Sometimes a good book becomes a great movie. Sometimes a movie can say what the book was trying to but couldn’t. And hey, sometimes the book was just way better! What are your favorite adaptations past and present and which ones should have remained on the shelf?
The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was a great film that captured and emphasized a lot of the humor from the books, but it just falls to nothing when comparing it to the books themselves. They are SOOOOO good!
I’m gonna kick this one off with Silence by Shûsaku Endô adapted by Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks.
I read this bad boy over the holiday break, and am still trying to wrap my head around it. It is the challenging story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in the 17th century to find their mentor and spread Catholicism but instead face only intransigence, torture, and crises of faith. Merry Christmas to me!!
While I have yet to see the movie, (I hope to this weekend) it is getting good reviews, 82 metascore and 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, and looks great in the two released previews. I also got to hear Martin Scorsese and producer Irwin Winkler speak about their experiences over the past few decades trying to get this novel to the big screen during their interview at the American Cinemateque event earlier this year. I definitely wanted to read the source material that inspired this movie!
Now that I have, I am fascinated that someone would read this book and say “YES!! This must be a movie.” It is mostly a painful internal monologue in a strange and uncomfortable place. Characters come into the story with little introduction or development, and then pass out again, leaving me wondering if I really understood why Endô put them in. I also feel like a stranger to the story, reading a translation instead of the original text. I wonder how close to Endô’s original ideas the translator actually got.
That being said, I enjoyed the book. It made me ask questions about faith, endurance, and human nature, and am really excited to see how it translates visually.
Has anyone out there read it or seen it?
Have you seen the older serialized version of Hitchhikers? It was a more faithful adaptation of the original radio play and book, it has that retro vibe, but if you’re looking for the story of the book in a more exact way, it’s much closer. What I loved about the movie that it was brave enough to be different, to put in ideas by Douglas Adams that weren’t seen or in the books, and that it really adapted the material to the movie format, so it was a somewhat cohesive story in itself. And I loved the casting. Martin Freeman became an instant favourite, I’m glad that he’s so successful nowadays, Zooey Deschanel as well, her gaze and the way she oozes that alien, a bit awkward, but magical aura fit the mood perfectly, Mos Def was great as the real alien best friend, and I did not know at the time that he wasn’t “supposed to be” a black character like so many “opinions” I’ve read about it, it was a great casting choice and he’s had great chemistry with both Martin and Sam Rockwell. And I can talk all day about the voice of Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman, I don’t think I have to introduce them So as you can see I’m more positive about the movie than most of the “real fans”
On the other hand, I can’t say that I’ve read or seen Silence but it’s something that’s on my list, so I hope I’ll have more to say in the future about this.
Perks of Being a Wallflower continues to be one of my favorites. Even though I think that the movie isn’t particularly well made, Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the book, screenplay, and directed) captured the essence of the book beautifully.
I want to love The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann because of the crazy stylized camera work, costuming, and the soundtrack, but the whole movie loses steam around the second act. There are so many lines and passages that don’t really make sense in a movie, even though they’re perfect for the book.
Prisoner of Azkaban is the only truly good Harry Potter movie. Sue me.
The author of Fight Club actually says the movie is better than his book.
LOTR in my opinion is the only time the movies have been better than the books.
The Martian (film with Matt Damon, book by Andy Weir). I saw the film on an airplane and instantly loved it. Then later I read the book (twice in a row) and it was the best! Just laugh out loud funny. Some time after that I got the dvd to watch the movie again. It just wasn’t the same anymore, you mis large parts of science and humor in the movie, the book is just on another level.
Definite reading recommendation if you like science and laughing your butt off.
When I saw THIS lecture, it really changed how I view book-to-movie adaptations. Nick Hornby is a master of the adaptation. It’s definitely worth your 34 minutes if you’re interested in the subject of how writers approach adapting books.
The Martian added to my books-to-read list, and Hornby’s video added to my to watch later playlist! Thanks for sharing!
When I talked to my husband about this thread, the first thing he thought of was Hitchhiker’s Guide and how much he liked the radio play. He said they had the freedom to honor the original work better because they didn’t have to worry about visualizing anything. They could just describe it.
I have listened to a bunch of Sherlock Holmes stories performed as radio plays. I would be interested to see what other stories would work as well…
I will not sue you, Prisoner of Azkaban is rad! But I will say that The Order of the Phoenix took a fairly whiny book and made it a really compelling movie. All that teen angst fueled some pretty amazing fight scenes.
*Please Note: I only moderately criticize Harry Potter books with the full understanding and belief that they are genius and wonderful.
I have had a hard time getting through some Chuck Palahniuk books. They are pretty dark and brutal, and I am a die hard Stephen King fan, so you know I’m serious when I say that! So I haven’t read Fight Club, but I LOVED the movie. Good pick @knifebladepresents!!
Oh man!! I thought those books were awesome!! Don’t get me wrong, the movies are in my top 10, but the books should not be discounted. They are so full and rich. That world is crystal clear in my mind because of those things.
Awesome!! Thanks so much for posting this.
I’m gonna toss and oldie but a SUPER goodie in here and say Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It is a fabulous, sprawling western that catalogs the adventures of retired Texas Ranges, Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call and their band of cowboys as the drive cattle northward towards the unsettled territories of Montana.
McMurtry actually started this story as a 75 page screenplay in 1972, but the script was shelved, and he adapted it into a full novel in 1985. It is a wonderful story full of adventure, romance, murder, and heartbreak that makes anyone who has ever dreamed about the Wild West, feel like they have gotten the best of it through there minds eye with Gus, Woodrow, and the gang. I am getting misty eyed just typing this and thinking of the absolutely unforgettable characters and all they go through in this massive tale.
Lonesome Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was eventually adapted into a four-part TV miniseries by Suzanne De Passe and Bill Wittliff in 1989. This miniseries was one of the most beloved in TV history, breaking viewership records and winning seven Emmy Awards. It brags an all-star cast of Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Angelica Huston, Chris Cooper and others, and has maybe my favorite cinematic score ever.
It is available on YouTube, and the DVDs can be rented via Netflix. I HIGHLY recommend you take a look. It is an amazing book with an unbelievably successful adaptation. It is an adventure you won’t forget (but take a snack, it’s a long one…)
I agree massively about the Martian @Jasper_Cloud that the book is much more scientific, I loved how some of that made it into the movie, like the way he communicated with the rotational positions of the camera. And the movie has another funny layer that’s just funny to us because it was shot here in Hungary, mostly in Budapest and its surroundings. So China’s spaceHQ is a building called “Művészetek palotája” (Palace of arts) which is a great fairly new concert hall for orchestral music, and in the background you can see the Soroksári HÉV, the train line that’s everything but modern, they’re remnants of the Soviet era, like many things. And the NASA HQ was a shopping mall/conference building called “Bálna” (The Whale), because it’s futuristic looking and kind of stands out from the old stuff.
I agree about OotP and Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite as well, it had its own unique style while still maintaining the Harry Potter feel to it, and I just loved the score, how John Williams had adapted to the style of Cuaron and the movie to produce a score that’s as unique as the movie itself, while still having musical continuity that was mostly discarded after he’d left the franchise.
My least favourite is Goblet of Fire, that should’ve been two movies or I don’t know, but I was waiting for the epic Quiddich World Cup match ever since I’ve first read that scene in the book just to be utterly disappointed. What a missed opportunity. And I was also waiting for the great mystery of Barty Crouch Jr. with Winky, the great “flashback” court scenes with Bellatrix, the third trial, etc. What a waste of David Tennant, my favourite Doctor. They oversimplified the whole story, Barty Jr. trying to flee after only a verbal accusation in a room full of the best aurors? Who thought of that? Cutting away the moment the match begins? Cutting out Winky completely? Harry getting knocked out and left completely alone just to wake up in the exact perfect moment to witness Barty Jr. instead of that great suspenseful sequence in the book when they were fleeing, hiding, and Harry was without his wand? Completely gutting the third trial into a random windy maze? At least it had the Moody/Barty turns Draco into a ferret scene… I was disappointed by the music as well. I was open to it after Williams had left, but felt that it was more of a Patrick Doyle showcase with a little Harry Potter rather than a Harry Potter score with Patrick Doyle’s style. There are rumours that he was arrogant enough to completely toss all musical continuity right out of the window and the studio had to insist to put in Hedwig’s theme at least and he changed one note to throw it off completely because why not. He tossed out Voldemort’s theme, Window to the past aka Harry’s great family theme, the flying theme, Myrtle’s theme, and every other that was present in the previous films (that is unfortunately what Disney/Marvel does with its scores). The music itself is good, even great in some places, but it just feels out of place, and feels like a Doyle work and not a HP work. That’s were Alexandre Desplat was more successful in my eyes with his scores for the last two.
And those haircuts in Goblet of Fire…. Ok, rant over
This is what I was going to mention myself. I hated book 5. The movie was pretty solid.
I gotta agree with what a lot of people have posted above. I found the 5th Harry Potter book extremely difficult to read (considering I read the 4th in a week, while on a school trip - this one took me nearly a month).
In high school, we had to read Jurassic Park and do a comparison between it and the film, and in this case, I would say the film also won hands down. The book was amazing but I got lost in all the details when they tried to explain the genetic engineering and I felt like that really detracted from the pace of the story.
The movie is an incredible masterpiece. Don’t read reviews, don’t watch trailers, just go watch it. I promise it will leave you breathless, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it for days.