A recent flurry of blogging on the subject “Books vs. movies: which is better?” got me thinking about the whole book-t0-movie phenomenon. I even got in on the debate in a guest-blog over at Cinema Three (movie connaisseur Silver Autumn’s witty blog about films and pop-culture).
My thoughts on this subject are many. On the one hand, books and movies are such different media that I feel odd comparing them. Apples to oranges. On the other hand, I believe any director who makes a movie from a preexisting story is obligated to respect both the original plotline and the original characters. This doesn’t mean they can’t make changes; it means any changes made should respect the integrity and message of the original work.
With that in mind, here are my Top Five best book-to-movie renditions of all time.
1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy–Peter Jackson took a sweeping epic, set in a world which took one man’s entire life to create, and condensed it into three movies. He included all of the major conflicts, did not change any major elements of the ending, stayed about 95% true to the characters, and made the world feel as authentic as it did in the book. My one complaint is the sadly misconstrued portrayal of Frodo as a bumbling fool in parts of the second and third movies, but other than that, this trilogy is golden.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird–Though huge chunks of the original story had to be cut out for time constraints (think Aunt Alexandra and, oh yeah, wasn’t there a whole other year in the middle of the novel?), this movie still ranks #2 on my list. The characters are spot on, even in appearance. The accents are real. The all-important courtroom scenes pack tons of verbatim dialogue. The message of the book remains intact in all its real-life complexity. No wonder this is considered a classic movie.
3. The Ruby In the Smoke–First in the Sally Lockhart series by Phillip Pullman (books recommended, but with a caution about sexual content), The Ruby in the Smoke was made into a Masterpiece Theater episode in Britain starring the ever-lovely Billie Piper (Billie, why did you leave Dr. Who? WHY??!!) It follows the plot of the book in every detail. No deviation whatsoever. The only reason it didn’t make my #1 is because it feels kind of flat. I don’t get an emotional reaction from watching it.
4. Harry Potter Series–Okay, okay, I know many of you catch plot changes in every single HP movie. But let’s think about this; the world Rowling created gets transferred pretty well onscreen in all its originality and awesomeness. They cast superb actors for each character (though I do miss the old Dumbledore, may he rest in peace). And we must give those movie-makers some credit, even when they leave things out. Rowling’s books have many details and plot twists. How could they all fit into each movie?
5. The Butcher Boy–I’ll bet you didn’t know they made a movie of this book, did you? The story of BUTCHER BOY strays a bit darker than what I usually read, but read it I did, and then saw the movie in a college class. Eamonn Owens plays a spectacular Francie Brady, an eccentric boy who descends into mental illness. The feel of the film fits the feel of the book, complete with even the most bizarre and disturbing of the book’s plot highlights. And something about the kids digging up the bodies while looking for Flash Bars sent me into hysterics, right there in Professor Hart’s senior year English seminar. (I promise I’m not usually so black in my humor. It was funny,dangit!)
This list represents only those book-to-movies that I have seen. Have you seen other greats that I have not? Are there some movies that you would love to enjoy, but can’t because of glaring flaws from the original story? Please share.