Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turning Books Into Movies

When I was in 8th grade I adored my oldest sister.  I still love her to pieces but thank God for her I don't follow her around like a puppy any more.  Of course she lives halfway across America so that makes it difficult as well. Ann had just graduated 12th grade and hung around with her friend Kathy and dammit I wanted to do everything they did.  

One of those occasions that I remember so damned well was when they were going to go see the Danielle Steele movie The Promise.  It had come out in the theaters and they wouldn't take me with them!  How dare they?!  They thought they were being quite clever and decided to give me the book.  They said that when I was done with the book they would take me to see the movie.  Well I finished that puppy in a day - of course they were shocked - but they still wouldn't take me with them.  (Ok, Ann took me eventually)  Now being in 8th grade I thought The Promise was a fab book so I was extremely excited to see the movie...which was crap.  I mean as far as I'm concerned it was utter and complete shite.   This was a poorly done "made for TV" movie that shouldn't have even aired on TV.  I was so stinking disappointed I could have screamed!

Another time this happened was many years later after having read Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  A great thriller that I loved.  I was totally excited to see that it was coming out in theaters.  Oh. Dear. Lord.  Suckage.  Seriously people?  You thought that was good enough to release? And then they changed the end of the movie to make it more fantastical.  Ug.  

Now I realize that no movie can truly capture the emotions that we feel while reading and no one person can be in my brain seeing the way I picture things (thank heavens) but it would be nice to see a close approximation to how events are described in the book.  Wouldn't it?

There are exceptions to the rule of course.  The first one that comes to mind is Jurassic Park (which my 12 year old watches every time it's on).  I thought they did a really great job of that one cuz let's face it, the book was so involved there was no way they were going to get every little nuance in the book taken care of in the movie.  There's also Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility which are incredible.  

Overall though, I've learned the hard way that some books are just better as books.  What books have you read that were turned into movies that you loathed?  Or on the flip side, what books were turned into movies that you adored?


Anonymous said...

Great post!
I love Linda Howard books but was terribly disappointed with the tv version of "Evangeline"- same thing with LyVyrle Spencer's "Morning Glory" one of my all time favorite books - tv movie...such a disappointment.

Most recently I thought "New Moon" was very well done from the book.

I love the Harry Potter books and while I enjoy the movies, they of course fall flat of the books.

The only movie that I can think of at the moment that completely puts a book to shame is Peter Bencheley's "JAWS". The book stunk...was mostly a story about the mob with a little back story of a shark feeding off unsuspecting swimmers. The movie of course is a classic.



Chris said...

Sometimes the movie and the book are such different experiences, both good, that they work really well. The Handmaid's Tale comes to mind - the movie didn't have a chance of capturing the complexity of the book, but it had the advantage of dramatic visuals. I liked both, for different reasons.

I think the LotR trilogy was amazingly done for the screen. But usually I don't bother watching movies made from books I enjoyed, because I know they won't be able to compare.

Kara said...

I absolutely loved the book "The Horse Whisperer" but hated the movie. They changed the whole ending and I was so disappointed.

Lea said...

Great Post Tracy:

I have to echo Ms.M.'s comments about some of the Harlequin books that were turned to "Made For TV" movies. Absolutely terrible, as were many of Steele's books.

On the other hand, I agree with Chris, Peter Jackson did an outstanding job of the LOTR trilogy and was successful in creating interest in Tolkien's world for a whole new generation of readers.

I don't often get out to the show anymore but when I do avoid ones made from books I've enjoyed because the screenplays are often so piss poor.

I have to admit though, I read Robert Ludlum's series many years before I saw the movies and loved both. However, one had to take into consideration the time the books were written (very Cold War based) to the present day adaptation of the movies.

One of my all time favorite novels: Shibumi by Trevanian is in production, I understand. I will not see it. Keanu Reeves is cast as Nicholai Hel, which is ridiculous. Additionally, they could never do the book justice.

Sorry, I ramble.

Jenre said...

I loved the films Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, both of which are based on Stephen King stories. Perhaps one of the reasons why they work so well is that the original stories are shorter than novels so there's less to try and fit into the films.

I've yet to watch a successful romance book be adapted well to film though. Perhaps it's because a lot of the internal emotion is difficult to show on screen and it ends up being too sappy and cheesy.

There are a lot of romance books which I think would be terrific as a film, especially those with great, snappy dialogue.

Jourdan Cameron (Manager) said...

The A&E adaptation of Lorna Doone was awesome (although I haven't yet read the book) the movie was most excellent so I presume the book has to be just as good (or better!)
A Series of Unfortunate Events, however, when made into a film, was actually pretty good, but I don't think it retained the spirit of the books quite right, and went a little... Off script, to say the least, which was somewhat disappointing.

Tracy said...

Ms M.- I haven't seen New Moon. Actually I haven't seen Twilight either. I really don't care to even look at the guy that they have playing Edward so the movies don't appeal. I'll stick with the books on that series.
Harry Potter - never read the books and have only seen the first 4 movies but they were good for me probably because I hadn't read the books.
I never read Jaws but I liked the movie! lol

Chris - True, that can happen.
LOTR - I loved the movies so won't ever read the books. I know, horrible of me but there you have it.

Kara - I'm with you, I HATE it when they change the ending. I'm not sure if they do it to make it better or more "Hollywood" or what but it makes me nuts.

Lea - I'm not sure what it is about some made for tv movies (that were books) but it seems that the acting and quality is SO BAD!
I read the Bourne books by Ludlum way back when as well and from what I can remember they were re-done well...I definitely liked the movies. But honestly couldn't remember too many details from the books so that made a difference.

Jenre - I loved the Shawshank Redemption - one of my favorite movies, but I never read the book. Good to know it was done well.
Maybe that's it...maybe it's the romance aspect of it that they aren't capturing. However there are so many great romance movies you'd think they could do it. huh.

Limegum - Going off script I think is the norm for movies - at times - because as I said before they are trying to make things more appealing.
I've not seen that Lorna Doone - I'll have to look it up, thanks.

Tam said...

I know it's cliche but the Harry Potter movies. They are VERY faithful to the books, especially the early ones. Now with fatter books it's harder to squeeze it all in and they have to cut stuff. I don't mind cutting, just don't add random bits.

I loved Tom Clancy books and I remember watching a movie (forget which one) and going "He didn't say that in the book" over and over. Now, if I LOVE a book, I refuse to see the movie. I also won't see remakes. I adore Get Smart and I refused to see the movie. I like Steve Carrel, I like Anne Hathaway but you CAN NOT be 99 and Max, there are only two and you're not it. LOL

I've read a few m/m that I thought would make great movies. One was James Buchanan's Personal Demons. Lots of action and freaky voodoo shit that would be amazing but I just know a) no one would make it with two guys as the main love interests and b) they'd make it so damn watered down it would ruin it. or they'd hire some witless studs to play the parts and I'd be rolling my eyes for two hours.

So I've kind of given up on hoping books I love would be movies because I just know they're going to cock it up if they try.

KC Burn said...

What a fun topic! I COMPLETELY agree about Relic - awesome book, terrible movie. And about LoTR - that could have been awful, but thankfully was spectacular. Anyone see the pseudo live-action LoTR from the 80's (70s?) - I think I'm permanently scarred from watching that.

However, I think one of the worst book to movie translations was a horror movie called the Unnameable. It was based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is not meant for the screen and probably no one should try to force it.

On the other hand (and I know I'm in the minority here) I loved Sahara WAY more than the book by Clive Cussler. And I don't even like Matthew McConaughey that much!

Sullivan McPig said...

- Ronja Rövardotter from Astrid Lindgren. Love the book, hate the movie!

movies even better than the book:
- Betty Blue (37°2 le matin)
- The Shawshankredemption
- Bladerunner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)

lbgregg said...

Morning Glory--MsM, I could not watch it. NO. I loved that book too much.

But the Thornbirds? Delicious! Remember how hot we all thought Richard Chamberlain was?

Great post.

Tracy said...

Tam - All great examples! Yep - I think I'm with you - I think they'll just cock it up! lol

KC Burn - I think I'll step away from the LOTR psuedo live action version! lol Thanks for the warning!

Sullivanpig - My hubby loved both the book and the movie for Bladerunner. Not sure what he was thinking on that one. The book was not great.

LB - Ahhh the Thornbirds. That was some movie. I can't say I read the book though.
I always had a thing for RC (and I DON'T mean Russell Crowe) when I was younger. Remember him in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask? Oh he was fine. Not to mention The Slipper and The Rose. OMG I could go on and on. lol

ElaineG said...

Great post...and a topic I could go on and on about for AGES....I absolutely LOVED Anne Rice's Vampire Trilogy, but thought the movie(s) were so-so. Anne Rice herself was disappointed in the choice of Lestat (Tom Cruise) but I thought he did an ok job. Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas, however, were fabulous. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy did not disappoint in the least, and I actually enjoyed the movies more than the books, though I loved the books. Those examples are the only ones where I WAS NOT disappointed. Movies have been made of both Linda Howards and Nora Roberts books (of which both authors I am A HUGE fan)...I prefer their visions (on paper) than the image of what you can see on the screen.

Tracy said...

Elaine - Yes! The Anne Rice books! I loved them but the movies were just ok. I loved LOOKING at Brad Pitt in that movie but was never sure that he fit the part. And Cruise definitely didn't imho.
Again - I think a lot of the really bad movie adaptations either on the big screen or TV are the romances they try to do. They just can't capture it correctly.

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