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Reader Question: Book to screen adaptations

This question’s a two-parter:

What is your favorite book to movie or book to TV show adaptation?

I find that screen adaptations of books almost always fall short (often far short) of the book. If a movie sounds interesting and I know it’s based on a book, I try to read the book before I see the movie, because I assume the book version will be better and I want my experience of it to be unaffected by other interpretations.

This isn’t totally the fault of the adapters. Stories are told in books in very different ways than on the screen, and it’s hard to translate the techniques of one medium into the other effectively. Plus a 400 page book would take up at least 4 hours of screen time, which is generally not acceptable, so cuts have to be made somewhere.

There are, however, a few screen adaptations that I think capture the source material almost perfectly. My favorite book-to-film adaptation is Watership Down:

The animation is unique and fits the subject matter (both styles, one for the rabbit myths and one for their regular life), and while the story is cut down, the conflicts and plot points are merged in such a way that you don’t feel you’re missing anything (unless you’ve recently read the book and are looking for it). Everything that makes the story great is still there, and well-paced.

My favorite book-to-TV adaptation is the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, the one staring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth:

Colin Firth. Do I really need to say more? Okay, I’ll also say that because it’s a mini-series, it covers the events of the entire book (I’ve never compared but I think nothing’s been left out), which means it keeps all Austen’s clever dialogue and the development of a multitude of colorful characters. The acting is excellent, the drama and humor so well done that the five hour run time never feels too long. It’s like someone took the book and fed it through some sort of magical audio-visual transformation machine. :)

Would you like to see this happen to your books?

Absolutely. I love great movies and TV just as much as I love great books; I think there are all sorts of things you can capture when you have visuals and audio that you can’t on the page (though the reverse is also true). I’d be incredibly excited to see one of my stories brought to life that way. And it doesn’t hurt that a movie or TV series raises awareness of the book itself, potentially bringing more people back to the original story. (That, I suppose, is the consolation prize if the adaptation is one of the not-so-great ones!)

Tell me, blog readers: What are your favorite book to screen adaptations? Or, on the flip side, which ones made you cringe?

Originally published at Megan Crewe - another world, not quite ours. You can comment here or there.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 10th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
I've heard great things about the book, which is on my wishlist--once I've read it I'll have to check out the movie too!
Mar. 10th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
Although the critics didn't like it, I thought the 1974 adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY did a good job, except for Mia Farrow, who was miscast, in my opinion.

I was disappointed in the film version of WATERSHIP DOWN. :-) (I did like the song, "Bright Eyes," by Art Garfunkle.)

Mar. 10th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen The Great Gatsby movie, but may need to. :)

I'll admit I may be partly biased toward the film of WATERSHIP DOWN because I saw it several times as a kid before reading the book, so there's definitely a nostalgia element to my enjoyment. What about it disappointed you, out of curiosity?
Mar. 11th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
I saw it so long ago, I don't remember. It may have been that I missed the parts of the book that were cut.
Mar. 10th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
I LOVED the Watership Down adaptation when I was little! I can't say how it holds up now, because it's been a really long time since I've seen it, but when I was eight, I think I must have watched it twenty times.

The book is still one of my absolute favorites, and I probably wouldn't have even read it if I hadn't been so enamored with the film and wanted to inhabit the world a little longer.
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
I think it holds up pretty well--I've watched it a couple times as an adult and still really enjoyed it. But I'm not sure to what extent nostalgia was at work. (Though I have nostalgia for many '80s movies and most of them I wouldn't say hold up the same way.)
Mar. 10th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
I thought the adaptation of The Firm by John Grisham was better than the book because the MC had to deal directly with his infidelity and actually solved his problem instead of running away.

Fun post!
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed that movie and haven't read the book--interesting that the movie provided a more satisfying resolution!
Mar. 11th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
I loved Cuaron's adaptation of The Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the recent Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I felt like both did a really good job with the heart of the stories involved, and the artistic rendering was lovely.

Some of the worst adaptations are picture books made into movies. Too many unrelated plot lines aimed at too many different people make the films feel cross-eyed.
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I always find the picture book adaptations a little odd, just the idea of them. But I guess if someone wants to make those movies!

I enjoyed THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE overall, and the visuals were very nice, but I did feel they went a bit overly LORD OF THE RINGS-ish with the battle sequences. ;)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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