As a book lover, I am both excited and filled with trepidation when I learn that a book I loved is being adapted into a film. A beautiful novel should turn into a lovely film, and sometimes we get lucky. As readers know, however, we have been burned before. We have visions of the characters that sometimes are hopelessly dashed when casting is announced. Other times, our favorite parts are changed, or even omitted, for reasons we’ll never understand. Sometimes the phrase “based on” and the title of a favorite story seem to mock us from the screen when the two bear almost no relation to each other.
I loved The Life of Pi.I loved the writing style and was so afraid that it would fall to the wayside and the CGI would be overwhelming. I was pleasantly surprised that the feel of the story remained the same. They solved all the nearly-impossible logistics of the story and managed to keep the heart.It was beautiful to read and mesmerizing onscreen. Truth be told, though, my favorite book-to-film adaption is The Princess Bride. I loved the book growing up and thought the movie brought it to life in a way that I didn’t even think possible. I think it helped that author Goldman also wrote the screenplay and that the cast was—from top to bottom—downright perfect for the roles.
Some books are changed slightly for time reasons, and I totally understand that. I loved reading The Martian, and I thought that the film adaptation did reasonably well with the edits they made. Of course, they changed the ending a little, but I think that was more to give the audience a better sense of closure than an attempt to improve upon Andy Weir’s book. Much of The Time Traveler’s Wife suffered the same fate, much to the film’s detriment. But I never understand changing the ending of a source book. The first time I saw it was in The Chocolate War. There was a reason Cormier chose to end the book the way he did, and that one marble changes the entire arc of the story. Even as young as I was, I remember feeling outright appalled by the change. Another one I did not understand was the ending of My Sister’s Keeper. The ending in the film was a dramatic twist to an already wrenching tale. When it deviated from the novel, it changed the entire path and message of the story, nearly rendering it all irrelevant.
My least favorite film adaption might be a surprise to you. I can’t think of anything worse than what Jim Carrey and company did to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I don’t know if it was because they created all thatunnecessary backstory to make the movie an acceptable length, because they were messing with something so familiar to me, or if it was because Carrey is NO Karloff. Although it was considered old before I was born, I love Chuck Jones’ animated version. It is so much better. I heard The Cat in the Hat is just as bad, but I have managed to avoid seeing it so far.
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t seen the film adaptions of either The Lovely Bones or The Book Thief. I loved both books to the point of being afraid to watch them for fear of them being mangled. Usually, though, I try to give adaptions the benefit of the doubt.What about you? Are you usually disappointed with film adaptions, or do you think they usually get them right?