Books to Film (Booking through Thursday)

I’m putting this post up in honor of an adaptation project I’m working on right now. From Booking through Thursday:

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

1. Hands down, The Last of the Mohicans. I hate this book with a passion, having had to read it for 2 separate classes in college. You’d never know that there was a good story in there, because James Fenimore Cooper’s prose is so impenetrable–and not in a good way. Michael Mann’s movie version brings the story to life and even changes it for the better, by altering a significant plot point near the end. The movie is the definitive version of this classic American story. And it’s the DVD I’d ask for if I ever win Filmspotting‘s weekly Massacre Theater contest (I’m usually right, but I never get picked).

2. I really hated The Hours. I didn’t care much for the book, and thought that the movie took everything that I disliked about the book and celebrated it. I also felt like The Devil Wears Prada had a better adaptation in it, one that hewed more closely to the book’s All About Eve-style satire, and less to the “You’re going to make it after all!” you-go-girl chick lit elements.

3. I like to read the book first, but I’m usually able to keep the two separate in my mind.

18 thoughts on “Books to Film (Booking through Thursday)”

  1. It’s funny you mentioned The Devil Wears Prada! I did too! I hated the book with a passion. Too whiny, in my opinion. But the movie was actually pretty good. Of course, Meryl Streep can do anything!

  2. Nice to see another person picked a Daniel Day Lewis movie… And, I just saw the Devil Wears Prada movie last weekend on HBO. I thought the movie was entertaining (and Meryl Streep was amazing), but I had hated the book. A rare occurence of a movie transcending the book it was based on, in my opinion!

  3. Well, I mostly prefer books to movies, only for the reason that the books can contain a lot more detail than you can fit in a movie.

  4. I also liked the movie of Last of th Mohicans better than the James Fenimore Cooper book. I never read Devil Wears Prada, but I hated the movie. The TV show Ugly Betty is similar, and much better!

  5. I agree with Fleiger, though I can enjoy a movie for what it is–if it’s well done–even though a movie can never go as deep as a movie.

    I also really, really love the Lord of the Rings movies.

  6. The LOTR trilogy is indeed one of the better book-to-movie adaptations. Even when Jackson et al. made changes, you could tell they were mostly necessary ones. I wish they’d left Faramir’s character alone, though—he was one of the best and most noble characters in the books, and while I can see where they were going with the change, I still wish they hadn’t done it. Boromir and Faramir had a kind of Lancelot vs. Galahad vibe in the books that was lost in the movies.

  7. Well, there are some movies which made me wish I had read the book or made me get my hands on the book asap, so I know what you mean about enjoying movies…

    LOTR is perhaps one of the best efforts of conversion. Even the changes/ommissions don’t take away anything from the spectacle.

    I would rank “The Seventh Gate” and “The Last Legion” as one of the worse ones, just because they have changed the stories enough to make it “interesting”, giving more importance to sub-plots than the main details.

  8. Heh… nice to see my reviews carry some weight ;)

    I just got a comment from somebody on my OotP review that she is waiting for somebody to make a short series on Harry Potter books, because she didn’t like the movies.

  9. As a screenwriter, I understand the necessity of omitting and changing stories to fit movie format. It’s really challenging and impossible to get all the elements of character and story in. You have to accept it on its own.

    That said, there are definitely people who have a better grasp of how to do this and make it work.

    I agree with the LOTR assessment.

    The Sweet Hereafter. Love the book and the film. Read the book afterwards. Told very differently and both effective.

    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Saw the film first and loved it. Didn’t finish the book. I couldn’t sympathize with Gilbert, he was… well, less sympathetic.

    Mother Night. Book first, movie second, loved them both. It’s certainly the best Vonnegut book adaptation.

    Joy Luck Club. Book First, movie second. A really nicely done adaptation.

    I heard such horrible things about the film Divine Sisters of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood that I didn’t want to read the book, but a friend insisted that I do. I adored the book. Then I tried to watch the film. It was the WORST adaptation I’ve ever seen. Never finished watching it.

    I could go on… but I won’t. Great topic, though!

  10. Great examples. I’m fascinated by the topic & realized I forgot to add the tag for “film adaptations” at the bottom of the post. Apparently I’ve talked about this many times before.

  11. Ooh, the best has to be the Godfather. That book was terrible. The movie was a masterwork.

    I can’t actually pick a worst. I rent book adaptations so I can easily talk to my wife about a book without having to make her read it. The worst adaptation meets all my requirements.

  12. I actually don’t love the Godfather movie, but read the book a couple of times as a good page turner. I can see why the movie is considered a masterpiece, but it doesn’t do anything for me, personally.

  13. I think the Harry Potter movies have made some significant improvements on the books, even though there were things I wish they didn’t have to leave out.

    Some of the better movie adaptations come from short stories rather than novels. They don’t have to leave stuff out. Alas, my brain is drawing a blank on coming up with an example. :-P

  14. I’m not crazy about the Harry Potter movies, but that’s just me.

    Hmm…short stories. The first one that comes to mind is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, but I haven’t seen that movie.

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