Book Adaptations and Real World Filming Locations

The visuals authors describe in their novels often reaches stunning levels, particularly with fantasy fiction. With stunning backdrops to breathtaking stories, it can be hard to bring new worlds to life on screen. Sometimes, the individuals behind television shows and films decide to use studios and computer-generate imagery to bring the story locations to life. However, quite a few also choose to employ locations in our real world. Sometimes, they do not change the original location at all. Other times, they choose to enhance the real location with CGI.

Many of these adaptations show stunning locations around our world. Just looking at the pictures is enough to spark wanderlust in just about everyone.

I have compiled a list of some of the real world locations for some iconic moments in film and television adaptations of books. Let your travel bug awaken.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is located in Northumberland, England. It has appeared as a location in films and television shows many different times. Perhaps the most famous appearance, however, is as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films. You can catch in scenes like Harry’s first flying lesson and the crash landing of the Ford Anglia.

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So that is what it looks like on film, but what about when no crews are around? The castle is still majestic, of course. This is what you will see if you visit:

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Mount Ngauruhoe

Mount Ngauruhoe, for those who may not know, is an active stratovolcano on the North Island of New Zealand. Its first eruption was 2500 years ago. Its latest eruption was in 1977.  It is part of the Tongariro volcanic complex, and sits between Mount Tongariro to the North and Mount Ruapehu to the south. It is also close to the southern short of Lake Taupo, the volcanic caldera.

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This is what it looked like in May 2015 when I stood there in New Zealand, staring at it with my own two eyes. Let me tell you, that sight took my breath away. Why? Not only is that an amazing sight in itself, but I had done research and it told me that Mount Ngauruhoe is a famous volcano, though you may not know it. Peter Jackson used this volcano in the three Lord of the Rings films as Mount Doom (though they also filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu). It looked like this in the films:

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Astonishing, right?

Tawahi Falls

Tawhai Falls is in Tongariro National Park, as are the volcanoes I just talked about. The falls are simple and many may say unassuming in the grand scheme of things. However, one of the attendants at the hotel my family stayed at (Chateau Tongariro) mentioned that we could walk to Tawhai Falls and that they were used in The Lord of the Rings as The Forbidden Pool, which is where Gollum catches his fish, sings the song, and where Frodo looks down on him with Faramir.

In real life, it looks like this:

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This is what it looks like in the film:

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Azure Window, Malta

I have never been to Malta, but sights like the Azure Window really make me wish to go. Of course, the fact that a portion of my heritage is Maltese may also have something to do with it. Although the Azure Window is not, as far as I am aware, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I do know that Malta has three of them, including an entire city.

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So where might you have seen the Azure Window before, even if you have never been to Malta? In the ever popular Game of Thrones television series on HBO! They used it as a backdrop in the first season, for Daenerys’ and Khal Drogo’s wedding. This is what they showed onscreen:

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It is not that far off from the way it looks in reality, is it? Just a bit dustier, in my view.

Mdina

I could give you quote a few locations within Mdina—Malta’s Silent City—that Game of Thrones used. In the first season, Mdina was the onscreen representation for most of King’s Landing. I do not know that there is one location more important than the other, but for this article I will share one iconic one. The Mdina gates were the entrance into King’s Landing, and the location where Ned and Catelyn said goodbye.

In real life, they look like this:

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In the show, they appeared like this:

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There are countless real world filming locations out there, of course, and I could not include all of them on my list. I stumbled across another Lord of the Rings filming location in New Zealand (the fields of Rohan) and I very nearly included Skellig Michael Island on this list, which appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But of course, that one was not an adaptation, so I had to take it out. Nevertheless, I think this list shows just a fraction of the beauty our world contains.

Out of this list, where do you want to go the most? Have you been to one of these locations? What was it like there? I want to hear all about it! Have you visited other real world locations from your favourite films?  Tell me about those ones as well!

Return To Magic: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Review

niffler-fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them

So, here we are, with a return to the wizarding world no one could have seen coming. If you were like me, you thought your journey to the wizarding world ended with the release of the final Harry Potter movie. Any journey after that was simply a return. You were revisiting the stories and the characters, but there were no new words to digest. Sure, you may have learnt new things, but the core material was still the same.

I think this is why I was so excited about the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Everyone who knows me, even a little, knows I love Harry Potter. Those close to me have a bit of a better idea just how much. Essentially, it boils down to my belief that I would not be the person I am today had I not read the Harry Potter novels when I was young.

My love for Harry Potter, however, has made me nervous about any additional forays into that world. While I so hoped I would love The Cursed Child—I did not. So even though I was very excited for Fantastic Beasts, a small part of me was nervous that I would not like it. This, I think, would have really hurt.

I need not have worried. I was hooked from the moment the film started. The flashes, the music…the magic. I would not have changed it. Well, okay, this is not strictly true. There is one thing I might change if I could, but I am trying to enjoy this world. But I will get to that a little later.

After watching the film and reading the script, I have concluded that Eddie Redmayne was the perfect choice for Newt Scamander. I would not want to change him out for anyone. From my research since, I discovered some people wanted Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor) to play the role, but I think Newt would have appeared too much like the Doctor that way. I mean, technically those similarities still exist, but with Matt in the role they would have been overwhelming. This would have taken me out of the magic of the film if I saw Matt on the screen. I am sure he would have been good, but I would still choose Eddie over him.

Eddie disappeared into this role. When I watched the film, I was not watching him. I was watching Newt.

Newt Scamander is a wonderful character. I love his quiet, awkward nature. The way he acts around people is the way I feel, whether I show it or not. But beyond that, I love how he cares for these magical creatures. His interactions onscreen are astonishing. His kindness and desire to show other wizards they should not kill or even fear the creatures is…captivating. I need to withhold my final judgment until I see more of Newt, but at this point, I think I can safely assume he is among my favourite characters in the wizarding world. Only time will tell if he takes the top spot.

The magical creatures themselves were stunningly made. I love the Niffler—he was hilarious—as well as Pickett, the bowtruckle (there is a great moment near the end with Pickett). There are, of course, other fantastic beasts in the film. All of them live up to my imagination.

This film raised many theories both about aspects of Harry Potter canon I already know as well as about some pieces about the future of this film franchise. I will probably come up with more the longer I think about the film and, let’s face it, read the script multiple times. I am so tempted to return to the theatre to watch the film a second time—something I have never done before. The magic, my friends, was that strong.

Now for the final thing I want to mention about the movie. I would write more, but I could probably go on forever and I want to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. However, in order for me to explain the last bit well, I do have to spoil part of the film. If you do not want to know anything (though I suspect you have likely seen the movie if you are still reading), stop now (do not scroll past the picture).

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

A few days before I saw the film, I found out that Johnny Depp would be in the movie in a mystery role. Of course, as we know, the role was revealed not long after. This is where the spoiler comes: Johnny Depp is playing Gellert Grindelwald. From what I gather, this will be quite the big role in the remaining four Fantastic Beasts films. This one took place in 1926, and I heard these films will take us to 1945. If that year sounds important to you in terms of the Harry Potter universe, it should. That is the year Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald. So, I imagine the backdrop behind all of these films will be of Grindelwald and the wizarding war he caused.

I have no issues with Grindelwald being in the films. The issue I have is with Johnny Depp’s casting. I have been a fan of his work—particularly Pirates of the Caribbean—in the past, but there are still two issues. One, I am struggling with how to react and what to believe regarding the media storm with him and Amber Heard. My feelings on that are too complicated to discuss here, but I know they have at least made me a little uncomfortable with him in these movies, regardless of the true story behind the media storm.

The other thing is I am nervous about how his style of acting will apply to Grindelwald as a character. As another dark wizard, I see him as being quite similar to Lord Voldemort, and I just do not see Depp as a good fit for Grindelwald as Ralph Fiennes was as Voldemort. With all of this said though, I am hopeful I do not see Johnny Depp on my screen when I watch the future Fantastic Beasts films. I hope I only see Grindelwald, a terrifying dark wizard.

 

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them yet? What did you think of it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

From Page To Screen: Book To Movie Adaptations

I have a complicated relationship with the onscreen adaptations of the books I have read. Just remembering how they treated Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is appalling to me. However, I have since come to realize that I have to treat the adaptations as their own thing. They cannot mean the same to me, otherwise I will never be happy with what I see on screen.

So with that said, I still carefully consider the adaptations I see onscreen. My first rule, of course, is that I need to read the book before watching the movie, if I know ahead of time that a particular movie is an adaptation. I do also like to see how well they have translated the book onto the screen, whether it is a literal translation or simply translating the essence of the book. I had to expand it to include the essence, because as I have said I need to treat the book and the movie as separate things and sometimes something in the book cannot be done literally for one reason or another.

Without further ado, I would like to present you with my top book to movie adaptations (in no particular order). I would like to note that I am not grouping together major series, but rather picking my favourite adaptation from the series. Make sense? Let’s go!

The Return of the King

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I think that all three of the movies are good, but I find The Return of the King comes out on top when I think about all three. It surprises me a little, since it has the most to live up to in my opinion, since the final volume is my favourite in the books. However, it also does not surprise me.

One of the major things I love is how Peter Jackson chose to intersplice the stories. You may not remember, but in the books Tolkien essentially split his books into two parts per volume. So in The Return of the King, we had Frodo and Sam’s story told in one half, and the rest in the other. In the film, Peter Jackson chose to shorten the moments and flit between them more often. While this can get confusing in certain cases, it did not in The Return of the King. The best thing it did, in my opinion, was to avoid spoiling parts of the future for the other side of the story.

Of course I cannot pass up the opportunity to talk about Éowyn again. The way they handled her shining moment in battle, along with the build up to it, was amazing. Of course, it is not quite like the book version of events, but I rather enjoyed the way they did it anyways.

The Princess Bride

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I think that The Princess Bride is one of the ones perfect for adapting. You may not know this, but the book version of it actually has the author integrated into the story. He notes that his grandfather only told him the interesting parts of the story and left out the “boring” bits. As such, he created an abridged version of the book, which fits really good with a movie version. There are, of course, still some differences, but I still think that the movie works.

You have so many iconic lines in the book, many of which appear almost exactly in the film version. You actually do not get that much anymore in films. If you are lucky, you might get one line. It is not necessary, of course, but I think it shows quality when the film manages to keep exact lines while maintaining the pace an essence of a written story.

The Green Mile

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I remember I saw this film years ago, and I do not remember the book much. I am actually not sure if I read it? I must have though. I guess I should take the time to do so again?

The sheer emotion in this film is astounding. The story, if you are not aware, is about a corrections officer in 1935 and what he saw on death row. The supernatural element to this adaptation is handled quite well. I liked how the movie itself was long, I think just over three hours, because a lot of time passes in the story. It makes things seem more real than if they had tried to back everything in two hours or less. Honestly, you should give this movie a shot. You will not regret it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Out of all the films in the Harry Potter series, I think that they did the best with The Prisoner of Azkaban. I would have picked the two Deathly Hallows films, but it would not be fair to count them on this list. I would have to treat them separately, and I do not believe either would make it as one half of a story.

I think that the only significant flaw in this film is how they treated the Firebolt portion of the story. In the books, it comes into play earlier rather than right at the end. It gives the Trio some conflict and other portions of the story develop from that. However, the visuals in this film and the way Alfonso (the director) presents the rest of the story make up for most of that. I love how they show the Whomping Willow, the Dementors, freezing flowers, et cetera.

 

I am sure that I could pick others for this list, but I thought I would cap it there. Keep in mind that I have not seen every single adaptation, and because of that there could be some gems on this list. I would love to get some recommendations on new things to read and watch! Make sure you provide the information for the book, because as I said, I like to read them first.

Live Boldly. Live Well. Just Live.

“You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

I don’t think I have ever posted about a book twice on this blog, but I wanted to…no, I needed to in this case. Today, the trailer for the movie adaptation of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes was released. If you have not seen it yet, take the time now and follow this link to YouTube to watch it before continuing.

Caught up? Okay, I can keep going now.

When I read this book last year in August, I was floored. It is not often that I come across a novel that affects me in the way as Me Before You. I remember posting something in that particular post about books just being okay more often than not. By okay I mean I like them, but the ones that stick with me and never really go away do not come around that often. I guess it makes them all the more special when they do.

I still stand by my initial assessment of Me Before You, and if you have not read the book already I highly suggest you do. Even if you do not normally read books, I would recommend you read this one. I think it is extremely unlikely that you will walk away feeling nothing. I will not repeat my full review of the book, but if you wish to read a little bit about it, without major spoilers, head over to my post from August called Me Before You: Two People, Six Months.

There are a couple things that make me nervous about the film adaptation, which is released in June 2016. The first things is the same feeling I get with any film adaptation: Will it live up to the book? I believe I always fall on the side of the book is better. I do not expect this to change for this adaptation, but there is a difference between a good adaptation and a terrible one. However, I am comforted by two things: the trailer and the author. Yes, the trailer can lie, however it immediately sparked emotions in me. However, the fact that JoJo Moyes wrote the screenplay for this book assures me that, while some parts may be left out or condensed, the essence of the novel and story will still remain.

The second element that has me a bit nervous is how Sam Claflin is going to play Will Traynor (technically he has already, but I digress). By that I mean is Will Traynor is a quadriplegic, and in his case, he cannot move his arms or legs. Essentially, Will can only move his head. I say in his case because, from a brief search, the specific outcome can vary and you can find cases where the individual could move their arms but not their fingers. I do not know too much about that though, so do not quote me on the details.

However, Sam Claflin is obviously not a quadriplegic, and most of the roles I have seen him in have been quite athletic type roles. Here, he is extremely limited in what he will be able to do with his body to help his performance. Not that it needs help, but it is very different and very difficult, I would imagine, to portray something of this nature.

This element also has some comfort attached to it. Articles I read today have indicated that Sam did quite a lot of research regarding the disabled community in order to try to understand what they go through. Additionally, there are a couple seconds in the trailer that tell me he is very expressive with his face even without saying a single word.

Despite my nerves, I look forward to the day when I can step inside the theatre and watch what I believe will be a fantastic film. I am not nearly ready for it, nor will I be on that day, but I will be there.

And if you need another reason to read the book and watch the film:

“All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful. I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world.” 

Did The Force Really Awaken?

Note: There are spoilers after the picture, so do not read if you have not seen the film.

Another note: why have you not seen the film yet?

"I am no Jedi, but I know the Force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes... feel it... the light... it’s always been there... it will guide you. The saber, take it."
“I am no Jedi, but I know the Force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes… feel it… the light… it’s always been there… it will guide you. The saber, take it.”

There are two sides to the coin regarding how I feel about this film. The first side: I loved it. I love this film so much that I have had at least one thought about it each day since I saw it. I saw the film on December 22nd, 2015. I am writing this on January 12th, 2016. The second side to the coin is this: as much as I love this film, it makes me almost as equally nervous about what is to come based on certain aspects showcased in this film.

However, I will get to that.

I will be the first one to admit that I do not remember watching the original trilogy or the prequel trilogy growing up. I have mentioned this to many people, and probably did on here as well. Despite not having a memory of watching these films, I still knew everything about the story. At least, I remembered the major points.

In the days leading up to watching The Force Awakens, I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. Now I can say that I have distinct memories of watching these ones. What you can glean from all of this is that I was not one of the major Star Wars nerds growing up.

I do not know that it matters. In some respects maybe, but on the whole…no.

I still enjoyed the story from the previous films. The characters were great, and like anyone, I obviously have my favourites. Overall, I think they are great films. The Force Awakens is no different.

My favourite thing about this film is Rey. I am exhilarated to see a main female character in a movie like this. Yes, we did have Princess Leia in the original trilogy, but she was not the same as Rey is in this film. Watching her scavenge and struggle to survive…refusing to give up BB-8 for food, even after that major temptation. Rey is inspiring. She has faced criticisms, which I will address at some point in another post, but I think it comes down to this: Rey has the potential to be a hero for girls around the globe. I pray that the next two films exhibit a lot of character growth for her. I have so much to say about her that I am planning to write Rey her own feature post.

One of my other favourite things about this film was Han Solo. Specifically, I loved seeing him and Chewbacca step onto the Millennium Falcon for their first appearance. I loved their interactions throughout and the witty banter that came along with those interactions.

Now, of course, I have to address one of the two most heart-wrenching things about this movie. Weirdly enough, someone on the Internet spoiled it for me the night before I saw The Force Awakens. There is a story behind it, but it someone spoiled it for me on something that had absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars. It is this:

Kylo Ren, born Ben Solo, kills Han Solo with a lightsaber strike through the chest.

Despite only gaining a strong memory about the original trilogy shortly before watching this one, I was always familiar with Han Solo, and watching those films just gave me more of that. I loved this scruffy-looking nerf herder…and I have to mention Harrison Ford as the actor behind him, no? He brings so much to all his characters, and his performance in this film, though not as large as some, was great. I think that there was sense of nostalgia with his presence, particularly with his entrance onto the Millennium Falcon and reunion with Leia. I have since heard he had suggested Han’s death in the original trilogy, so it makes sense that it comes now. Additionally, J.J. Abrams said he felt they needed to do something shocking like this.

Despite the fact that I would have liked to see more of Han Solo, I think that this was an almost essential moment in the film. It kind of echoed Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but it also provides a base for the next two films. From what I gather, Kylo Ren weakened himself by killing Han, even if he does not realize it (maybe he does and just refuses to admit it). Seeing Han willing to give Kylo Ren anything he wants shows his love for his son. I got feeling that Han knew on some level what was going to happen, but maybe he also knew that it would weaken Kylo in that it would expose whatever humanity he had left in him. I have to believe that.

The reactions from the other characters to Han’s death also tugged on my heart. We saw the immediate reactions from Rey, Finn, and Chewie (once again, Chewie’s grief is loud and overwhelming), but we also saw Leia realize what happened. You can immediately tell that, despite not being there, she just knew. I think I may have seen her heart break on that screen.

In tandem with the characters’ grief, however, we also saw strength. Chewie set off the charges and made sure the shields lowered so the pilots, particularly Poe Dameron, could blow up the Starkiller Base. Rey…Rey picked up the lightsaber she refused to touch earlier in the film and triumphed over Kylo Ren, escaping with Finn and Chewie. I think it was a good balance, and above all, it provides a great set-up for the next films, especially the ending with Rey and Luke Skywalker.

However, this film did not come without flaws. I did not think about it at first, but there are quite a few similiarites between The Force Awakens and A New Hope. I will list some of what I found before talking in a little more detail. You can find a longer list in this article.

  • Character abandoned on a desert planet
  • Unknown parentage
  • Villain with a voice-changing mask
  • Droid on a desert planet with sensitive information
  • Desert settlement attacked by Stormtroopers
  • Cantina scene
  • Starkiller Base and Death Star destruction (and existence, frankly)
  • Aerial attack via X-Wings resulting in the destruction of a spherical weapon
  • Heroes watch as father figure is killed by masked villain

Sometimes when I think about these similarities, I am unsure about how to feel. I worry about Episodes 8 and 9 being quite similar to The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. I want an original story. I want to see new struggles, new triumphs, and new character arcs. So I do worry, because if they are continuing down this same route…I don’t know.

However, I do understand why they chose to go down this route. Returning to this world, to one that fans love so much…it is definitely daunting. Thus, taking inspiration from the beloved original trilogy is smart. I just hope there is more new material to come. I think there will be. I hope that Luke Skywalker returns with Rey rather than staying on that island to train her in echo of himself and Yoda.

My reassurance comes from J.J. Abrams, who has responded to criticism regarding these similarities: “What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards.”

Overall, I am quite happy with The Force Awakens. I am excited to see what the future holds for this franchise.