Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Based on the Book

"Twilight" captured the box office last week and it got me thinking about the connection between books and Hollywood.

I can remember in high school claiming that I was going to write the Great American Novel and then pen the screenplay based on the book. Ah, the ignorance of youth.

I'm still plugging away on my great novels, but the allure of a film version has waned. I love books and pretty much any movie made from a book I've read will guarantee my presence in the theater. But sometimes when I hear that one of my favorite books is being made into a film, I cringe. (Can anyone say "Eragon?") Most bookworms would probably agree that the movie is never as good as the book, but sometimes film makers do manage to get it right.


I'm a purist. I hate when they change a great story for a movie. There are only two films that have thrilled me as much on the screen as they did on the page. "Presumed Innocent," by Scott Turow had spot on casting with Harrison Ford and the script stuck closely to the book. And when the Disney/Walden film "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" came out in 2005, my son and I stood in line on opening day. It took our breath away. Seamless animation, stunning cinematography and fabulous casting combined to make this my favorite adaptation of all time.

Sometimes small screen versions of books do well, especially when they become a mini-series. "Roots," "Brideshead Revisited," and "The Thornbirds" all attracted large audiences. And while the television show "Little House on the Prarie" had little to do with the actual books, it had me hooked for years.

So what about you? What books did you enjoy on the silver screen? Which ones should Hollywood have left alone?

12 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, great question! The movie "Like Water for Chocolate" followed the book EXACTLY! Great Spanish film. Novel is by Laura Esquivel. Ill keep thinking.. I'm sure I can come up with others.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Ooohhh, you're right! Great book, great movie -- good one!

Vivian said...

Good question! Holes by Louis Sachar, translated well into movie. Turns out, Mr. Sachar was involved with the screenplay.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Presumed Innocent read like a screenplay to me. I think that's why they kept to the book so much. It was written like a movie and yet it was a great book.

Did not see Narnia. I never could get through the books.

The first Harry Potter tried to stay true to the book because of the legions of rabid fans. And, at the time, it was a really good movie for that very reason. But now, it's the most boring of the HP movies. But the HP movies are made better by knowing what happens in the books. Otherwise, they're very shallow.

There have been a lot of books turned into movies that didn't do the book justice. The Color Purple is a good case in point. The book was phenomenal. And the movie was not so great in comparison to the book. But the movie taken on it's own was very good.

Suzanne Casamento said...

I can't really think of a film that was as good as the book. And I think that's because, as readers, we envision how characters should look, how they'd speak, what kind of body language they use.

We picture the settings and we have our own interpretations of how the climax scenes play out.

It's always better in my head...

Solvang Sherrie said...

"Holes" is next on the reading list for my son and me. I'm glad to hear the movie holds up. Happy T-day to you too, Vivian!

Sarah, you're right about "Presumed Innocent" reading like a screenplay. We've been watching every Harry Potter movie after we read the books and of course, we like the books WAY better!

Suzanne, I agree. Everything is better in my head, too :)

MotherReader said...

Good topic. I liked the book and the movie The English Patient, almost independently. They did make changes, but it worked. The book was lovely for the language, the movie for the imagery.

I agree with Vivian, that Holes worked pretty well. Though apparently he didn't like the movie ending, but was overruled. Little known fact.

And I agree with Sarah about the first Harry Potter movie. For the most part, I liked the Series of Unfortunate Events movie, even if it was different from the book.

Interesting question. May stay in my head for a few days.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Pam, I loved "The English Patient" movie. Surprisingly, I haven't read the book. The Narnia movie made changes too, but they were small and they made sense. So as long as they are well done, I don't have a problem.

caribookscoops said...

I loved Disney's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because it followed the book so closely and the special effects helped. Eragon was awful and I think a lot of people were disappointed. And I agree books are definitely better than the movies. I haven't seen Prince Caspian and actually read the book outloud to my 4 year old so she gets the book before she sees the movie.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I've read all the Narnia books to my children, but I didn't take my then 5-year-old to see Prince Caspian. It had a lot more fighting and was just darker so I wasn't sure she was ready to see it. Each child is different. I'll probably let her watch the DVD. Somehow things seem less scary in your own living room :)

Lindsay said...

I haven't seen The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, but I'm so glad to hear it's well done! That would be a fun read aloud and movie. My first grader has heard The Wizard of Oz but still hasn't seen the movie. It's true, each kid is different and that witch is pretty scary! :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Omigosh, Lindsay...I remember as a child being terrified of the flying monkeys! My kids didn't even bat an eyelash. They couldn't believe that had scared me!

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