Topic for Discussion: Film Interpretations of Books

Okay, we all have our favorite film adaptations of beloved books, right? And there are also cinematic adaptations of fine books that we’d just as soon forget (I’m looking at you, Barbra Streisand, and your Prince of Tides). Sometimes a film follows a book by the letter, and this isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, the film To Kill A Mockingbird leaves very little of the book out, and I can’t imagine it having been done any other way. It probably didn’t hurt that Horton Foote wrote the screenplay, either.

But what I’m particularly interested in are not only adaptations that work because of a scene-by-scene faithfulness to the original, but those that either work or fail for other reasons.

For instance, we may see a film that is more satisfying than the original. The case that comes first to my mind is Watchmen. Yes, I enjoyed the graphic novel, and no, the film wasn’t perfect, but in the end I felt the film was more faithful to what I interpreted as the spirit of Alan Moore’s original. Suffice it to say I was glad the film left out the alien squid–not because it was an alien squid, mind you, but rather that I didn’t feel it did for the graphic novel’s story what the author intended it to do. I thought the film’s way of uniting humanity against a common threat was far more plausible. Additionally, I’ll add four more words to this classification: Lord of the Rings.

On the other hand, we may occasionally come across an adaptation that works well, though in an entirely different way than the book. Take for instance, the film Blade Runner, which is based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Both the book and the film work for me, but in the end they are different creatures. And, ironically, the film still comes across as something Philip K. Dick might have written.

But enough of my yakkin’. What, in your opinion, are the most satisfying, surprising, perplexing, or awful film adaptations of books? And further, why are they so satisfying, surprising, perplexing, or awful?

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1 Comment

  1. // Reply

    favorite adaptation is Mockingbird… or, perhaps Rings because Jackson gave Tolkein the badly needed editing the trilogy deserved. (I know Tolkein nuts, send the hate mail elsewhere.)

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