Thursday, September 8, 2016

And the Oscar Goes to…

by Alan

What's the most successful book-to-screen film you've ever seen? What was the least (and why)?

I’m probably like most people in that I usually think books are better than the movies made from them. Maybe it’s because my imagination is more actively engaged when reading—picturing what the characters and settings look like, rather than having the filmmakers foist their interpretations upon us. Maybe it’s the fact that we often get right into the heads of the characters in a book, something that’s very difficult to do in a film (I mean, who wants a ten-minute voiceover?). Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of time spent within the story. In a book, a reader might spend five or six hours immersed in the story, whereas a movie lasts only a couple of hours.

Whatever the reason, the best books usually seem to outdo the best movies.

So I’ll offer up a list of movies that I thought did a very good job of fulfilling the promise of their respective books:

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park – Super cool concept, and I thought the dinos were pretty darn realistic.

Mystic River – Good book, great movie. Superb acting.

Silence of the Lambs – Great book, great movie, great villain, great hero. Do not invite Hannibal Lechter over for dinner, just sayin’

A Time to Kill – In my opinion, one of Grisham’s better books.

Jaws – Who doesn’t love killer sharks?

The Martian – I really enjoyed reading this book, and I was a little afraid of what might happen when it made the jump to the big screen. Matt Damon and company pulled off a very good adaptation.Misery

And what would this list be (for me, anyway) without a few Stephen King works:

Dead Zone – Christopher Walken. ’Nuff said.

Firestarter – Do NOT make Drew Barrymore mad.

Misery – Do NOT make Kathy Bates mad, either.

As for the least favorite adaptation I’ve seen, I’ll go with The Bonfire of the Vanities. As I recall, they took a well-done satire and turned it into some kind of bizarre farce. I haven’t seen that one again, so my memory of that has faded.



Paul D. Marks said...

Alan, I'm with you on Bonfire of the Vanities as one of the worst adaptations. The movie was unwatchable. I think part of the problem is that the filmmakers didn't have the courage of their convictions -- or maybe just the opposite and they had too much courage in their convictions, wrong-headed as they were, and they should have tried to be more faithful to the book.

Art Taylor said...

Nice list here, Alan--though I'll be the dissenting voice on Mystic River. I thought the film was fine on its own, but it was a pale shadow ultimately of the book. The film focused on the action while the book had greater breadth in its depiction of the community and greater depth in its exploration of characters--and not just the central trio of men.

Would've made a great miniseries though...

But otherwise, love the list!

Susan C Shea said...

What a good list, Alan. I saw some of these but not all and I hadn't read some of the books. Jurassic Park was a fine movie and I think I should backwards engineer my experience by reading the book. Thanks!

Alan Orloff said...

Paul - Yeah, they messed up, but good.

Art - I thought that about Gone Baby Gone. Book much better than movie.

Susan - I think a lot of Crichton's books are better as movies. Great concepts that transfer well.

Susan C Shea said...

Alan, I'm thinking I can move the Crichton book down the list, huh, and maybe just rent the movie again?

Alan Orloff said...

Susan - Good call.