Book to Screen

Why must 90% of conversions from novel to film be so abysmally bad ? Sure there’s some greats like Carrie and The Shining, both of which cut great amounts from the novels but still managed to respect the source material. More modern than those two classics would be the Lord of the Rings series, or the Harry Potter series, both of which were brought to screen with a fantastic job made of them.

So why is it for every Harry Potter there’s a Tom Clancy series ? I’m a big fan of the Tom Clancy Ryanverse novels, but so far we’ve had Alec Baldwin (average), Harrison Ford (great), and Ben Affleck (awful) all playing Jack Ryan. We’ve had four movies, all presented in the wrong order, which is exactly  why people can’t think of it as a series. If the Harry Potter books had been shot in the wrong order with different characters, it wouldn’t have done half as well at the box office.

So there’s this series of novels, Lee Child’s Jack Reach series, that I love. They’re not deep thinkers, being the book equivalent of an action movie, but they are incredible enjoyable with a great main character. On Lee’s site they’ve been talking about turning one of the books into film, a proposition that made me anxious, would they do a good job ?

The first disappointment was the announcement that it would be the book One Shot that was getting made. This book comes about halfway through the series, and i felt was one of the weaker books. The first book Killing Floor would have been much better, its a far stronger story, and it’s the first book in the series ! I can though put my feelings aside here, there isn’t much in the novels that changes start to finish, so there is always the possibility that this would open the door for some of my favourite books in the series to be made at a later date. I am left with mixed feelings about this point.

So taken from wikipedia, here’s a description of Jack Reacher.

Reacher is a giant, standing at 6′ 5″ tall (1.96m) with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (100–115 kg). He has ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair. He has very little body fat and his muscular physique is completely natural (he reveals in Persuader, he has never been an exercise enthusiast.) He is exceptionally strong but is not a good runner.[3] Reacher is strong enough to break a man’s neck with one hand (Bad Luck and Trouble) and kill a villain with a single punch to the head (61 Hours) or chest (Worth Dying For). In a fight against a 7 foot, 400 lb steroid using thug, Reacher was able to lift his opponent into the air and drop him on his head.

Does this sound like Tom Cruise to anyone else ? No ? I do understand that there are some practicalities that have to be taken into account. A big name like Cruise will draw people and increase revenue. It’ll make the studios happy that their investment is safe. It’ll get the movie made. It’s just incredibly disappointing. He’s turning into Robert Downey Jr’s character from Tropic Thunder, dying his skin to get the role as a coloured person. Maybe next they’ll cast him as Andre the Giant.

Maybe they’ll have changed the novel to screenplay so much it’ll be Reacher in name alone, then we can all pretend it had nothing to do with the books. At least until the sequel comes out.