I absolutely love good movie/series adaptations of books. Perhaps it is the visual aspect – the way the imaginative world comes to life in a million little ways from alleys and shops, the landscape and architecture to costumes, food, and sounds – the everyday life. The second aspect being enchanting musical scores. A good scene can always be improved by careful application of music. Just think of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
So while I love adaptations I’ve seen enough to be a little wary of them – especially when the source belongs into science fiction or fantasy, and even more when it is from young adult genre. I’m not favourably inclined towards canon liberties, so consider me more of a purist, but when done well I can get behind them one hundred percent (giving Arwen a bigger role was a fabulous idea). Still, take too many and I’m likely to grumble or even shout at the screen in disbelief (True Blood, you know why you’re mentioned here). Not all adaptations carry over the magic of the books they are based on and that disappointment can be a bitter pill to swallow for a fan – a little research before viewing might be in order.
(Remember: “Google is your friend,” and reading few spoiler free reviews on Imdb goes a long way towards avoiding book to movie adaptation pitfalls. Also – blogs are a good source of new and interesting movies coming out.)
One thing I can count on is BBC adaptations of literature classics. Their period dramas are to die for! Of course there are some deviations from the books, but you can bet the costumes and settings will be as close to period appropriate as possible. I really like that and I found it a great motivation for those long Victorian novels I had to read for my literature class – finish the book (or get as close to finishing it as possible) and you can watch the movie or series.
I find them really good because they usually do away with the clutter of long descriptions and jump right in into the action, letting characters speak for themselves through actions and gestures. Our introduction is therefore far smoother than in the books; although shallower because we don’t get to know that much of their history. That is the only drawback, but a series can easily avoid it due to its longer runtime. That is why the Pride and Prejudice movie, though beautiful, isn’t the best of Jane Austen adaptations.
I think that is even truer for the recent Anna Karerina movie. I haven’t read the book since tackling Tolstoy requires some good mental preparation; especially because of the length of his novels and the amount of names, characters, places and other things he throws at you left and right. While beautiful and stunning, the story felt really thin, too compressed to truly grasp everything the novel contains.
Let’s return to BBC series. I find that I can easily be bribed with them, especially when the book in question is a Dickens or a Hardy – they can get either very dull in the middle (the former) or really depressing (the latter). Dickens is a delight mainly due to his quirky characters and the strong messages inherent in his works – these things translate wonderfully to the screen. Not to mention there are many wonderful British actors on hand for quality acting. The conditions in Victorian times Dickens describes were gruesome, especially for the children, so that can be hard to watch or read about. No wonder Freud and Jung (and an entire new discipline – psychology) had a field day with studying the behaviour and thoughts of post Victorian people. The traumas… one can only imagine.
Surviving Hardy’s novels without becoming utterly depressed is difficult for me, so I try to avoid reading his novels – try being the operative word. I find that opening his books once every two years is quite often enough, but I am ultimately drawn back to his works. (Damn you Penguin paperback editions – you always tempt me with cheap prizes!) Tess D’Urbervilles broke my heart and I was really angry at end the end of The Mayor of Casterbridge – yes, Hardy and I have an interesting relationship going on. He finds ways to emotionally wring me out…
As you’ve no doubt noted from the novels described above, I’m a bit of a history geek. My family knows that I’ll get my hands on period dramas and movies one way or the other (and if the movie is really good, I’d make them watch it too). Sometimes they like them, sometimes it is a miss. My sister doesn’t share my tastes entirely (she doesn’t like Austen – the horror!), but she always liked to read a book or two I recommended for her, or borrowed one I’ve brought form the library and devoured the first day. I was reading a lot as a child and teenager, so I still enjoy young-adult books – there’s certainly more novels aimed at younger generations than before, and they are being made into movies like clockwork these days, so that is a plus. I can still remember the craze Harry Potter caused. Suddenly kids were reading – only few kept that up, mind.
But movies are universal; people find it easier to spend two hours in a cinema or on a couch than going through a book for ten or more hours. Gone are the days of competitions on who read a Harry Potter book faster (the fastest of the siblings got first dibs on the next book to get out); I have entered the age where the question is not “Did you read a good book lately?” but “Is there a movie we could watch?”. That my sister actually opened Game of Thrones (and I didn’t yet) is a baffling yet positive surprise.
There are several book-to-movie adaptations in work or close to being released. I’ll probably watch them all at some point. I’m especially looking forward to the Hunger Games sequel and to the adaptation of my new favourite Daughter of Smoke and Bone (review in progress):
Hunger games #2
The Great Gatsby
City of Bones
I’ve included a list of movies and series based on books that I’ve watched (that I can remember – sometimes I have no idea a movie is based on anything but a script). I’ve read or intend to read most of the books these are based on. Keep in mind that I have a similar list of books and movies yet to watch. If I am suitably impressed, I’ll write a post about them.
Ones I love (in no particular order):
- Pride and Prejudice (1995 series)
- Sense and Sensibility (1995 series)
- Persuasion ( 1995 series and 2007 movie)
- Game of Thrones (2011- series)
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008 series)
- Bleak House (2008 series)
- The Pillars of the Earth (2010 series)
- The Mists of Avalon (2001 series)
- North and South (2004 series)
- Sherlock (2010- series)
- David Copperfield (1999 series)
- Call the Midwife (2012- series)
- The Hobbit (2012 movie)
- LOTR triology (2001-2003 movies)
- The Green Mile (1999 movie)
- Water for Elephants (2011 movie)
- Mansfield park (1999 movie)
- Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 movie)
- Schindler’s List (1993 movie)
- Lovely Bones (2009 movie)
- Never Let me Go (2010 movie)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (movie)
- Arn the Knight Templar (movie)
- Jason Bourne trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007 movies)
- Eat, Pray, Love (2010 movie)
- Howl’s Moving Castle (2004 animation movie)
- Pope Joan (2009 movie)
Ones that were ok, but could be improved:
- The Hunger Games (2012 movie)
- Jane Eyre ( 2011 movie)
- Vanity Fair (2004 movie)
- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010 movie)
- The Golden Compass (2007 movie)
- Contact (1997 movie)
- War of the Worlds (2005 movie)
- The White Massai (2005 movie)
- A Handmaid’s Tale (1990 movie)
Ones I’m frustrated with:
- True Blood (2008- series)
- Harry Potter (2001-2011 movies)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (2005 movie)
- Emma (1996 movie)
- Anna Karerina (2012 movie)