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What’s your favorite Movie that was based on a Book?

In the past two years of Queries, we’ve talked about all kinds of things: love, hope, happiness, jealousy, lies, expectation. This one is a little different: this time I thought I was asking a really super ordinary kind of question. But as usual, I found that most people have pretty strong opinions. And there may be no such thing as a simple question. I should have known better, since I had so many of my own opinions about this topic.  Add all that to the fact that I love movies and books, and this one was way more fun than I thought it would be. Fair warning: I thought this would be a short answer kind of Query, but it didn’t turn out that way, so this one is a little long.

I’m doing something else different this time, too.  Instead of writing up a big ole essay on what I think about movies adapted from books – and I’ve got plenty to say on that subject and lots of examples handy – I decided to share a little audio instead.  I’ve so enjoyed these Queries, in no small part due to the conversations that I’ve had with people.  A lot of those talks don’t make it here since we get way off topic, or we just talk too long. Anyway, if you’d like to take a listen, here you go…

Peyton and I are perhaps overly enthusiastic when Dan picks the same movie we did:

Terri, Jenée and I veer off into Twilight and Nicholas Sparks territory:

The end of my conversation with Terri, where I basically degenerate into a rant against screenwriters who are supposed to be adapting an established, might I add totally awesome, book and instead feel the need to inject their own ideas, however unnecessary their crazy ideas are to the story:

Okay, so I do understand why a screenwriter or Director would add completely new scenes. I get it, but I don’t have to like it.  As a fan of great stories, I do get very passionate about the books and movies I love. And perhaps a bit snobby, but that’s beside the point.  The thing is, I can accept and even sometimes embrace edits and changes necessary to adapt a book to a movie format.  The Hunger Games is a fantastic example of how this was well done. Sense and Sensibility would be another great example.  Holes is another.  Cuts and changes are unavoidable, but a great adaptation blends the changes so seamlessly that you forget it didn’t happen that way in the book.

However, I have a harder time (okay, I’m completely resentful) accepting screenwriters and directors who just can’t resist adding totally new scenes simply because they want to.  They burned down the Weasely’s cottage because we needed to see how great a threat the Death Eaters are.  Dude, we’re six movies in; we know already.  They burned it down because it wasn’t an “action heavy” book, and all the other action had been cut out of the screenplay.  Not an acceptable answer for doing something so distracting and inconsistent that it has me asking questions instead of losing myself in the film.  Go write your own book or movie and leave my story alone.

But that’s just my opinion. Which I didn’t even mean to share…but I adapted. 🙂

Here is what some other people had to say:

Terri: Oh my goodness…I like so many of them. I would have to say overall the Harry Potter ones did a pretty good job.  There were a couple of them that were like, eh, but overall… The Lord of the Rings, I liked the books and the movies. Gone with the Wind is another one I appreciated both.  I liked the book and I liked the movie for different reasons.  There’s no way they could have taken that book and made it…I mean…there’s no way…they had to leave out big chunks. There’s so much more in the book that happens to poor old Scarlett.
—Michelle: Oh really?
Terri: But like I said before, Harry Potter, I liked the books. And there were some of the movies that were real good with the book and some that weren’t. But I can appreciate that… I think for what you’re having to do, sometimes the movie can’t be like the book, you have to make it different.

Alaina: Percy Jackson! I liked the movie and the books.

Peyton: Holes.
—Michelle: That’s my favorite!
Peyton: It’s just such a good book. I saw the movie first, but it’s such a good book.
—Michelle: They did a super job in that movie…
Peyton: They did, though…  They really did, actually. I really like that one.

Angel: I would say Twilight…
—Michelle: Oh my goodness…
Angel: Just because that’s the only book I’ve ever really read that was made into a movie.
—Michelle: It doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read.
Angel: Okay, what about Harry Potter? I like Harry Potter.
—Michelle: But you do like the Twilight movies?
Angel: I do like the Twilight movies. Especially the last one.
*Note: I didn’t mean to talk her out of her first choice. Honest.

Logan: There are too many good choices – any of The Lord of the Rings, there’s any of the Star Wars, The Hobbit is coming out soon…
—Michelle: Were the original Star Wars based on a book? Or were the books written afterwards?
Logan: Yes. I’m pretty sure.  I would have to say probably The Lord of the Rings for me, those are just…
—Michelle: Like, the whole, all three of them?
Logan: All three of them, they’re really well done.
—Michelle: Are you going to see The Hobbit?
Logan: Yes, it’s part of my anniversary present. Angel’s taking me on a date.
—Michelle: Which anniversary is it?
Logan and Angel: A year and a half.
—Michelle: That’s not an anniversary. It’s a year and a half…that’s a made-up anniversary.
Logan: It’s…it’s a mile-marker.
—Angel: It’s a mile-marker.
(So we got off the point, but aren’t they cute?)

Aleisha: Twilight. The series was great, but the third and fourth ones were…oh my gosh! They were great.
—Michelle: Did you read the books?
Aleisha: Yes, I read the books. I liked the books better – obviously the books got into more details. I felt like the movies did leave out some details that were important. I liked the movies…they did a good job, though.

Rebecca: I can tell you all the movies off the books that I hate, but I can’t think of one that I like. Cause they never get the details, they never get the feelings, they never get the depth of it
—Michelle: What are the ones that you hate?
Rebecca: Harry Potter, The Help… Tell me some more Steve, cause you know my memory isn’t good when I need it.
—Steve: All those John Grisham ones.
Rebecca: Gone with the Wind is another one that they didn’t get it all.  The movie was fine, because I saw it first. If I had read the book first, I would have hated the movie. The book was amazing – they always are.
—Michelle: So no movie you’ve seen so far you’ve liked as much or better than the book.
Rebecca: I’m sure there could be one out there; I can’t remember what it would be. I always prefer to read it.  The Notebook – that would be the closest to the movies being better. Nicholas Sparks. Those books are written as if the movie was first and they wanted to have a book to be written off of it.  In my opinion, that would be it – the movies are better. He’s the only one…I knew there was something. Every other one…as a matter of fact it’s gotten to the point that I will refuse to see a movie if there is a book out there. Steve kept after me until I saw The Help, because there were not very many options left in that red thingy. And I finally relented, but I was sad that I did it. It just makes me mad.

John: Hunt For Red October.
—Michelle: Hunt For Red October! I forgot that was made out of a book. Did you read the book?
John: I did. Both of them were very good. The books can be a little bit tedious to read sometimes. Tom Clancy does a lot of the military thrillers. His books can be…it takes a while to build up to, you know, the action. So, sometimes you have to kind of plow through the first half, two-thirds of it before you get to the meat of it.

Dan: I’d say Holes.
—Peyton: Yeah!
Dan: I really like it. That’s one of my favorite books back in like the fourth grade, I think when I read it. I read it twice, one of the few books I’ve read twice.
—Michelle: Really?
Dan: Or the Outsiders. I really enjoyed…if I read a book and then watch the movie…  I don’t know, it’s just something about those I really liked.

Caitlin: The most recent was Atlas Shrugged. I couldn’t put the book down. The latest (movie) was so bad I walked out, broken leg and all. Absolute favorite would be Anne of Green Gables or the latest incarnation of Emma.
—Michelle: You liked the first movie, but Atlas Shrugged Part Two was bad? Don’t you hate that? So disappointing. It’s a movie trilogy made from one book, right?
Caitlin: Yup. Atlas Shrugged is a trilogy…and one big fat book in three parts. Everyone in #2 was old. It was painful.
—Michelle: I love the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma and Clueless too, but never read the book. I didn’t know about a new one.
Caitlin: The new one is so good. Emma is horribly flawed so I like her.  The Importance of Being Ernest is stellar. Play and film.

Toni: I guess Harry Potter.  If I have to say…yes…I guess.

Jean: The Jungle Book.
—Michelle: That’s interesting.
Jean: It wasn’t my favorite movie of all time, but movie from a book.
—Michelle: What made that one your favorite?
Jean: Just everything in it. Just the movie itself…just because.
—Michelle: Are you talking about the…that was a cartoon, right?  It was animated?
Steve: No, that was later. The original one had the, like the old Tarzan movie kind of thing.
—Jean: It’s real old.

Lydia: Gone with the Wind.
—Michelle: Have you read the book?
Lydia: Yes. I liked the movie better…no particular reason. Just the setting. I think the whole thing is charming. I like that the movie brought it to life.

Jenée: Most of the time I’m disappointed because I like the book better than the movie.  Are you asking if I liked the movie or how they adapted it? Two different things.
—Michelle: Well, where does your mind go?
Jenée: I think today the best book that I’ve ever read and  the movie that followed the book did the best job, is The Hunger Games.
—Michelle: They were pretty good.  I actually liked her better in the movie than in the book.
Jenée: Right. I agree with that.  But if you’re asking me best adaptation…that’s not my favorite movie, but I think it’s the best adaptation.
—Michelle: Well, do you have a favorite movie, whether it was adapted well or not?
Jenée: Now, that’s where I have to think…
—Terri: She loves movies.
Jenée: I’m a movie-holic, see, I watch movies all the time. To narrow it down to the best was very easy. To say what I like is, you know, very hard.

Steve: The Natural.
—Michelle: Did you read the book?
Steve: It’s based off Homer’s The Odyssey.
—Michelle: Oh it is? I didn’t know that. I love that movie, it’s a good movie.
Becca: He doesn’t either, but he feels smarter every time he says it.
—Steve: It says it in the credits!

JR: I really dug Cloud Atlas even though I disagreed with a lot of the core messages. It was even more impressive that it was technically in independent film.
Clay: I don’t know. Nothing comes to mind. I guess since you’re asking now I say Lincoln which is based in part on Team of Rivals. Both book and film were excellent.
Chad: But Clay, tell us how you felt about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (ALVH)? Expiring minds want to know.  Here’s a counter question: Can you give us a movie which was better than the book upon which it was based?
—JR: The book was WAAAAAY better. Way better. One thousand times better. Also, I’d say The Shawshank Redemption is a superior film to the Stephen King novella.
Clay: Yeah, ALVH (the book) is brilliant. I was excited that Seth Grahame-Smith the author was also doing the screen adaptation but, um, it didn’t work. At all.
—Chad:  Absolutely agreed.  ALVH book was way better. They really should have done a more faithful adaptation, instead of going for the big set pieces (that just fizzled onscreen). Vampires can be lots of things, but two things they should never be: boring or sparkly.

Items of Interest:

Will World War Z Totally Bomb? (Clay’s post that inspired this Query)

What is Cloud Atlas About (JR’s review of the movie)

I think this is the first time I’ve had other bloggers answer the Query; they are linked above.

JR and Clay are two-thirds of The Storymen. If you like pop culture, theology and history, you should check out The Storymen podcast. It’s good stuff.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love the Pride and Prejudice version with Keira Knightly, and the Sense and Sensibility version that was written by Emma Thompson. I thought The Hunger Games movie version was great and loved the actress portraying Katniss.

    January 6, 2013
    • Emma Thompson does such great work! Did you ever see the Nanny McPhee movies? She wrote those too, based on a children’s book series. I only saw the first one, but it was really magical (like Nanny McPhee, haha). I didn’t like the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice, but I know that’s because I’m completely prejudiced myself 😉 I have such a hard time getting past the inconsistencies with the book. But I think I would have liked it if I’d never read the book, or especially never seen the long BBC mini-series adaptation.

      January 6, 2013

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