This weekend I saw The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The movie is based on the first book in the five book series, The Olympian by Rick Riordan. As usual the movie changed A LOT of things. Some changes displeased me others garnered a shoulder shrug. One thing they changed that lingered with me was the ending. It wasn't a huge departure from the book, but it included different elements which diluted it. While I pondered my thoughts and feelings regarding the alterations, I recalled two conversations I had earlier in the weekend about changing book endings. My friend said the ending to Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks, underwent surgery before its movie debut. And then we discussed the—what I consider to be a bad change—makeover to My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Piccoult. One of my friends was (is still) livid about the change. Yet, another friend appreciated the Sister’s alteration.
Regardless of your like or dislike of the final results, it’s clear, directors/screen writers make over book endings. They take a powerful and often ironic ending and smooth it out, inject it with collagen (add weirdness), or chop it off (yikes!). I know to expect it going in, but I always scratch my head. I mean, millions of people bought and read the book. Millions fell in love with the book’s the teary or ironic ending. Thousands discussed the ending in book clubs or at the water cooler. And each person survived it. Yet, directors go for the more ‘model perfect’ ending.
Do they think the average movie goer will throw popcorn at the screen if they don’t get a happy ending? I guess they could. But the readers survived it. Maybe the difference lies in the fact that movies are threaded plot points. In contrast, books are threaded plot AND story points, making them richer, more colorful. The reader watches the threads being woven together. The reader can sense the inevitability, the flaw in the pattern. By flaw I mean they see the pattern is not creating a perfect picture of doves, rainbows and sunshine. This is the best theory, reason I can muster.
What are your thoughts about book endings receiving a movie makeover?