Guest Post: Book vs Movies--5 Adaptations Compared to the Original by Katie Porter
Book vs Movies - 5 Adaptations Compared To The Original
Contributed by Katie Poter
One of the joys of reading a novel is the ability to be our own casting director! We create a picture of the characters and the world for ourselves and we share their failures and successes as if we were living between the sheets of that book with them. The characters become the friends that we don’t want to let go of.
Do the images and the characters that you followed around in your imagination ever quite match up to the reality on the silver screen? Has the film ruined the book for you? Do you dare watch the movie adaptation of your favourite book?
There’s something joyous about that time spent alone, flicking through the leaves of a real page- turner. But sometimes the director of the film does something different with the text, giving the film a language and a life all of its own.
Romeo and Juliet - Baz Luhrmann
OK, plays aren’t books, per-say - it’s a different medium. In a play, the story is told through the actions of the characters that are explicitly or implicitly implied by what they say. We concern ourselves with what the characters are “doing” to each other and the outcome of the conflict changes the world of the story. A novel, of course, is concerned with character in the same way, but it fills in a lot of the blanks that a play leaves transparent.
Shakespeare, both on the page and in the mouth, can often feel completely impenetrable. All those words can feel utterly bewildering in the wrong hands! It’s a bit like watching a foreign film where you have a slight grasp of the language - you understand the odd word - but most of it goes over your head. The language is so densely packed with meaning that it’s impossible to translate three levels of metaphor on the hoof. That’s why it’s always good to go back to the text.
Performed well, however, Shaky can be brilliant. And Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet is a great example. It doesn’t matter that you don’t follow everything that’s being said because the visual storytelling is so strong that you follow it anyway.
With a fantastic soundtrack, a stellar cast, imaginative direction and a great base script, watching this film is a great way of bringing those dry old words to life. The language is beautiful and the themes are timeless - it’s really worth persevering!
The Hunger Games
Is it a love story? Is it a prophecy? Is it an allegory for how we live our lives? You could say that it’s all of those things. But the movies are great adaptations that elaborate on the themes inherent within the books.
I resisted watching the movies, originally. I didn’t know much about the books and I just wrote them off as rubbishy love stories. But I watched the first film and I found myself drawn into a dark and disturbing world that wasn’t a million miles away from George Orwell (check out Nineteen Eighty-Four). And I became a fan.
There’s a real split in discussion forums - most people think that the books explained the world in simple terms that were easy to follow. What I loved about the films, however, was that you were constantly one step behind the plot, keeping you interested all the way through. It was difficult to
predict what was going to happen next. The first movie burst onto the screen with a Terry Gilliam- inspired surreality that was both terrifying and aesthetically appealing all at the same time.
For a film I was expecting not to love, I was pretty blown away! It made me want to read the books. And, I’m not so sure I loved the books as much as the films. For me, the films weren’t attempting to directly translate the book. The films completely stand on their own.
The famous Hogwarts novels were serious stalwarts of the best-seller lists for well over 10 years and have remained favourites to this day. The Harry Potter series was probably the first multigenerational cross-over series aimed at a younger audience, that seemed to enthral adults just as much. It wasn’t unusual, back in the day, to see a suited and booted business person escaping the tribulations of the board room by losing themselves in the book on the train home. Perhaps there’s something about the dark mystery of magic that captures the imaginations of the book-reading public, both young and old.
These are long films, with the shortest running at 2 hours and 10 minutes. If you consider that the average “family” film is 90 minutes, then these are films that take the Harry Potter universe really quite seriously! You could argue that they’re pretty close adaptations. There are 8 movies in total and if you were to binge the entire series, you’d be there for a grand total of 1180 minutes (that’s 19hours and 40minutes!)
The special effects are amazing, the stories are true to the books and their universal acclaim seem to suggest that the films are as good as the books. But, for me, the films are too long and don’t match up to the world that I created in my own head from the novels.
Clueless is more widely known for the film (and the spin-off TV series) than the book. But did you realise that the story is heavily based on Jane Austen’s classic novel - Emma?
Clueless tells the tale of Cher - highly regarded by her family and friends, she lives with her wealthy father after her mother has died. Her manipulative nature is her down-fall and a flaw that comes back to bite as the story unfolds. All of these character-traits perfectly echo the principle character, Emma, in the Jane Austen novel.
The remaining supporting characters may all have been given modern names, but they all take centre stage in the Austen novel. Tai from the movie is Harriet, Josh is Mr Knightley, Elton is Mr Elton and Christian is Frank Churchill.
If you’re a fan of the movie, I’d wholly recommend reading Emma. Jane Austen was an amazing writer, brimming over with humour and cultural observation and once you’ve discovered her amazing body of work, you’ll be utterly hooked.
And you might just recognise a bit of Bridget Jones in Pride and Prejudice.
This, for me, is about as far from the book as you can get. Yes Man by Danny Wallace is an amazing book. It’s funny, poignant and takes the reader on a life-affirming journey. I loved the book so much that I literally mourned for a lost friend the day I reached The End.
The story is simple - Danny, a radio producer, who feels that life has begun to stagnate, is inspired by a complete stranger on the bus who advises him to “say yes more”. And that’s what he did. To both hilarious and tragic effect.
And that’s about as far as the similarity to the novel went. Completely rewritten, the movie was a massive let-down with very little to redeem it. Jim Carrey brought very little likability to the protagonist and everything that I’d loved about the story of a guy making decisions that sent him down some inspiring paths was all but destroyed.
I almost walked out of the cinema. The subtle humour of the book was hatcheted and hammed up to such an extent that everything that had been funny about the words on the page, were lost.
If you haven’t read the book, try it. You really won’t be sorry. Danny Wallace is a really great, modern writer with a great catalogue of entertaining novels.
Reading is a great way for the imagination to expand. Our favourite books lift off the page and spring to life in our minds’ eye. There are many great movie adaptations of great books - but we all too often hear people saying that the film wasn’t as good as the book. And perhaps that’s true. The movie is a great artform - it’s a storytelling medium that’s accessible to us all. But there’s nothing quite like getting lost in the book, is there.
Katie Porter is an aspiring writer, movie lover, and part of the team at Seatup. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home state Colorado and plays in women's amateur rugby league.