from The Houston Chronicle

There’s an art to translating books into movies


The Lovely Bones arrives in movie theaters Friday. Fans of Alice Sebold’s book will see it in a new light: as part of an old Hollywood tradition that turns beloved books into major motion pictures.

It’s a tradition with mixed results.

“When we deal with adaptation movies, we always compare the movie to the book,” says Karen Fang, who teaches film studies and literature at the University of Houston. “But that’s not the way the film industry thinks about the issue. The industry is only interested in what’s going to make money.”

To studios, adaptations are presold commodities.

“That’s the pitch,” Fang says. “A filmmaker says, ‘I want to makeLord of the Rings. It will be expensive, but there are millions of Tolkienites out there.’ ”

We all know how that turned out. And that example brings up a good point.

“The movie business today is being transformed by Computer Generated Imagery,” or CGI, Fang says. “The big arena for adaptation isn’t adult movies but movies based on children’s books.”

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Coraline and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

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