In certain circles, movie adaptations of beloved books are a highly controversial subject! My expectations are usually low for movie versions of books, because I’ve been disappointed too many times. But…sometimes the movies do justice to their books–or, dare I say it, even do better!
I visited this topic once before, but I must have been watching (and reading) some good things in the last few years, because I find myself with a few more to add to my own list of great movie adaptations. In no particular order, and with links to reviews…
Well, no particular order except for this one! Something amazing happens here because it’s a huge departure from Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes (like being in a different century) and yet it’s so true to the original too. I think the key is that the window-dressing (gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages) has changed, but the characters still feel the same…just told through modern story-telling. Besides, I went on a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour in London, and the guide pointed out that at the time of writing, Holmes was set in the present-day–and it was actually several decades before retellers stopped modernizing, and started placing him in his original decade.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I liked the first movie in this trilogy too, but it was the second that really impressed me. With some very careful character tweaks, the movie stayed true to the book but made me like Katniss so much better. What had felt like a girl flailing helplessly became a girl trying her best, and that’s a character I can enjoy much more.
I made a conscious decision when I finally read the books to rewatch the movies at the same time (each movie just before the book, in fact). I enjoyed every book and movie, but I have to give the edge to the movies. Sorry, Tolkien. Actually, he might not mind–the movies brought the characters to life for me much more, but since Tolkien’s focus seems to have been on the lore and the history anyway, he might not see that as an issue.
Northanger Abbey (Masterpiece Theatre)
This is my favorite Austen novel, and the movie is delightfully frothy and fun. Colin Firth makes us wait six hours for a smile, but Mr. Tilney grins throughout this whole movie. It also features the wonderful Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe, not to mention one of moviedom’s most adorable first kisses.
I’m not sure I can think of any other book/movie combination where they feel so completely like they’re exactly the same thing. It may help that William Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay. There are some extra details in the book–but the movie has the adorable frame story–and really, everything that’s most important is in both!
Neil Gaiman was being complex and innovative and subverting expectations with some aspects of this story. The movie decided to be funny and romantic and, yes, more traditional in its pay-offs. I respect Gaiman, but the movie makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and happy!
Your turn! What movies do justice to their books?