I don't trust movie adaptations of beloved books for three reasons. First, when journeying to a place via film, I lose three of my senses — I can't smell or taste or touch the way my imagination enables me to when I'm reading. Second, scenes communicating nuances of character are cut lest what delights the reader becomes excruciating for the viewer. And finally, movies don’t give the reader or the plot freedom to slow down.
Case in point: the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Reading the book, I finger the thick, green vines in Fangorn Forest, smell the evil reek in the valley of Mordor, and taste the hearty flavor of simmering mushrooms – thanks to the dialectic between Tolkien's words and my imagination.
One of my favorite scenes is when Aragorn’s self-denial extinguishes the simmering bitterness between Legolas and Gimli. This pivotal, revelatory interaction between three major characters doesn't appear in the movie. There’s simply no room for it.
As reader, I journey with Frodo and Sam through arduous, frightening passages, knowing that we will rest in places like Tom Bombadil's candle-lit dining hall. We will feast, bathe, sleep, and steel ourselves for the next episode of fear or battle. In the movie, I'm rushed with the characters from one adrenaline-inducing scene to the next. No time for reflection or recovery in a screen hero's journey.
Don't get me wrong. I love the dimming of lights, the big music, the rustle of popcorn — these cues herald the relaxing experience of expert entertainers drawing me into their stories. Just don't commandeer one of my beloved books and claim you’ve successfully squeezed it into the tight space of a film. Movie adaptations should come with a warning: "The story could not be edited to fit your movie screen. Read the book FIRST." Let's hope the people at Disney and Walden will shock my curmudgeonly socks off when I see the movie.