Hello friends and welcome to our November Favorites Feature! The film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire is opening this week, so we thought it would be interesting for this month’s topic to be our favorite book-into-movie adaptations. We are readers and when we’re told our books are going to be made into film, there is always a mix of excitement, anticipation, and dread. But which have impressed you, surpassed your expectations? Which have not? This is our list. Enjoy!
K.’s Top Books-into-Movies
Boy, did this topic shame me or what! Reading the other ladies’ picks, I realized with terrible embarrassment that I have not read-and-watched-book-and-film nearly as much as I should have. And I call myself a book and film fanatic! My pool was shallow indeed.
Nevertheless, I do have a list. For myself, not keeping in complete fashion with a book does not mean a bad adaptation. It is impossible to translate entirely a written story into a live action narrative. It is, simply, the spirit…or essence or idea or goal of the story that must be preserved. The bones, not necessarily the flesh. The soul, not the body. And I feel these films did a commendable job in reaching my obviously pretentious standards.
The Secret Garden — Wendy and I have mentioned this book and film quite a few times now. For good reason. This movie most often tops my favorite films list. And it does so here. This film, directed by Agnieszka Holland, is pure magic. The story, the characters, the music, the cinematography, the sound, the art direction, it all combines to tell a quiet but painful, beautiful and hopeful story of a lonely girl needing to heal, grow and find a place to belong. Soft and perfect.
Harry Potter — All of them but most especially happy with the last three. Yes, I loved these films. Harry Potter is my childhood so to even suggest they be made into film, you are already walking on a very thin line with me. But considering how butchered other books have been by their movie counterparts, this franchise is a masterpiece in comparison. But they are legitimately good. John Williams’ brilliant score helped a great deal in conjuring (heeey) an atmosphere of childhood wonder and delight. And then it gets really dark.
Pride and Prejudice — One of the best. It infuses such substance and zeal into Jane Austen’s classic novel. It’s lush and elegant. Everything in it is exquisite. I’m not even exaggerating.
The Outsiders — Nostalgia. When I watched this movie very closely after reading the book, I thought the movie had come to life.
Movies I loved but afraid to read the book in case it isn’t as good:
Trainspotting — I shouldn’t have enjoyed this film as much as I did at the age I saw it in. Hell of a ride. Again, another of my favorites. But anything Boyle does, I love.
Never Let Me Go — I think I held my breath the entire time I was watching this.
Movie adaptations I’m looking forward to:
Catching Fire — Like I said before, considering how bad some books have been translated into film, I think the studio made the right decisions when producing the Hunger Games. I believe they captured just the right nuances that truly represent what Collins was trying to achieve with her series.
The Book Thief — A great opportunity to let someone else figure stuff out and explain them to me.
If I Stay and Jellicoe Road — We shall see.
Tonya’s Top Books-into-Movies
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – while I’m not sure it’s the most faithful of the franchise, I do think it was one of the better films. The dark tone and the deeper look into the characters (Draco especially), make this a favorite of mine.
Lord of the Rings series – Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job bringing one of my favorite childhood stories to life on the screen. The scope of them still takes my breath away, ten years later. (Now if only he’d been able to maintain that brilliance in The Hobbit...)
Atonement – sexy, sad, and visually stunning, this is one of the only movies I prefer over the book, perhaps for the cinematography alone. The book itself was a little heavy and tragic for my tastes, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from the film. (James McAvoy + library sex is all I am saying.)
Outlander series on Starz – they have been threatening Outlander fans with a movie for years, and I’ve been dreading it. But this TV series a la Game of Thrones actually looks like it might be good–and seems to have done the impossible; casting a worthy Jamie Fraser.
On the Jellicoe Road – the mere mention of a film version of one of my favorite books of all time gives me chills and hives, but the fact that Marchetta has penned the script and has such a hand in the production is giving me hope.
The best part of the experience of seeing the movie in theater was that the audience at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was really into it (apparently a lot of people had not read the book), and when the part came where we saw Peeta’s face in his fancy camo makeup, everyone started guffawing because it was so much better than it should have been, and we were all a bit on edge. It was such a lovely moment of crowd kinship.
Future movie adaptations:
I’m so skeptical because I’ve been burned too many times in the past. That said, Child 44, a really good serial killer story set in Russia, was, I believe, originally written as a screenplay. Tom Rob Smith couldn’t sell it in that medium, so he turned it into a novel, and now that the movie is being made, it has the best possible cast and creative team attached. So that’s exciting.
They’re in the process of adapting one of my all-time favorite children’s books, The Little Prince, and I have my fingers crossed that they will do the tiny, sweet story justice. They certainly have an amazing cast assembled, and I tend to prefer animated adaptations. My sister and I each have a tattoo of a quote from the book on our left shoulder, and I love it enough that I may not see the movie even if it isamazing, because it’s so perfect to me in the original form.
A huge part of why I think the adaptation is so perfect is that the filmmakers were not afraid to take certain liberties with the source material (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick, which I have read maybe 20 times since I first encountered it in the sixth grade). They removed the weird religion that had taken over the world, and the main character’s home life with his wife, and basically anything that didn’t fit into a tight, suspenseful action movie. I still prefer the book, because I like books better that films, but what a gorgeous movie.
The Last Unicorn, 1982 – I watched this movie every single day when I was a kid. The voice cast is perfect (Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee…), and it is a really lovingly-done adaptation of a truly great Fantasy classic. When I read the book as an older child, I was able to appreciate the plot points that had been left out of the movie, but they don’t feel extraneous in the novel. The movie and the book are perfect in their own rights.
BTW, nerd alert-wise, I have the theme song, performed by America, on my ipod, and I listen to it almost every day. And my little sister has a tattoo (we get a lot of tattoos, Maggie and I) of one of the scenes from the book on her arm.
And the movie clips the ending, too, guys. The get the real ending you have to read the book. It’s so, so perfect, but again, unfair to judge other adaptations against, because of who the author was.
My apologies up front for the length of my post. I usually try to keep my pieces for our monthly discussion topics fairly short, but in this case I couldn’t stop myself. I genuinely love and feel strongly about every one of these picks, and since I used to work in movies, book-to-film adaptations are something I have particularly passionate feelings about.
I believe that the best adaptations are the ones that don’t follow the book too faithfully. My favorites tend to be the ones that capture the spirit and themes of their source material, but breathe new life into them in order to suit the new medium. So here are the films that I think do that really well.
Fave adaptions for or of MG/YA:
- Mean Girls “Her hair! It’s full of secrets!” This hilariously quotable movie is based on Queen Bees and Wannabes, which is actually a non-fiction book. I wish Tina Fey did more material like this.
- The Secret Garden (1993) Kate Maberly has perfect diction. And the film and soundtrack are so lovely, filled with the promise of rebirth, both physical and spiritual.
- Return to Oz Still one of the scariest films I have ever seen, and better than the original Wizard, in my opinion. “Dorothy Gaaaayyylle…” *shudder*
- Peter Pan (2003) My favorite Pan. The “I do believe in fairies!” scene makes me thrill very time, and it still makes me wistful over this upsetting idea of having to grow up.
- Mary Poppins This is so very different from the books, but I love it just the same. DANCING PENGUINS. I wish they’d kept the gingerbread stars scene from the books, though, it’s one of my favorites.
- The Witches Anjelica Huston is superb as the Grand High Witch, and Bruno as mouse is adorable.
- Anne of Green Gables This series changes some things, but it’s faithful to Anne’s character, which is most important. And seeing PEI onscreen is breathtaking! Avonlea was great, too.
- The Velveteen Rabbit This version, with Meryl Streep narration, David Jorgensen illustrations, and George Winston music, is absolutely perfect. I give this DVD a lot as Christmas or Easter gifts.
- The Nutcracker I first saw this version last year because of Claire LeGrand. I love many Nutcracker adaptations, but this one, conceived with Maurice Sendak, is particularly dark and surreal and romantic.
- The Parent Trap I wanted so badly to be a twin when I was little, and I love Hayley Mills. That ranch house in Carmel and the lovely mother were incredibly appealing, too. One of the best films to come out of those sunshiny Disney days.
- Clueless The might be the most brilliant adaptation ever, based on Jane Austen’s Emma. “I believe that was your designer impostor perfume.” It’s the ultimate movie to watch with girlfriends.
Favorite Adult Fiction adaptations: Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Rebecca (1940), To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, Maurice, The Birds, The Shining, Of Mice and Men (1992), Children of Men, My Fair Lady (1964), The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, Jane Eyre (2006)
So those are some of my faves! I have to admit, I liked the first Hunger Games movie but didn’t love it. The most upsetting thing was cutting out the brief, poignant scene with the gift from Rue’s district. You could distill the entire meaning of this series down into that beautiful single moment–it was such a pivotal point for Katniss, because I think it’s when she first begins to look upon her survival in the Games differently. Excluding it was to miss out on infusing the film with much-needed emotion, depth, and greater purpose.
I am hopeful that the new director of Catching Fire and Mockingjay will better explore the themes and characters we know so well, though. I thought his adaptation of I Am Legend was excellent, and he seems capable of giving the series the tension and gravity and drive that it needs.
Other upcoming bookish films I’m especially excited about: Saving Mr. Banks! I love Mary Poppins and Emma Thompson, so I have my fingers crossed, though I am probably as equally afraid it will make me dislike P.L. Travers. And I’m curious about Vampire Academy, even if I don’t have high hopes for it. Just don’t butcher Rose’s character, that’s all I ask.