In my recent Harry Potter and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire articles I feel I’ve been a little harsh on adaptations, and there is a pervasive stereotype that all book readers think the medium is automatically superior to film.
It’s a mentality that I used to subscribe to myself, but the reality is that there are plenty of movies that are better or equal to their book counterpart. Here are some:
A couple of years back I tried to read the book Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman and it just didn’t grab me the way the film did. Not only does the movie have a lot of fun romantic comedic elements, but the sister chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in this film is perfect. And can we just have red-haired Nicole back forever and ever?
The Silence of the Lambs:
While the film Red Dragon—also by author Thomas Harris in the Hannibal Lecter series—is nowhere near as good as the book, The Silence of the Lambs is both a great film and a damn good adaptation in its own right. While it is still extremely problematic for its depiction of Buffalo Bill, the book does attempt to clarify that Bill is not crazy because he is LGBT, Jonathan Demme’s adaptation is still an amazing film with a compelling heroine in Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins’ iconic turn as Hannibal Lecter.
The Princess Bride:
I picked up the book The Princess Bride many many years after watching the movie, and I can report that both are excellent in different ways. With a script written by Princess Bride author William Goldman, it maintains the essentials while also creating a different atmosphere from the original next. The book is very much playing with fairy tale tropes in a much more satirical (and dark) way than the movie, but the movie is perfect from start to finish. It is the ultimate feel-good flick and iconic in every way. As you wish.
A Little Princess (1995):
I know I talk about this book/movie a lot, but it’s my favorite, so them the breaks. The 1995 version of A Little Princess changes pretty much everything about the book: the setting, the time period, the war, etc. yet it also creates something so true to the heart of the original while tackling new issues like racism and classism in an American context. Not to mention it does a lot more to build up the sisterhood between all the young girls in the school, and Sara gets to be a lot more fleshed out in some ways. It is an excellent film and it’ll make you cry.
The book Jurassic Park is fine, but it takes a long time to get places and kind of drags at points. The film, due to the great filmmaking and acting behind it, really captures the wonder of dinosaurs and has some damn fine protagonists that we get to follow throughout the story. Plus, Jeff Goldblum, zaddy of planet Earth. Also, a lot more people die in the book. That’s not a criticism, just putting that out there.
The Age of Innocence:
I recently watched Martin Scorsese’s 1993 film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s romance drama Age of Innocence and man is it good. Not only it well made and filled with pulsating passion, it does great service to the characters that Wharton created while bringing warmth to the character of Newland with Daniel Day-Lewis’ masterful performance. If you have Amazon prime, I highly recommend.
The Devil Wears Prada:
I won’t say that the book is trash, because that is unfair—it just isn’t for me, but I will say that if you enjoyed the film because it was a really interesting character study and because Miranda Priestly was your goals, then the book will be disappointing. Especially the ending.
While the book by Bret Easton Ellis is certainly … good, I think the film manages to really take all the important aspects of what makes Patrick Bateman a sociopath and matches it perfectly with the Wall Street, name brand obsessive culture it satirizes. Plus, rather hilarious in hindsight, you get to see Batman kill the Joker.
All the changes in this movie just make our heroine even better and I think Matilda getting to keep her powers at the end is a much more satisfying ending than the original books, where it just goes away because their purpose is over. When is there ever not a purpose for telekinetics?
New Moon is the worst book in the Twilight saga, but it is by far the most fun movie to watch. That is a victory.
The book and movie are both great in different ways. I may prefer book Jack and Wendy to their movie counterparts, but they work for the story that Kubrick is trying to tell and it’s effective as hell.
What are some of your favorite book to movie adaptations?
( image: United Artists)
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