As a one-line summary of Part I of the rant, my theory is that a movie adaptation of a book can be successful if it stays true to the intention of the story and the integrity of the characters.
But the reactions of those who read the books were positive (at least, in the theater where I saw the movie). It seemed the filmmakers figured out a way to both honor that promise of a twist and stay true to the story.
Now, let's look at a series where that wasn't the case (in my opinion). In the most recent adaptations of "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, there were some problems. That's probably not news to you.
But I seem to have a different view of the three movies than others. Please, allow me to explain.
The first movie, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", was... well, okay. It wasn't great. There were some problems with the characters, but it wasn't horrible. The second movie, "Prince Caspian", was the worst of the three, in my opinion. The filmmakers compromised both the integrity of the characters and the intention of the story. In the book, Peter and Caspian were both so honorable, but in the movie, they were selfish, dishonorable jerks, more interested in a you-know-what measuring contest than in leading. A story that so aptly conveyed the themes of honor and self-sacrifice became a story about overcoming your own egocentric nature, which is great for a self-help book, but wasn't the intention of the original story.
Then you have the third movie, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", and this is where my opinion seems to diverge from the popularly accepted one. I believe this is the best of the three and a true representation of C.S. Lewis's work. Yes, the plot was changed, but the book was so episodic, it doesn't translate well to a script's formulaic structure. I never expected the story to remain exactly the same, only for its intention - its theme and higher purpose - to shine through. And Dawn Treader did a beautiful job of it. The characters suffer the same pitfalls as those in the book, and they learn the same lessons. The traditional Narnian themes of self-sacrifice, honor, loyalty and bravery are all intact.
Furthermore, the integrity of the characters isn't compromised. Caspian is the king he needs to be, Eustace becomes the boy he ought to be and the younger Pevensey children fulfill their destinies as the legendary rulers of Narnia. Sure, the characters have their ups and downs (as in the book) but when push comes to shove, they know their purposes and put the greater good before themselves.
I know a lot people adamantly disliked the plot change, but I didn't really mind. The alterations were necessary for the medium. The intention of the story and the integrity of the characters were true, and that's what I wanted. And if my books ever make it to the big screen, those are the two expectations I'll have for filmmakers. Change my plot, merge characters together, cut some sub-plots to fit the 2 hour time limit... But keep the intention and integrity. That's all I ask.
Anyway, I got back from the movie very late last night, and I'm not sure I'm making much sense. Sleep deprivation does that. So I'm less interested in my own rambling and more interested in your thoughts. What do you look for in an adaptation? If you write books, what expectations will you have when - oh, dream of dreams - your book makes it to Hollywood?