read the book? If you ask your friends, chances are everybody will have a different opinion… unless you have friends like my sister, who would rather just watch the movie and not read the book at all.

When comparing a movie to a book, you notice all of the differences. Considering most movies are about two hours in length, and it usually takes longer than two hours to read a book, I don’t think this is fair. Rather than trying to pick one over the other, I think it’s better to appreciate both of them for their differences. Watching the movie before reading the book that it was based on gives you the opportunity to get interested in reading the book.

Another benefit of watching the movie first is that you can be captivated by the movie without having anything spoiled for you. However, when you read the book first, you can imagine the characters and scenes in your head because you don’t have somebody else interrupting it for you.

An alternative is the movie-book sandwich. You watch the movie, read the book, and then watch the movie again. This works because you can still be captivated by the movie and captivated by the book (because the book usually has more detail and differences), and when you watch the movie again you notice more subtleties and feel more adept. I recently did this with Johnny Tremain.

johnny_tremainJohnny Tremain is a historical fiction novel written by Esther Forbes who was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1944. Ms. Forbes’ inspiration to write this novel was to help remind war-torn America during World War II about the principles of freedom that America was first founded on. Walt Disney turned it into a movie in 1957. The fictional character of Johnny Tremain interacts with key people and events of the American Revolutionary War. Ms. Forbes’ message of “so every man can stand up,” is beautifully communicated in her novel.

I watched this movie, read the book, and watched it again. The first time I watched the movie adaption, I thought it was a pretty good movie. The second time I watched it, I noticed some differences. Lots of characters were not included, a song was added, there was a plot change (Johnny does fight with Rab in the movie but not in the book), and a horse (which was a sort of main character) looked very different than its description in the book…But the biggest difference I noticed between the book and the movie is that the movie seems to be the book sped up. You could tell very much so that this movie was based on this book. However, lots of characters and details were left out and/or changed, probably to make the movie adaption shorter.

Overall, the book was very good and educational while still being exciting and entertaining. The movie stuck pretty well to the book, with a bit of Disney added to it, of course. I recommend the book to ages 11 and up, whilst I recommend the movie to ages 8 and up. If you choose to read/watch Johnny Tremain, I hope you enjoy it! (And be sure not to miss the special features on the classic Disney DVD.) Learning can be so fun!

-Danielle L., 6th grade

Book vs. Movie: Catching Fire – Another View

catching_fire_book_movieThe movie Catching Fire came out in theaters on November 22, 2013. Being a Hunger Games fanatic, I thought the movie was absolutely phenomenal.

Oftentimes a movie is made about a specific popular series of novels– however, the movie is not always an absolute representation of the novels. This commonly angers the fanatics of certain series, because the movie should and could have been better. For example, many times the film industry skips important scenes or even worse- they add their own scenes in the movie. This is tragic for the series fanatics because we do not get to experience the exciting novels fully with the movie. In most cases, the novel is always better than the movie, due to its abundance of detail.

Keeping this thought in mind, Catching Fire was a fascinating movie. I have never seen a more accurate representation of a novel until this movie got released. Especially since the first movie, The Hunger Games, was great but still excluded some important scenes, I was extremely surprised by Catching Fire.

Catching Fire included all of the important elements of the series, including enough background information so that viewers who had not read the novel understood the movie. This is often a problem that a movie does not provide the viewers with enough background information. However, this is not the case with the hit Suzanne Collins series. The Catching Fire was an absolutely satisfying movie representation of the novel.

-Nirmeet B., 10th grade

Editor’s note: This book-to-movie adaptation is getting so much love on the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice! There’s plenty to discuss, so check the previous posts here and here for other bloggers’ viewpoints and let us know what you thought of the movie!

Book vs. Movie: Catching Fire – A Different Perspective

catching_fire_book_movieDisclaimer: I know there is already a book vs. movie post about Catching Fire on here.  I just thought it would be nice to give you guys a review from a different perspective.

Attention lovers of the Hunger Games, dystopian fiction, and Josh Hutcherson everywhere!  If you have not seen “Catching Fire” the movie, or read Catching Fire the book, I suggest you run out to your nearest bookstore, and buy this book and a movie ticket to go along with it.  If you have already read the book and are worried that the movie will not live up to your expectations of this literary masterpiece, do not be afraid.  “Catching Fire” the movie was just as good as Catching Fire the book.

Now, I know what you all are thinking. “Books are always better than the movies they are made into.  Why is ‘Catching Fire’ different?”  I’ll tell you why.

#1. The dialogue in “Catching Fire” the movie is almost word-for-word the dialogue in the book.  It was like the scriptwriter had the book open next to him the entire time he was writing the script.  I really appreciated this, as I felt like the writers really took into consideration the fans of the book.

#2. Josh Hutcherson actually has lines.  Now, I know some of you are Liam Hemsworth fans.  Yes, he is attractive, but I prefer Josh Hutcherson. (Don’t judge me.)  In the “Hunger Games” movie, he barely had any lines. This sort of ruined the movie for me.  However, in “Catching Fire” he was able to live up to his full acting potential, and fully embody the character of Peeta.

#3. The arena is flawless.  Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t read the book, let me just say it was exactly how I pictured it.  My friend agrees and she is basically the harshest unpaid movie critic out there, so trust me on this.

#4.  Even if you haven’t read the book, you can still understand the movie.  This was a problem I had with the first “Hunger Games” Movie, as my friends who hadn’t read the book had no idea what was going on and were constantly whispering in my ear the entire time.  Wait, so does Katniss actually like Peeta?  Why are they making such a big deal over this loaf of bread?  Wait, seriously, does she like him or not?  Why is everyone forced to watch the games?  Just tell me already, does she actually love Peeta or not????  Needless to say, I appreciated my friends actually understanding what was going on in “Catching Fire.”

Regardless if you are die-hard fans of the books, or first time viewers, I strongly suggest you get off your butts and take a risk and see this movie!

-Amanda D., 11th grade

Book vs. Movie: Catching Fire

catching_fire_book_movieAfter anxiously awaiting the Catching Fire release for more than a year, my friends and I entered the theatre with impossibly high expectations and suppositions regarding the film interpretation of the story.

I am extremely impressed with the movie adaptation and feel that the director really captured the mood and included all the essential aspects that were required in order to stay true to Collins’ series.

One eminent facet that made for such an unforgettable movie experience is the actors’ unerring ability to flawlessly represent their characters. Jennifer Lawrence was lethal and brilliant. I felt that she portrayed Katniss perfectly and easily managed her vast range of emotions. As for Josh Hutcherson, I felt that he got to demonstrate Peeta’s brave and daring side a bit more than in the first movie, in which I felt he was depicted as too weak and potentially breakable.

As amazing as this movie is, I must say that I am disappointed that one of my favorite quotes didn’t make it into the film.

“I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now, and live in it forever.”  -Peeta

“Okay.” -Katniss

Although some of my friends dismissed this as trivial and unimportant, I was sad that it didn’t make the cut. I believe that that day (when they have a picnic on the roof of the training center right before they enter the arena…again) was truly the turning point of their relationship and the beginning of Katniss’ metaphorical fall for Peeta.

For all the Liam Hensworth fans out there, I guarantee you will not be disappointed; Gale’s screen time is nearly equal to Peeta’s. One thing that differs from the book is the cause of the whipping of Gale. In the book, he is discovered by Peacekeepers with a dead wild turkey; in the movie, he attacks Head Peacekeeper Thread in order to protect the life of a Hobber. Even though I greatly favor the book, I believe that this decided change was representative of his character, and displayed his hate, “fire,” and volatility toward the Capitol.

We readers knew they would have to make some alterations when transferring the book to screen, and were frustrated to see Bonnie, Twill, and Darius be among those changes. Although, upon viewing, I agree that it was unnecessary for Katniss to have suspicions about District 13’s existence when nothing happens as a result of her knowledge until she’s told by Plutarch when traveling there. I also understand that introducing a lot of characters without the required back-stories would have made it difficult for nonreaders to understand.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet and are wondering, cut scenes include when the fence is electrified and Katniss hurts her ankle jumping from a tree, Katniss and Peeta’s day of bonding on the roof, Katniss’s wedding gown photo shoot and on-camera “talent” display, Peeta’s paintings, and the secret bread code.

Plutarch does not have mockingjay watch in the movie, although he does hint that he is loyal to the rebels by saying something along the lines of, “Well perhaps it was you that inspired me to step up [and become Head Gamemaker].”

The addition of the scenes between President Snow and Plutarch were honestly some of my favorites in the film. Because in the book we are limited to viewing only what Katniss does, in the movie we encounter the corrupt leaders discussing their strategies, which added suspense, emotion, and a deeper understanding of the President’s character that will be essential for nonreaders to comprehend Katniss’s reasoning at the resolution of Mockingjay.

In the movie, Effie gets a chance to say goodbye to Katniss and Peeta, whereas in the book, they pass the farewell along through Haymitch.

One addition to the movie that I really liked and appreciated was the incorporation of President Snow’s granddaughter. To me, her lines were the most memorable and emphasize on Katniss’s influence on the Capitol citizens. She is wearing her hair in Katniss’s signature side-Dutch braid when Snow asks her, “When did you start wearing your hair like that?” to which she responds, “Everyone at school wears their hair like this now.” After Peeta hits the force field and is brought back by Finnick, she states, “When I grow older, I want someone to love me like that.” This statement brought Snow to the realization that Katniss really did care about Peeta one way or another, which Katniss later commemorates in Mockingjay by saying something along the lines of, “It seems that I did convince him, and by doing so, I gave him the last tool he needed to break me.”

One factor that was partially included was Snow’s history of coming to power (the story of which could be included in Mockingjay). In the book, Katniss is horrified by the smell of blood on his lips when he whispers to her, “By the way, I know about the kiss,” (something that was omitted and replaced in the film by the use of holographic display). Also in the movie, Snow drinks from a goblet, and then back-washes blood, something I believe to be foreshadowing, an allusion of his death provided to the movie-viewing audience.

Catching Fire was truly unforgettable and I am unable to encompass how relieved I am that the director and producers didn’t abolish such an amazing sci-fi story with another futile attempt to “give the people what they want,” as their brethren have done with so many other incredible books.

In rapid summation, I present Catching Fire with ten stars (out of five…obviously).

I loved the movie but was extremely depressed upon the film’s conclusion and left the theatre sighing and thinking, “Well…only 364 more days until the release of Mockingjay Part 1…” And I continue to count down the days…

Overall, a great book transformed into a great movie.

A must see for both readers and nonreaders alike.

GO WATCH IT NOW.

{I apologize for any quotes that were not exactly spot-on; I was reciting them from memory.}

Did you see it? What did you think?

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Book vs. Movie: The Mortal Instruments

tmi_book_movieAll my friends and I are major fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, so it was no surprise that when The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie came out, we were thrilled. Despite the awful reviews of the movie, we decided to see it soon after it was released. I had expected the movie to be horrible based on the reviews, but it exceeded my expectations. It wasn’t as good as the book, but it was still an average movie.

The book tells the story of a girl living in New York named Clary Fray. She’s an extremely artistic girl with a sensitive best friend named Simon. One day, Clary and Simon go to a club. Clary sees a boy being murdered by a vicious girl and two other boys. No one else can see the murderous trio. Clary tries to forget about what she saw, but she sees one of the boys at a coffee shop the next day. At the same time, she gets a call from her frantic mother. Her mother tells her to stay away from her home.

Clary runs home to find her house completely ransacked; her mother gone. She encounters a crazed animal-like creature, which she manages to kill. She finds out that the boy she saw in the coffee shop is named Jace, and that he’s a Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters save mundanes, or regular humans, from demons that roam the world. Clary discovers that the most dreadful Shadownhunter, Valentine, has captured her mother. She is thrown into a world of vampires, Shadowhunters, demons, warlocks, werewolves, and faeries and needs to rescue her mother and a special cup that Valentine is after. The cup can create Shadowhunters but is very dangerous.

The movie was similar to the book, but there were some differences that can’t be ignored. The actors all fit the character descriptions very well. However, I wish the movie had been a bit more lighthearted. The book was really funny and had several light parts, but the movie was way too fast paced and serious. The romantic tension in the book was extreme in a good way, but in the movie it fizzled out quickly. I really liked the costumes that the characters had, and the man who played Simon (Robert Sheehan) acted really well.

Overall, the movie differed a bit from the book and was a little too gray, but for a diehard fan like me, it was enjoyable enough to recommend it to others.

-Rabani S., 9th grade

Book vs. Movie: Life of Pi

life_of_pi_book_vs_movieI saw this movie on the deck of a cruise ship during spring break in the Caribbean. Not exactly the ideal spot to watch a movie about a boat sinking in the ocean! But I loved the movie so much that when I got back from my break, I immediately began reading the book Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.

Watching the movie immediately drew me in to Pi’s world, and I just had to read the book! Let me just give you a taste of what this phenomenon is all about. Life of Pi tells the story of an Indian boy named Pi, who loves animals and God. His family decides to move to Canada, and on the way, their ship sinks leaving Pi on a lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a giant Bengal tiger. The second half of the book is about Pi’s struggles to survive in the middle of the ocean. Pi learns to abandon his vegetarian ways, train the tiger, and become a master shipman.

The story is dripping with imagery that is so vivid it will make your mouth water. Life of Pi is so powerful that I had dreams about giant whales, tigers, islands, lifeboats, and sunsets for practically a week! I have such an appreciation for Yann Martel because of Life of Pi. He is the most amazing author ever, and definitely deserves all of the awards he received!

In the movie Life of Pi, however, the ending is such a Hollywood ending that I feel bad for Yann Martel. Yann Martel specifically wrote the ending to show the brutal truth of life to the readers, and if you want to find out his lesson, then you’re just going to have to read it yourself! If I personally was directing the movie, I wouldn’t dream of changing the ending, because that is the whole point of the story. However, Ang Lee did do an amazing job because the scenery was beautifully artistic, casting was perfect, and computer graphics were out of this world, though, so I did still really love the movie, just not as much as the novel.
Anyways, I know that this review doesn’t even begin to express how amazing this story is, and it cannot possibly live up to Yann Martel in any shape or form. Life of Pi is the most amazing book I’ve ever read– literally, I found myself bawling my eyes out at some points! I want more than anything for everyone to read this book! You will never see tigers, humans, the ocean, animals, religions, or life the same ever again. Yann Martel strikes you with so much wonder and awe it is unbelievably breathtaking.

Please feel free to comment below as I know there will be many since this is such a renowned book!

-Kelsey H., 9th grade