Do you still have the shakes from Hunger Games withdrawal? Have you still not seen it because you don’t like to follow the pack? Are you reading this from your mobile device as you wait for the trailers to begin on your umpteenth viewing? Whichever category you fall into, we thought you’d benefit from a different perspective of the film, from the authors of the next book-to-movie adaptations you’ll probably get hooked on. On Monday, we gave you Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s fangirl review. Here’s a review from Maggie Stiefvater, whose books The Scorpio Races, Shiver and the upcoming The Raven Boys are published by Suzanne Collins’ home, Scholastic. And yes, the former two have been optioned by movie studios.
I don’t think you have any idea how many movie trailers have horses in them. Next time you go to the theater, count. I will spoil it for you: there are a million. I never realized this until my latest novel, The Scorpio Races, got optioned by Warner Brothers and KatzSmith Productions. It’s about an island where people race deadly Irish water horses that emerge from the November sea. Of all my novels, it’s the one I most imagined as a movie, and now that it’s been optioned, every trailer with a horse in it becomes an imaginary trailer for The Scorpio Races.
It gets exhausting.
Last weekend, I went to see The Hunger Games. They showed two trailers with horses in them. Through both of them, my husband looked at me knowingly. My I-wish-those-were-my-killer-water-horses face is easy to identify. Once I got past the fact of the horses, I could get down to my other two movie hobbies.
1) Obsessing about the mood
2) Picking at the edges
I adore book-to-film adaptations when they’re done well, and I’m more lenient than many readers when it comes to what counts as “done well.” For me, the most important thing is that the film maintains the spirit of the original book. I don’t mind if names are changed, plot bits are simplified, horses are added or subtracted — it just needs to feel the same. It’s my number one fear as an author (aside from dying in obscurity). Oh, filmmakers, please don’t take my soft book and turn it into a horror, or take my horror and make it soft.
Count me exceptionally pleased with the mood of the Hunger Games movie. It was so eerily close to how I pictured it as a reader, in fact, that it was more like two hours of deja vu than proper movie-watching. Some scenes — remember the tracker jackers and Peeta’s camouflaging? — were so close that it was unnerving. FILMMAKERS IN MY BRAIN.
Which brings me to my other obsession: edges. Especially when a movie is set in an unfamiliar world — like The Hunger Games, set in an unrecognizable future, or The Scorpio Races, set on a North Sea island in the first half of the twentieth century — I want to know how the filmmakers are managing to sell me on the setting. I look at the costumes of the extras. I squint at the edges of sets. I close my eyes and listen to the musical cues to hear how they’re manipulating my emotions. I focus on the elements of a movie that are meant to invisibly affect me as a viewer. The edges. As an author, I’m aware of how the subconscious things can pluck at a reader’s emotions, and I love it when filmmakers do the same.
Oh, does The Hunger Games pay attention to the edges. When you go and see it (because you will, if you’re a reader, because it will give you everything you desire), or when you go and see it again, this time pay attention to the edges. The details are all taken care of: the expressions of the extras, the coherency of the Capitol architecture, the subtlety of the acting (when Jennifer Lawrence [Katniss] shook with fear before entering the arena, she echoed what every person in the theater was feeling). Basically, as a viewer, I trusted the movie.
Oh, please, filmmakers. Do that for The Scorpio Races, please.
Only, put in more horses.
Especially in the trailer.
For more of Maggie Stiefvater’s musings and news on her books, check out her blog.