Book-to-Film

June 30th, 2010 • Kate

princessbrideSo, I’ve heard there’s a movie that just came out that’s based on a pretty popular YA novel. Maybe you’ve heard of it? And it got me thinking about book to film adaptations, and how some of them are amazing, some of them pretty so-so, and others… well, let’s just say there are times you wish you could pop into your head and physically pull out the bad memories. With a nice sharp knife.

And while it may be the dream of every writer to have a movie deal, there are times when, having got that wish, you might wish to distance yourself from the resulting film.

So I’m curious what you think about movies made from books. We don’t even have to stick to YA or MG books — the whole of the bookstore is open to interpretation. Let’s put ’em into categories: awesome books made into awesome films, ok books made better by their adaptations, and fabulous books where the movies missed the mark (with the full understanding that one man’s Gone With The Wind may be another’s Battlefield Earth).

I’ll start: The Princess Bride. Awesome book, fabulous movie. Your turn!

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24 Responses to “Book-to-Film”

  1. Mandy Says:

    A Little Princess – awesome book and awesome movie.

    Hunchback of Notre Dame – really depressing book, awesomely Disney animated movie (sure it's nothing like the book, but at least I'm not depressed when I get to the end – and the music is just plain awesome) 🙂

    A Wrinkle in Time – fantastic book, the made-for-TV movie pretty much made me want to take a knife to the memories in my brain of ever watching the movie.

    I, Robot – Asimov is a science fiction genius who shall forever be revered, because of the movie I'm pretty sure he is rolling in his grave and wishing they would take the "inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov" tag off the beginning so his name won't be defamed.

    I could go on, but I'll limit myself to four. 🙂

  2. Rissa Watkins Says:

    I'm gonna sneak in a TV series…The Dresden Files based off the fabulous Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books. It was short lived, and while it wasn't so bad for a TV show- it didn't come anywhere near how good the books are.

    I didn't like IT by Stephen King either. The book was terrifying and I still think clowns are evil because of it. but the movie was kinda cheesy.

  3. kelljones Says:

    I liked both the movie and book of Orlando (Virginia Woolf). And I love the book and liked the movie of Howl's Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) (although the movie is an entirely different story with mostly the same characters as the book in my opinion. Come to think of it, the first Hellboy (Mike Mignola) movie is that way too — totally different plot and character interactions, but mostly the same characters as the comics. Like alternate reality characters…

  4. Sara Raasch Says:

    I'm going to branch off on a bit of a different avenue here:

    I'm a huge advocate of making MORE book-to-movie adaptations. With one eensie teensie requirement: that they stick as CLOSELY as possible to the original material. When I see a particularly bad movie (non-book adaptation, aka a regular script), I think "Good GOD, there's a WHOLE BOOKSTORE full of tried-and-true KICK BUTT stories, basically scripts, just waiting to be tweaked a little and put on the screen. And yet they chose to make a movie about THIS *coughValentinesDaycough*??"

    Now, I know a lot more goes into adapting a book to movie than tweaking it a little, but my point is: why is Hollywood wasting time remaking the SAME movies over and over *coughFootloosecough* (It's a CLASSIC. You can't remake a classic! That'd be like remaking Clash of the Titans. Oh wait, they already did. And LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT) when they have tried-and-true, original stories JUST WAITING to be filmed.

    If they adapt a book and it sucks, well…maybe we should be a bit stingier on who we let become directors. Not going to *cough* anyone there, should any big exciting movie execs read STREAM PIRATE and must, must film it. Then again, if any big exciting movie execs that deserve to be *cough*-ed want to make STREAM PIRATE into a movie, maybe I should *cough* them so they don't like me. Catch-22.

    Longest comment FTW.

  5. Catherine Says:

    Recent example – Percy Jackson. Oh my, but the movie version was horrid. We love the books (hubby, boys, me)and will certainly read his next series based on the same idea. But no more movies (or a different director).

    I actually saw Twilight before I read the books. I know, I know. After viewing it once, I was hooked. And read all the books, of course.

    And how can I not mention P&P? While I'm partial to the Colin Firth version, the second adaptation was beautifully done. Win for book and films.

  6. Adam Heine Says:

    See, I actually liked the movie of I, Robot. But I hadn't read the original yet.

    I agree with Sara that the movies should stick as close to the source material as they can. Otherwise you anger the fans who loved the book while simultaneously misleading fans of the movie into reading the book. (Although if the movie sucks, and fans of the book insist the book was better, it could generate a fan of the book. I read Eragon for that reason, but if they make an Eldest movie I'm not going anywhere near it.)

    Movies that screwed the story up (just my opinion, of course): Starship Troopers, Eragon.

    Movies that were as good as the book, even with changes: Lord of the Rings, Watchmen, Batman Begins (although that's kind of stretching it; the Batman story has been told and retold in so many different ways).

  7. Krista V. Says:

    Ditto Catherine on PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Ditto Adam on LORD OF THE RINGS. And speaking of BATMAN BEGINS, I'll throw another Nolan brothers film into the mix: THE PRESTIGE.

    The movie was haunting, beautiful, and when I found out there was a book, I ordered it from the library at once. Christopher Priest's novel was just as haunting, just as beautiful, but in a completely different way. The more I thought about, the more I decided the film was the commercial version of the original novel, which was much more literary. (And I mean that in the genre sense, since, ya know, books are always literary:) )

  8. A.L. Sonnichsen Says:

    The very original Narnia series was horrid, but I love the new movies. I can't wait for Voyage of the Dawn Treader to be released. I think the new ones (so far)capture the spirit of the books, even if they don't follow the plots exactly. Maybe that's what ultimately makes a successful book to movie evolution.

    BBC/A&E have in recent years always done a fantastic job on their screen adaptations of classics by Jane Austen, Dickens, etc. But don't watch the ones from 20 years ago. They stink big time!

    Amy

  9. Red Boot Pearl Says:

    When I read a super good book I want it to be made into a movie… but I have no idea why, because it's usually butchered into something unrecognizable and disappointing.

    It seems like the best movies are originally written as…movies. Go figure.

    The more time that has passed since I read the book the more forgiving I am of the film interpretation, so I try not to reread before I see the movie…this helps, sometimes.

    The 6 hour Pride and Prejudice is definitely the best version, because it stays so true to the book.

    I also really liked The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but I hadn't read the book since sixth grade, same thing with Tuck Everlasting.

    Where the Wild Things Are movie kind of ruined the book for me…

    It would be hard to stand by and watch your 'baby' get morphed into something unrecognizable, but bearable as long as you got to laugh your way to the bank…which I've heard doesn't usually happen because being the author, your usually the last man on the totem pole as far as the money goes for the movie.

  10. Troubling a Star Says:

    The only movie series I've actually loved better than the books was the PBS-aired Anne of Green Gables.

    I've enjoyed the Narnia (in both BBC and big screen varieties) and the Potter movies for what they are, but I certainly couldn't have written a senior thesis from either. The Narnia books, however, served quite nicely as my gateway to fantasy as a child and my senior thesis in later years.

    I've learned to work hard to separate the mediums in my head. Each has to be enjoyed for what it is within the scope of its purpose. Insofar as that purpose is "make money" – well, that's beyond me.

  11. jFosberry Says:

    The Godfather. Great books. Great movies.

  12. C.D. Says:

    The movie adaptation that pains me most is Ella Enchanted because that was and always will be my favorite childhood book. I couldn't finish the movie, made it maybe 15 minutes into it.

    I couldn't get past the first five minutes of Time Traveler's Wife either.

    While I love Miyazaki films, I ultimately had to turn off Howl's Moving Castle. I actually saw the movie first, loved it, then read the book and still didn't have a problem with the movie. Then years later, I the book again and watched the movie again right after, and that's when I had a problem with it. Though I do love how they animated the scene with the falling stars.

    BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE!! While I like the book it's not one of my most favoritest ever, but the movie was so far removed from the book. They literally took the moral of the story and reversed it to give it a typical ending that completely negated the point of the entire book. Not that the rest of the movie was anything like the book either.

    Wanted, while an entertaining movie, pulled the same thing and reversed the polarity of the characters. They weren't a society of noble assassins trying to make the world a better place. They were literally villians with no morals whatsoever who succeeded in killing every superhero and taking over the world. I didn't even like the graphic novel that much but I was mad at the changes they made.

    Uh, sorry for the tangent. This is kind of a hot-button topic for me. (Shake my fist at director, writers, and producers of Ella Enchanted)

    As for some adaptations I love, Watchmen, 300 (they totally added to the story in a good way), Prince Caspian (not so much The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe though), Memoirs of a Geisha, Memento (though I've never read the original short story), Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy…

    I hope they do a good job with The Hunger Games, but the writer is supposed to be working with them on the script so I've decided to keep a positive outlook toward it.

  13. Tessa Quin Says:

    Great books, bad movie adaption: Twilight and New Moon!

    Great books, great TV show: True Blood!

    Bad books, good TV show: The Vampire Diaries!

    Okay, it's pretty obvious where my interests lie…

  14. Tessa Quin Says:

    Oh, I'm just going to sneak in another:

    Great books, great movies/shows: Jane Eyre (BBC adaption), and the more recent Jane Austen movies.

  15. B.E. Sanderson Says:

    I usually cringe when I hear a book I liked is going to be made into a movie. That's why I've been putting off seeing The Lightning Thief. Still, not all adaptations are bad. I love the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird as much as I love the book. I enjoyed reading Patriot Games and Jurassic Park more because I liked the movies so much. Sometimes it helps if I've seen the movie before I read the book. If I read it first, the movie version is disappointing.

  16. Rowenna Says:

    Loved The Princess Bride, because it kept the spirit of the book throughout the film (and if you haven't read the book, do it!!).

    Hated the Narnia movies. Really did–partially because Lewis said he never wanted the books to be made into movies. There are things even great CGI can't recreate. I actually preferred the lower-budget BBC versions from years back because I felt they had a better grasp on Lewis' spirit of wonder. But still–won't be seeing any more of those. I'll just reread the books again!

    And one more love–Atonement. Really captured the book beautifully, both the aesthetic and the storyline.

  17. Noelle Pierce Says:

    The Princess Bride will always be a classic to me (though I read the book after). I was disappointed in Eragon. I liked Kiss the Girls, but not Along Came a Spider. And I thought The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons were well done.

  18. Donna Gambale Says:

    I think some of it has to do with what you see/read first.

    For example, I LOVE both the book and movie for Stardust, but I saw the movie first, and I love that a wee bit more.

    I prefer The Notebook and A Walk to Remember as movies more than books, and I read both books first. I also think A Christmas Story easily beats In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

    Some movies aren't exactly like the books, but in an understandable way, and they both work well — ie., Naria, Harry Potter, Time Traveler's Wife, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, I Am Legend, Angela's Ashes, The Count of Monte Cristo — but I still love the books more!

    10 Things I Hate About You is hands-down my favorite over Taming of the Shrew (same with Clueless and Emma), but for a closer Shakespeare adaptation, the Baz Luhrmann Romeo & Juliet is pretty darn awesome.

    Books they destroyed as a movie? The Other Boleyn Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (I liked the first Sisterhood movie)

    But overall, most of my favorite movies are those based on books!

  19. Julia Karr Says:

    P&P – the Colin Firth version – BBC/A&E does Austen better than any movie theater versions (IMHO)

    Hunt for Red October – thrilling book – bad movie (and I so wanted it to be good!)

    Harry Potter – love the books – love the movies

    I Capture the Castle – love the book – loved the movie

    Jane Eyre – love/hate the book – the beginning is so tedious (hear that word in its best Brit accent, please!) and I love the PBS version with Timothy Dalton as Rochester (altho' his lack of hand at the end looks pretty fake.)

  20. Molly Says:

    One of my favorite childhood books was Ella Enchanted- great book, butchered movie. BUTCHERED. I liked both the book and the movie of Time Traveler's Wife, and despite my lack of adoration of Kiera Knightly, I thought the newest Pride and Prejudice was absolutely beautiful. It's different compared to the A&E version, so I'm willing to take what I like out of both.

    Of course, I'm one of those people who believes that any noble try to copy a book is a nice try. There was a time where books were limited to your imagination, and your way of thinking. With the internet and movies, books are suddenly presented in a different form. As a watcher and a reader, you're suddenly brought one step closer to jumping into the book and living it. That's how I've been able to enjoy Harry Potter and Narnia- you mean I get to see that character, or the castle, or… you mean I get to SEE it? 🙂

  21. Kathleen MacIver Says:

    Hmmm…. I guess I’ll have to give The Princess Bride (book) another shot. When I tried it as a teenager, I hated it. Maybe I missed something.

    I second those who said the movie has to be very close to the book. If they want to “loosely base” a movie on a book, then PICK ANOTHER TITLE so no one thinks it’s the same story…so those who loved the book can more easily think of it as a different story. It infuriates me to have a book I loved turned into a movie where the name of the character and one or two circumstances are the same, but everything else is different. The worst I’ve found was one where:
    –In the book, she fell in love, got married, moved out west, had a happily ever after, and three books later her parents (still back east) had another daughter (whom she never met, in the entire book series).
    –In the movie, she fell in love, went out west, then her husband died and she adopted the girl who was an orphan (instead of being her sister.)
    HOW can they call that the same story?

    I do realize that movies are different, and they usually have to take stuff out in order to fit it into 2 hours or less. Just don’t mess with the main plot and who the characters are inside.

    As for the P&P versions, I feel a little different than most people. I LOVE the book…pretty much have it memorized. I don’t deny that the A&E version stayed closest to the plot and cut out the least…but I really think they didn’t get Darcy and Elizabeth’s character’s right. (Beg pardon to Colin Firth fans.) Elizabeth just wasn’t playful and full of laughter like she was in the book. I think Greer Garson actually played Elizabeth the best, in the very old B&W version. (I can overlook the messed up costume design and I don’t mind the change in Lady Catherine de Burgh.) And then, while Sir Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth LOOK more like I imagined Mr. Darcy, I think the guy in the new one did the best job of portraying Mr. Darcy’s repressed passion. It’s there, in the book…but the A&E version doesn’t really let us see any of that, and I really wish they had.

  22. Joe Iriarte Says:

    I actually thought the movie of The Princess Bride was a little better than the novel. There was a bit of a bitter edge to some of the humor in the novel, meta-discussions of Goldman's divorce and relationship with his son (son? daughter? It's been a long time.) I enjoyed the movie more without all that baggage. The production values are laughable but the writing–and the performances–are so wonderful!

    I pretty much enjoy any Tom Clancy movie more than the book it was based on.

    I loved the novel Jumper and the movie was just horrible. It totally missed what made the novel work and made Davey kind of a jerk. On the other hand, the movie made it possible for Steven Gould to quit his day job and write more novels. As a reader, what's not to like about that? (And as a writer, I could use just such a calamity.)

  23. Joelle Says:

    I'm pretty good at separating movies from books. For example, I love the Harry Potter books and the movies. Although the movies don't follow the books exactly, they are still enjoyable, and I accept that. I go to the theater and see them. And, I admit, I do that with Twilight too. Though I never liked the books as much as I loved Harry Potter (and I've found other vampire series I like more), I did just go see Eclipse. Also, I like the Narnia movies, I Robot (though I've never read the book), and Jurrasic Park.

  24. Janine Says:

    Princess Bride–better movie, IMO. Funny, I just finished the audiobook for that the other day. I'd read it a long, long time ago.

    I also thought Stardust the movie improved the book.

    The newest BBC Emma was also excellent.

    Bad adaptations? Many, many…Inkheart. Blech.