In 2015, one hundred and seventeen films were released in the United States. Out of this total, sixty-five were based on books. This amounts to about fifty-five percent of all films. Chances are more than likely that this year you and many people you know went and saw a movie that was based on a book you loved in years past. Despite the fact that film and novel interaction is increasingly popular, audiences seem to have trouble deciding if they appreciate their favorite novels traveling mediums to the big screen.
One popular element of national movie theaters this year has been the remake of Stephen King’s It. Originally published in print in 1986, It was popular from it’s birth. Thousands of copies of the novel have been sold, and in the 1990’s, was made into a miniseries. The novel tells the stories of several children, who grow up under the terrifying reign of the being It, a monster who takes the form of their biggest fears and frightens them to near death. Stephen King’s work is primarily set in the 1950’s, and features plenty of gore and death. When one of the main characters, Bill, decides to research his enemy, it is revealed that Pennywise the clown is the manifestation of a group of orange lights. The birth of the universe and the meaning of life itself are explored throughout the novel. These seem like major components of the plot, yet are left out of the 2017 remake almost entirely.
The movie remake allows many more characters to survive than the novel, and the bright orange lights that play such a large role on paper are seen for just a few seconds; their meaning is never explored in depth as they are in the novel. Although the film features less death than the novel, violence is still prevalent, as Georgie’s arm is rather savagely bitten off, rather than torn off by the clown lurking in the sewer like it was in the book. Blood and pain stake a claim over the characters in the film, just as they did in the novel. Despite some major differences, audiences everywhere have been giving positive feedback, excitedly waiting for the film’s impending sequel.
The success of this film is somewhat uncommon for remakes; many people that attend theaters in hopes of seeing their favorite literary characters on the big screen often leave angry and disappointed at the lack of justice the film does for their beloved novels. This poses the question; what influences screenwriters to alter components of the plot of successful novels? Additionally, what makes for a successful alteration versus a disappointing one? Some believe that it is simply unfair to compare novels exploring the differences between novel and film, it seems as though the producers of 2017’s It made stylistic choices in order to help the plot flow easily. Rather than cut back and forth from adult characters to children, the film follows the juvenile cast in a linear way, making the potentially confusing, mystical world easier to understand. Whereas Stephen King had literary devices at his disposal to switch back and forth between time frames, the film likely would have had to incorporate voice overs, flashbacks, and other tropes in order to help the audience follow along.
Not only are the methods of communicating plot different in films and novels, the medium of illustration is an obvious difference. Length comes into play, as books have an almost unlimited amount of space to tell their story, whereas movies have to keep things contained to a concise hour or two. This allows for less detail, and screenwriters have to pick through the plots of their novels for the important pieces. Sticking entirely to the 1000+ page script of King’s novel would have made for an extremely lengthy movie.
Rather than travel back and forth in time, instilling fear wherever It went, 2017’s It was able to follow the quest of a group of children facing their fears and uniting against a clown that was out for blood. In my opinion, the modern remake of a classic novel successfully portrayed the fear that the 1950’s version of the clown aimed to instill in the audience. Although the film was less complex than King’s original work, the promise of a sequel reassures moviegoers and bookworms alike that the elements of the novel that they missed in this year’s movie may make an appearance when the next installment comes out.