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The Movie Adaptation

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that my favorite book is Watership Down. I love it so much I got a tattoo of it.

When I tell people my favorite book is Watership Down, I usually get one of the following reactions:

  • Oh, I love that book! (Hello, soul sister. Let's be friends forever!)

  • Never heard of it. (This one break my heart a little.)

  • Is that the one with the rabbits? (Yup! But it's also about so much more!!!)

  • Haven't read it, but I watched the movie. It was disturbing. (You bet it was.)

And that's the problem. Watership Down was originally published in 1972, and while it is marketed as a children's book, it's dark. Very dark. It deals with big themes. Death, betrayal, humanity (or is that rabbitity?) and while the movie (1978) does follow the book pretty well, it somehow misses the bigger messages of hope and loyalty and the value of life. It's just... creepy.

So, when I heard that BBC was releasing a new mini-series adaptation of the book, at first I though, "Oh, heck yeah! I will be there!"

Then I got to thinking...

Do I want this book that has meant so much to me for most of my life adapted to film at all? Do I trust another person's interpretation of the work to match my own, or to at least coincide well enough for me to enjoy the work? Don't get me wrong, I think it looks amazing. And they have a killer cast, including none other than Ben Kingsley as the very un-rabbity leader of Efrafa, General Woundwort. But still, do I watch it?

And it's not just Watership Down that I've struggled with. Hulu released A Handmaid's Tale a couple years ago, and I debate for almost nine months about watching it. I did eventually watch the first season, thought it was very good, very well made, but I couldn't commit to the second. Why? Because the book ended at the same place as the first season. Anything after that felt like a betrayal. Like it wouldn't be the story I know, the one I experienced as a high school freshman who got talked into reading it for my very first book report, an oral book report at that, thanks to my mom. Though her argument was sound, every woman should read A Handmaid's Tale, I'm not sure standing up in front of a group of your peers who you only met three weeks earlier and talking about it is the best intro into high school.

And it's not just these books where the film or TV adaptation makes me nervous. I also skipped out on the second season of 13 Reasons Why, for the same reason. The Harry Potter films, while entertaining, fall short of the books in so many ways. And don't even get me started on the grave disappointment that was Game of Thrones, where the TV series did so well, the author just gave up on writing the books. (Seriously, any of you holding out hope he's actually going to finish that series? Because you shouldn't.)

All of it makes me understand why J.D. Salinger refused any and all movie deals for his work. Not that I think I'll ever be as well-known as Salinger, but a girl can dream.

And truly, I'm not writing off all film adaptations. There are some very amazing ones out there, not the least including the Lord of the Rings trilogy which I liked *ahem* better than the books.

So, thoughts? Should I watch it? Or should I skip it and savor the Watership Down I already know and love. The book.