This weekend, I ran to Blockbuster and rented a copy of “The Visitation,” a movie that is “loosely based” on the novel by the same title, written by Frank Peretti.; I originally started reading Peretti’s novels when I was in high school. A good adult friend from my little hometown church recommended them to me, and I was hooked. Even now that I don’t agree with the author’s theology, I can still enjoy many of his works.
Unfortunately, I was dismayed by the changes made when transforming this book into a movie. This was particularly dismaying as Peretti was listed as one of the producers, suggesting that he had (though limited I’m sure) some say in these changes. Primarily, a number of characters were changed, merged, or just plain deleted. A prime example of this was the circumstances surrounding the death Travis Jordan’s wife. This had the effect of transforming Jordan from a man mourning the loss caused by a disease he and his church couldn’t “pray away” into a man who was bitter do to an unsolved murder.
Normally, I can be fairly understanding when things are changed in order to make a book-based movie “work.” Books and movies are completely different media, and what works in one doesn’t always work in the other. But the changes to the characters and plot-lines in this case represent a change to the entire theme of the original book.
“The Visitation” was a rather unique book amongst Peretti’s writing experiences. It was different in that it was about something Peretti doesn’t often write about. Unlike books where he’s focused on the spiritual or supernatural — like “This Present Darkness” — or some particular issue of religio-political significance — like “Prophet” — this book focuses on people, as well as people’s experiences with “church stuff.” The supernatural “miracles” of the man who would be the new Jesus take a secondary role to the people who are reacting to him, or to Travis’s painful memories of his memories — both pleasant and unpleasant — of life in the church. It is these things that made me appreciate this book most out of all of his other novels. And I was saddened to see all of this missing from the movie.
The movie itself was pretty good for a movie. But I think that everyone did both the movie and an excellent novel a great disservice by associating it — even “loosely” — with Peretti’s awesome book. And I’m disappointed that Peretti would not only allow it to happen, but appears to have been at least partly involved in such a travesty.