Opinion, Reviews

Fanfiction-turned-movie misses out on true complexity of story

Hero-Fiennes Tiffin as Hardin Scott in "After."

Young teens and their moms crowded into the theater to watch the new movie “After,” based off the novel of the same name by Anna Todd.  The romantic drama was recently released to theaters April 13.

What most people may not know about this film is that it was originally written as a fanfiction. In 2014, Anna Todd uploaded the first chapters to this now successful novel on the website, Wattpad.  The novel grew to be 592 pages and 99 chapters with over 544 million views on Wattpad.

The book is centered around a dysfunctional love story between the main character, Tessa Young, and One Direction and soloist superstar, Harry Styles (the character’s name was changed to Hardin Scott for the film adaptation).  Young is a dedicated student and loyal to her mom and boyfriend, Noah, entering her first year in college.  All that changes when she meets Scott, the bad boy whose mysterious, brooding nature begins to make Young question what she thought she knew about herself and what she wanted out of life.

Going into the theater, I did not have too high of expectations for the film.  Having read the novel back when it was still a fanfiction, and being very knowledgeable on the story and its history, I was worried how they would play off some of the most intense scenes, such as Scott (played by Hero-Fiennes Tiffin) having recurring nightmares about a traumatic night from his childhood, or scenes where Scott would be — essentially — emotionally abusive and toxic toward Young.  I was also concerned about whether there would be a small trigger warning in the beginning of the movie due to a close encounter Young has with being sexually assaulted.

However, I was surprised to find that most of the intense scenes in the 99-chapter novel disappeared from the movie.  It was almost refreshing to see Scott not constantly yelling at Young, but rather Scott as a much more of the “boyfriend” type — even though he claims that he “doesn’t date.”

That being said, Scott’s mellowed character is part of the problem with the film.

A major problem that seemed apparent with the film was the pacing.  I had my friends — who have never even heard of the novel or its history — lean over to me in their seats and ask what was happening throughout the film.

“After” moved so fast — cutting from scene to scene — that by the time you finally got comfortable in the red movie theater seats, the film was already over.

I understand they cannot fit all 99 chapters in the film, but the film cut out so many scenes, some of which were probably more valuable for the development of the story, that the lack of context for some moments ended up detracting from the complexity of the original novel.

Another massive problem with the loss of the complexity was not just in the storyline but in the characters themselves.  While a lot of the supporting characters are pure stereotypes in the novel (Langford’s character also falling victim to this at times), the character who remained complex throughout the chapters was Scott.

Not only is Scott dealing with trauma he experienced from his alcoholic father growing up, as well as the traumatic night mentioned previously when he was only 8, he also has severe anger issues he has to overcome for the sake of the new girl he’s falling for.  On top of that, Scott has a prevalent superiority complex against Young (especially when it comes to his opinion on romantic novels).

While I’m not condoning Scott’s toxic behavior in the novel, it felt as though Todd completely changed his character for the film, turning him into more of a sweetheart and romantic than he originally was.  It would have been nice to see Tiffin’s character angrier and ruder toward Langford’s character throughout the film.  One of the most important plot points in the novel that the film completely leaps over is the fact that Young and Scott hate each other in the beginning.

If you are a fan of the novel, (or going back even further – the fanfiction), the film might be a major disappointment for you.  However, there are some rewarding scenes that made it a decent film overall, such as some adorable moments where Scott is being a true, perfect boyfriend.  There is also a lot of diversity within the cast, something that the novel failed to deliver before.  Even with those rewarding scenes and diverse characters, you might still walk out of the theater feeling like something in the film is missing.

Hardin Scott was truly the most elaborate and complicated character in “After,” and it’s a shame to see the film missing out on the complexity of the original work.

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