Friday Fun – Book to Screen Adaptations

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: The Oscars are Sunday. Do you have a favorite book to screen (small or large) adaptation? Was there one you hated?

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: There are several Jane Austen adaptations that are really lovely. And the Harry Potters are good. Not as good as the books, but complete in their own right. One adaptation that I loathed was the David Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express. I was so looking forward to it, but they “added” to the front part of the story, and changed the ending around a bit. Some of the characters’ motivations changed. I fear I am a bit of a Christie purist, and I hated it. Don’t even get me started on the most recent Miss Marples. Ironically, I adore both Sherlock and Elementary, which I guess makes me a complicated woman. Who knew?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I read The Other Bolyn Girl with a bookclub not long before the movie came out and we were all looking forward to seeing the movie because we thought the clothes everyone wore would be spectacular. I know I was disappointed when the main character basically wore the same dress and headgear the whole time. The clothes described in the book were amazing, but the movie showed only drab, dark costumes. The story itself lost much of its complexity, as movies made from books often do. I thought the Happy Potter movies suffered from the same problem–the books were so complex and had so many story lines that I didn’t think the books translated well to the movie screen.

I did think the Lord of the Rings movies were very well done. I’d read the books many times when I was younger, so I was very familiar with the story and seeing the world of the Shire and places like Mordor come alive on the big screen was a wonderful experience.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: I agree with Julie and Diane that the Lord of the Rings (and now The Hobbit) movie adaptations directed by Peter Jackson are beautifully done and very true to the books. There are, of course, scenes and even whole characters (Tom Bombadil comes to mind) who are completely left out, but that’s part of the usual sacrifice when translating a novel for film. It can’t be helped.

I’m a little nervous about the movie adaptation of Mark Helprin’s sweeping urban fantasy, A Winter’s Tale. The book has long been a favorite of mine, and I just don’t think it will translate well. The reviews I’ve read are not good, so I think I’ll just skip the film entirely. I’d rather not risk marring my enjoyment of the book.

Although it deviates quite a bit from the book, I do love the movie version of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. Gaiman was involved in the movie and loved the changes that were made. The fact that the film version includes a wholly new character (or, at least greatly expanded role) for Robert DeNiro – a cross-dressing sky pirate – is worth the price of admission alone!

13 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Book to Screen Adaptations

  1. Best book to film adaptations — The Hunger Games trilogy, in my opinion. Although I was not a fan of The Hunger Games at first (didn’t care for the premise of kids killing kids), seeing the first movie with my niece changed my mind because then I understood the context. I read the books and they were quite good, and so was the 2nd movie. I look forward to the third movie in the trilogy.

    • How could I forget The Hunger Games?!? Very well done, indeed. I listened to the books via Audible, but also really enjoyed the movies.

  2. Omg – The other Boleyn movie was horrible. Loved the book but almost laughed through the movie. Hunger games did a good job but the book was so much better. I wasn’t in love with the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo book – thought it needed an editor desperately, but the movie was surprisingly good.

    • Though we usually worry about a movie ruining a book, you bring up the good point that there are cases where a movie improves upon a book. I wonder what makes the difference in either scenario. Is it just a matter of the team working on the project, or are there some kinds of stories that lend themselves more easily to one medium than another. Hmmm …

    • Those Poe movies were pretty campy most of the time, weren’t they?
      Come to think about it, I think several of Stephen King’s horror novels have been adapted into absolutely ridiculous films or TV versions … “It” and “Things” (was that one) come to mind. I’m guessing that with horror the book-to-movie transition is particularly difficult because much of what makes a scar story scary is the part we create in our minds. When you try to put that on the screen, the process can rob the image of its potency.

  3. Winter’s Tale (the movie) was interesting, but it wasn’t the book. Instead of the bridge to ?, it had a winged horse. Not the same. Plus the whole Demon angle was weird.

    I loved Stardust and thought the movie adhered rather well to the book.

    The Lord of the Rings was handled well, but Peter Jackson’s Hobbit is quite different from the the tone of the children’s book. I kind of wished that he had made it first, but the whole Rankin & Bass movie rights question made that impossible.

    I’ve learned that books are meant to be enjoyed as books. Movies based on books are a toss up in terms of their reliability to the ideas of the books they’re based on. I try to read the books before seeing the movies as they tend to be disappointing otherwise.

  4. I adore the Stardust movie. I watch it fairly often and I’m not one to rewatch the same movies over and over (with exception of Star Wars and a few others).

  5. When I heard they were making LotR into a movie I cried – from happiness. It had been tried before and failed. And this time they were going to spend hundreds of millions on it. Without initially knowing it, I had been waiting for this event for over twenty years.

    The film version of LotR, to me, was a beautiful thing, even though it was ‘Hollywood-ified’ – it felt like I had achieved a life-long goal. To see the book played out in my eyes. I thank Peter Jackson every time I watch it.

    I agree with Mark above – it would have been better if The Hobbit came out first, but alas Hollywood would not allow. I’m just happy they are there.

    I’d love to see Legend by David Gemmell made into a film.

  6. I don’t think a film adaptation necessarily needs to stay true to the plot of a book. It’s okay to deviate from the story if you remain loyal to the overall feel of the book. For instance, I thought both the original movie and book Jurassic Park were very different, but equally good in their own right. More recently, I thought a great adaptation was “No Country for Old Men.” It may be my favorite book-to-movie.

  7. One book to movie adaptation I loathed with all my heart was “Timeline”. I had just got into reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World and learned about his other books and began to read them. Read Timeline when I was in high school and loved it and was so excited when the movie came out afterwards… only to find they had completely rewrote it, changed character genders and plot and was just disappointed in it. I vowed never to watch that movie again.

  8. Loved the Hunger Games book to film adaptation and enjoyed Lord of The Rings and Hobbit too, but for a non trilogy (or part i part ii type film) it has to be The Help. A great book and a well produced, moving film.

  9. The best book to screen adaption that I’ve seen is Into the Wild. The movie was extremely close to the book in terms of content and really no liberties were taken. Plus, since the book is short and somewhat uncomplicated, the movie could truly express the whole thing. I’d definitely recommend it!

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