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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Novel-To-Film Adaptions. Do They Ever Get It Right?

It’s mid-winter here in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m on the couch, bundled in a blanket watching romantic comedies. So it’s no surprise my muse has refused to show up and sprinkle her magic on the Fireworks theme my fellow genre-istas are rocking this month. Even thinking about the night sky is enough to freeze me to the bone!

But lucky for me, lounging in front of the television has proven beneficial - it's given me a blog topic. A number of the films I've watched recently have been based on novels. Some have been good, but not great, while others have flopped completely. This got me thinking... 

Can a movie adaptation ever be as good as the book? 

It’s a debate that fires up book worms and movie buffs alike—usually those of us who have a foot planted firmly in each camp. I’m a lifelong reader and movie-goer. My childhood copy of The Secret Garden is worn and tired from too much love, and my VHS copy of the 1993 movie adaptation must have been watched and rewound hundreds of times. I adored them equally. 

Each art-form brings something different to the storytelling experience. Books tantalize my imagination, inviting me to build worlds and characters in my mind. Movies are like a large fleece blanket in winter, bundling me up in a warm comforting embrace where I can settle in and enjoy the sensory experience of watching worlds come alive before my eyes.

Most criticism of movie adaptations come from readers who have loved the book, then found the film lacking. The characters aren’t what they imagined. Plot lines have changed. Or some of their favorite scenes or characters are missing altogether. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a film is bad.  It’s often good enough to stand on its own, and viewers who haven’t read the book—who go in free of expectation—have a completely different, positive experience.

We all know of the countless book-to-movie failures, but here are some movies that are often touted by critics as actually being better than the book (many people wouldn’t even know they’re an adaptation).

Fight Club – Author, Chuck Palahniuk loved the film adaptation of his book and even felt that it managed to draw together plot-lines he’d overlooked. 

Jurassic Park -  The book was a bestseller, but the movie won over viewers an action-packed plot, likeable characters and amazing special effects (for the time).

The Princess Bride – This one is debatable as the book was also fabulous, but the 1987 movie has garnered a cult following.

Stand by Me – It’s hard to improve upon anything Stephen King creates, but the movie expanded upon the world and characters of his novella and captured the hearts of viewers and is now a popular classic.

Die Hard – Honestly, did anyone even know this was an adaptation? This classic action movie - also an unlikely Christmas movie favorite - was more of a thriller in the original novel.

The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks’ books are bestsellers, but the film adaptation of The Notebook struck a chord with romantics all over the world and has become far more popular than the novel.

Jaws – By today’s standards, the mechanical shark may not be too impressive, but audiences were terrified by his fin slicing through water and his rows of giant teeth. And along with the iconic Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun music, the movie was able to instill a level of fear the book could never achieve.

We all have novel-to-film adaptations we love, or love to hate. What are yours?


Judith Ashley said...

Hawaii - loved the book but the movie, if it had been true to the book would have lasted for days. While intellectually I understand why it was an 'adaptation' they left out several of my favorite scenes.

A Leon Uris book about the fight for Israel to become a nation was another one that so disappointed me as a movie I can't even remember the title any more. Paul Neuman, Sal Mineo were in it. Can't remember the female leads.

Of the movies and books you listed? I've never read or seen any of them. I used to be more of a movie goer but I can't dredge up any enthusiasm to pay an enormous amount of money to sit in a large place with a bunch of other people and have to stay seated for an hour or more to have the sound so loud and --- I paid $0.10 to go to the movies as a child and then $0.25 for a Saturday morning of cartoons and a feature film. I did okay with the change in price until they soared past $5.00 and their was less entertainment.

On occasion I'll watch a movie on t.v. - yes, I have control of the remote, the pause button, etc. but I don't want to watch a movie that is too suspenseful or has any 'thriller' aspect to it. No really dark themes either. In this day and age that doesn't leave much.

LOL - This is probably more than anyone ever wanted to know about my movie watching history. And, because special effects are so very realistic I don't see myself back in the movie theater very soon.

Diana McCollum said...

I think the movie Judith was thinking of was "Exodus". I read the book and the movie was lacking. Loved Jurassic Park and it still scares the bee-gee-vers out of my. Never read the book. Great blog post!

Judith Ashley said...

Diana, as soon as I saw "Exodus" I knew you were 100% correct. Thanks for putting a name to that memory!

Dora Bramden said...

There's a few you mentioned that I didn't realize were novels first. Very interesting. I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings novel adaption to movies. Very well done. The Eat Pray Love movie was better than the book I think.