Do you like movies made from books? Which ones do you think have been done well—kept mostly to the plot of the book, etc?
I do like movies made from books, and I find that it is OK for them sometimes to veer a little from the book. I think books and movies probably need to be viewed as separate entities and enjoyed accordingly. Even though the [amazon_link id=”B001UV4XHY” target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] films have cut some of the things I like best about the books, and sometimes even added details that were not in the books, I have still enjoyed them immensely. Most of the Jane Austen films I have seen have been pretty good. I even liked the 1999 [amazon_link id=”6305907145″ target=”_blank” ]Mansfield Park[/amazon_link] (but will admit the Fanny Price in the movie was not the Fanny Price in the book). My favorite? Eeesh. I don’t know. It’s hard to pick between Ang Lee’s [amazon_link id=”0800141660″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link] and the two Pride and Prejudice films. ([amazon_link id=”B00364K6YW” target=”_blank” ]Colin Firth[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”B000E1ZBGS” target=”_blank” ]Matthew Macfadyen[/amazon_link]? You see the dilemma.) [amazon_link id=”1451635621″ target=”_blank” ]Gone With the Wind[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0061990477″ target=”_blank” ]The Thorn Birds[/amazon_link] were great both in print and on film.
I almost always say the book is better than the movie, but there are some exceptions. Because of its superb casting, I felt that the film version of [amazon_link id=”B000TJBNHG” target=”_blank” ]The Princess Bride[/amazon_link] improved on the book. I also thought the film based on [amazon_link id=”B00005JOC9″ target=”_blank” ]The Da Vinci Code[/amazon_link] was better than the book, perhaps because Dan Brown’s strong suit is not character development, which is something actors can compensate for. Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” was great, but the [amazon_link id=”B00005JOFQ” target=”_blank” ]film[/amazon_link] fleshed out the characters and storyline more, and I thought it was better (one of my favorite films, actually). I haven’t read [amazon_link id=”0743453255″ target=”_blank” ]Forrest Gump[/amazon_link], but I did read [amazon_link id=”0671522647″ target=”_blank” ]Gump & Co.[/amazon_link], the sequel, and if Forrest Gump was written similarly, let’s just say that the film was probably an improvement.
On the other hand, no one can deny that films sometimes butcher the story badly. Perhaps because I haven’t seen it, I should not speak about the latest [amazon_link id=”B0011NVC98″ target=”_blank” ]Beowulf[/amazon_link] film, but come on—Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother? And Grendel is the—well, one hesitates to use the word love child, but—love child of Hrothgar and Grendel’s mother? And the dragon is the unholy offspring of Beowulf and Grendel’s mother? Nope. That’s playing too fast and loose with the material for my liking. I don’t even care that Neil Gaiman wrote it. And do you remember the [amazon_link id=”B003RACGZM” target=”_blank” ]evil Disneyized version[/amazon_link] of Lloyd Alexander’s [amazon_link id=”080508049X” target=”_blank” ]The Black Cauldron[/amazon_link]? No? Good. I’m trying to forget it. I am saddened by the notion that plenty of people never picked up those wonderful books because of that horrible film. [amazon_link id=”0679751521″ target=”_blank” ]Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil[/amazon_link] is one of my favorite books, but [amazon_link id=”B003ASLJQ8″ target=”_blank” ]the film[/amazon_link] stank. A lot. Funny story about that, too. John Berendt was the keynote speaker at Georgia Council of Teachers of English conference in 1998. He was asked what he thought of the film, and he replied that he had been so good… then diplomatically added that he liked the film for many reasons, not the least of which was that it sold a million copies of his book. The [amazon_link id=”B00005JKKY” target=”_blank” ]film[/amazon_link] based on A. S. Byatt’s [amazon_link id=”0679735909″ target=”_blank” ]Possession[/amazon_link] was OK, but there are too many layers to that book to capture on film.
I haven’t seen Water for Elephants yet. I don’t have major problems with the casting, as some folks seem to have had, but I’m scared it will stink. And I loved [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]that book[/amazon_link]. The reviews have been mixed.