Books · Films

The good, the bad and the downright pointless.

It’s a sad fact that changes are made to a book before being deemed acceptable for the big screen. Every adaptation has its time in the mangling machine. We’ve all had that favourite book-turned-film, sometimes it’s not up to scratch, sometimes it is. But it’s always been changed. A little. A lot. Despite liking the film, those changes stay with us.

I want to talk about these changes, The Maze Runner edition.

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I am soft on future dystopia (and YA) and loved James Dashner’s novels. Eager to see how it had survived the perilous trip from page to screen I took dragged The Boy to see The Maze Runner and it started me thinking about changes that novels undergo to become films.  For anyone unsure, The Maze Runner (hereafter TMR for ease) is the first installment of a YA post-apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy (plus prequels?).

I want to address some alterations to TMR while they’re fresh, as examples of the types of changes that are made. These seem mostly common to all adaptations. The good, the bad, and the what were you thinking, that bit’s important (Looking at you, HP6), that occurs.

There will be spoilers. There will be details about plots of film and book (and the other books). Also if you have neither read nnor seen TMR, this will probably make no sense.

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The change to simplify a plot (AKA “The Dumb It Down” Change.)

The main reason book-to-film changes are made is – I assume – to make it smoother and simpler for the ultimately shorter cinematic experience. With a mysterious, multifaceted story like TMR it’s presumably difficult, deciding what stays and goes. It’s all about confusion and problem solving through clues. It’s understandably impossible to recreate each relevant plot point or conversation. But which clues to keep? Which go? How many? A small issue with this film is that much of the clue-y “aha!” stuff is left by the wayside – the code to get out of the maze is reduced to section numbers in a specific order, rather than words spelled out in the nightly changes of the maze, or the simplification of the Gladers not having been given anti-griever serum until Teresa arrives, meaning one less facet to their community to explain to Thomas (and the audience) – the problem being it is almost in danger of being too simple, that the audience is all I don’t understand how that took them two years to solve. The answer is it didn’t. There was more.

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The Change that doesn’t change anything. (AKA The “I Guess That Plot Point Wasn’t Relevant at All” Change.)

Telepathy is scrapped. For film-only viewers, Thomas and Teresa are telepathic. On her awakening from her (considerably longer) coma their telepathy connects them emotionally, with them communicating a great deal via their minds.
Telepathy is hard to portray, I understand why it was binned. In an interview, the director – Wes Ball – said (paraphrasing) it would be Thomas and Teresa staring at each other with echoing voice-overs; ultimately a slow interjection in an otherwise fast-paced dramatic tone. While the cut should impact the film more, ultimately their telepathy is pretty unimportant to the longer plot. It’s a device used mainly to build and emphasise a close bond during the first book (which I always found odd, watch me emphasise these kids speaking mentally. How unusual and clearly important, now I’ll never properly make use of it again). While their film-relationship is marginally lost, the film does it’s best to connect them in the time it has. It’s often the character relationships that lose out in film development due to lack of time or skill to show a blossoming friendship and also keep the action-y plot moving.

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Changes that mess with future plots. (AKA The “I Think You’re Fudging Up Your Sequel” Change.)

Some changes can affect future (already-planned-for, talk-about-confident) sequels. One that raised my eyebrows was the illogical amount of end-game survivors. On watching I saw maybe eight? (They clearly didn’t fancy paying more extras). At the risk of sounding picky, I want to point out that this is twenty book-wise. Without too many spoilers, almost the entirety of the sequel features the Gladers thrown into another long, tortuous trial, spending most of it being horrifically killed to heighten the terror surrounding our heroes – essentially the only ones to survive the ordeal (naturally). If you enter the sequel with the main characters plus (maybe) three redshirts, how will that fit? Is everyone going to magically survive the killer lightning and bloodthirsty cranks? How dull will that be? It’ll surely be written around, but I’m not confident it’ll work.

Changes like these are my biggest book-to-film peeves, notably Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It’s petty and inconsequential, but it has always irritated me that the book is hidden in the Room of Requirement by Ginny instead of Harry (while they’re doing that weird completely-inappropriate-for-the-situation romantic thing). The fact that the plot had been so thoroughly planned throughout and that during the final book, Harry – and the reader – remembers the diadem, always delighted me. I would have loved seeing the clues JKR wrote into the books represented on screen. But I digress, that is a different matter entirely.

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The pointless change. (AKA The “WHY?” Change.)

The maze is round instead of square. Why? Whilst I’m not arguing, I don’t understand why that is necessary. Am I ignorantly unaware of a study finding that circles are infinitely cooler? The Glade is square but not the maze? I don’t understand why.

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W.I.C.K.E.D is changed to W.C.K.D. Vowels are offensive to audiences? Only a certain amount of page-space left? People pay less attention to two extra letters?

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The change that ends up more confusing. (AKA The “You Changed Part Of This Plot, Now It Makes No Sense” Change.)

I’d like to talk about Gally. While I thought his film-self was more sympathetic and well-rounded – he’s almost reasonable throughout, disagreeing but making solid points – this is partly a problem. Book-Gally is an unrelenting arse, angrily in Thomas’ face all the time and slightly manic due to already being stung by a griever and having some memories. He gets dragged off by greivers upon their first attack of the Glade. Although (wrongly) presumed dead he is found in W.I.C.K.E.D headquarters, where he reappears at the end to (be mind-controlled – this wasn’t represented. Will they just call him a murderer and not reveal his coercion?) kill Thomas.

This scenario is confusing because film-Gally is not taken. He’s present up until arguing with the heroes over leaving the Glade. He adamantly refuses to leave and is definitely staying put. Because that’s who his extra character development turned him into.

Miraculously then, he turns up at the end to kill Thomas, because that is a major unchangeable plot point. Unfortunately the two are perplexing and hard to reconcile.

In regards to this, The Boy turned to me at the end of the film and said “That guy went through all that on his own to get out of the maze…to tell them he doesn’t want to leave the maze?”

That is, essentially, how it comes across. It appears as if this character – who was prepared to kill our heroes rather than leave not twenty minutes ago – battles through all the grievers (that killed nearly all the unnamed extras) by himself, gets through the we-only-just-made-it-as-they-slammed-down stone walls from earlier, puts in the code only Minho knows and makes it to the lab…

…to tell Thomas not to leave?

They should have just had him taken away by monsters and come back frothing crazily. It would have resulted in less confusion.

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I really enjoyed TMR, though it may seem otherwise. Seeing a much-loved story represented on-screen makes me happy. I used this film to highlight changes all our favourite books go through to become movies, whether for better or worse.

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Have you had a favourite book-turned-film? Which changes stayed with you? Do they fall under any of the criteria I’ve split them up into?

HM.

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8 thoughts on “The good, the bad and the downright pointless.

  1. I don’t know Maze Runner, but oh, could I write about this topic. I like your categories, and I definitely know more than one movie to apply them to. Oh, film adaptations, the bane of my existence. I have, to this day, not found a single one I liked. I could fill entire books with complaints!

    I mean, just look at what they did to the Hobbit, which boyfriend is going to drag me to come December. That one is a mess! First of all, why blow it up to a three parter, that book is only 300 pages long, so this alone makes no sense. Then Peter Jackson apparently couldn’t decide on a target audience, so you have random funny crap for the kiddies and random dark crap for the adults. Then they added in some random happenings and characters that don’t further the story at all. Like that Elven Mary-Sue probably came from one of Peter Jackson’s fanfics he wrote when he was fourteen. Basically she’s just there to create a love triangle between her, Random Dwarf and Legolas. And if they now mess up the battle of the five armies I swear I’m going to go postal. Like, Tolkien wrote this book for his young children, there’s actually a lesson at the end, a quite important one, and if Jackson messes this up, well, let’s say a red sun will rise because blood will have been spilled that night.

    Ohhh…sorry for the mini-rant. Let’s just say I feel your pain. If anyone needs me I’ll be in the Angry Dome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Thanks! I might drag these categories back out again for the last Hunger Games. I do think they fit quite nicely to several movies!

      Oh I know your pain. I could do the same for HP, but nobody would thank me for it so I’ll refrain!

      Don’t even get me started on The Hobbit. It’s the strangest case of book-to-film in that they actively put random shit in it to make it longer rather than the other way around. It really does not need to be a trilogy. I doubt it even needed to be a two-parter. It’s all just a big plan to oil the money machine. I see it, and dammit if I’m not going to buy right into it and go see it anyway. I hope for your sake they’ve left the end alone!

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  2. I don’t read or watch science fiction as a rule and am unfamiliar with the film reviewed in your post, but like you, I place the Harry potter films (and books) in a category of their own. What I DO read is almost everything else in the way of fiction, and my long-time fave is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The first of these novels has at last hit the small screen in the form of a sixteen episode series. The novel itself is titled Outlander most everywhere, though in the UK where it is set, it is called Cross Stitch. The reason for the small screen treatment is to stay as faithful as possible to the epic tale that refuses to be categorised as historical fiction, romance, fantasy, adventure, sci-fi or any other name. I urge anyone who enjoys a good story with exceptional characters to give it a go. The beauty of it is that it is a nine-book series, with the ninth book just beginning the process of being written, with each instalment being at least 600 pages, some over 800. Plus, the Tv series has just begun and with the many thousands of fans throughout the world there is a very good chance of this becoming a regular thing for the next eight years. I know it is not a movie, but no three-hour movie could do it justice, as you have pointed out in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve just had a google of the Outlander series after you’ve mentioned it here, and boy, does that look good. Those books are definitely going on my to-read list, and I’m super grateful to you for pointing them out to me! 🙂
      I think that a TV series is most definitely a better route to go with some novels / series. It gives the producers a lot more time to be true to the story and the plots and – as you say – to do it justice. I think I’d have preferred to see a lot of my favourite books as TV series instead, to be able to get more deeply into them, rather than have it all changed, as I mentioned or just end up skimming the surface as per what normally occurs.

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  3. Yessssssssss, I’m so happy to see you delving into film review blogging! Welcome to the dark side. 🙂
    One of the few film adaptations of a book I enjoy is Silence of the Lambs. I may even like the movie a tad better…I just love Anthony Hopkins.
    I also loved that BBC mini-series of Jane Eyre from a few years ago, but HATED the movie with Michael Fassbender. And that’s a difficult thing for me to admit because I usually love him. Even with the mini-series, I am kind of confused as to why they cut out Jane’s teacher from the beginning. And I don’t know if you’re as Jane Eyre obsessed as I am, but there’s also a scene in which Mr. Rochester dresses up as a gypsy woman that is changed in almost EVERY adaptation I’ve seen.
    Okay, I’m done complaining. For now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Good, I’m glad you’re happy about it, I worried that I’d typecast myself already and didn’t want people thinking what is this, you’re a crafty blogger! I definitely love writing about books and films, there’ll be more!
      I’ve never actually seen Jane Eyre – or many period drama films / tv, stubbornly based on my teenage-girl mentality of never admitting to liking something my mother does as well – but it sounds like it’s changed as much as some of my favourites! Those confusing changes are maybe the worst, because if a change ruins a film but you can see the reason for it, at least you can try to understand the motivation behind it. It’s the ones that leave you going …but…but I just don’t understand why?! that are the most frustrating!

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  4. Though I’ve not read TMR yet (it’s on my recommended by friends list,) I love the point of the post. And I will definitely read the book and probably pass on the movie. Because it drives me nuts when, because of the limited story time, important plot elements are dropped and yet there is somehow time to put in completely unrelated material that was never in the book in the first place, a la Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. (Don’t get me started on that one–I’ll go into full blown rant mode.)

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