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a question by Feb 12, 2011
What is your favorite book-adapted film? (novel or otherwise)
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answered:    February 16, 2011
Okay, you knew this was coming, but this answer is going to be long as all hell because I take issue with people getting pissy when a movie "isn't like the book," kind of crap.  I think that's the worst way to view a movie.  Even IF said movie is like the original whatever it's based off of, you're still going to be pissed and we know it.  Especially if it's books.  You have an idea of what you already want to see.  You've already populated it with characters.  It only takes one difference from your own imagination for someone to get pissy.

That said, I've rarely (if ever) been upset when a movie is nothing like the book it's based off of or what have you.  As a gamer I've learned never to compare mediums.  You almost CAN'T adapt a video game into a good film because the mediums are far too different for that (as I've gone over in my Video Games review).  This rule SHOULD apply when jumping from book to movie.  From graphic novel to movie.  From movie to television series, etc.  I think you'd have to be an idiot to hate say... Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy because it doesn't follow the books.  That says absolutely NOTHING about them as films and it's ignoring the film medium and expecting the medium to do what books can do.  It CAN'T that's why they're movies.  If people want the books for Lord of the Rings... read the damn books!  But don't get mad because the movies aren't the books.  They're not supposed to be. 

That doesn't mean I don't pay attention to whether or not something is like the medium it's based off of.  It's only to say that Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining might very well be a terrible adaptation but it's a kickass film.  I don't care which people think it's better, but Kubrick's film version of The Shining isn't "bad" just because it doesn't follow the books.  That's insane, stupid, and ignoring that as a novel The Shining did things that the film medium simply couldn't do or pull off well.  There was a television movie version of The Shining too.  It's almost exactly like the book but I think you'd have to be suffering terrible terrible brain damage to actually think it's a good one.  It follows the book way better... but it's a godawful movie.  Even for a television movie.  In fact, there are a great deal of Stephen King adapted films that are very close to the books... but absolutely terrible (you'd also have to be suffering from Brain Damage to like Pet Sematary for any reason other than it's hilariously bad).

So I think that people often forget to respect the fact that mediums are different and that when something is adapted it's still being filtered through one's imagination and interpretation.  Remember, film has limits.  We forget that books, graphic novels, video games etc... often don't have the same kind of restrictions as film.  But it's also important to remember that a movie based off a book isn't bad because it's not like the book.  Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones," is an awful movie.  It's not awful because it's nothing like the book... it's awful because it exibits bad film making.  And I won't accept, "It wasn't like the book," as a valid criticism.  I will almost NEVER accept that as a valid criticism.  It's fun to note the differences.  But by far not really a reason to praise or criticize a film.  I came under A LOT of attacks when I dared to say Watchmen just wasn't AS good of a movie as the fanboys claimed.  Their rational was, "It's just like the graphic novel, it follows it really well, it brings it to life."  All of that is well and good, but the acting was horrible, the delivery of the dialog was wooden and some of that stuff just didn't translate well (some of the dialog was absolutely awful).  It's an okay movie not a great one.  I don't care how well adapted it was (all the movie had to do to please it's fanbase was not suck, basically--and I actually read and loved the graphic novel a great deal).

I believe the same thing to be true of most audiences in general.  The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is absolutely nothing like Roald Dahl's book.  Hell, it's not even the same in name only.  Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory butchered that book.  Roald Dahl hated it so much he refused to ever sell the rights to any of his films until just before he died (the result was the fantastic James and the Giant Peach... also very much not like the book).  Yet people LOVE Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Tim Burton's 2005 adaptation is actually A LOT closer to the book.  Hell, they even used the songs Roald Dahl wanted to do.  Yet even people who scream, "YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE BOOK!  IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW THE BOOK IT'LL BE BAD!" seemed not to care much for Burton's far more accurate film than the 1971 Cult Classic.  So I think people will actually settle for something that isn't much like the source material if given the chance.

Okay, long rant time over.  As far as adaptations go, however, I'd have to say my favorite is The Shawshank Redemption.  And I say that one for two reasons.  The first and most obvious is that people don't actually KNOW it's an adaptation and those who do know haven't actually read the story to begin with.  People also don't know that the original story was written by Stephen King.  I think it's one of his best. 

But the reason it makes such a good adaptation is because it knows what to cut, what to change and what works for film.  For example, King's story was a non-linear timeline in which the main character has a lot of time on his hand to recount A LOT of things.  The story may be short, but it's slow paced.  Enough that the story is simply too long for film.  Andy Dufresne actually had a cell mate for a while in the book (he also managed to sneak in 500 bucks in his cavity... which a friend of mine KEEPS reminding me about).  Little things like that.  Things that worked in the novel, but made absolutely no sense to keep in the film.  Especially because the film keeps a lot of it in tact.  If you wanted the entire story word for word you'd need a four or five hour long movie for it.  Couldn't be done.  So cuts had to be made.  And I think Darabont knew exactly what he was doing when he reimagined King's short story.  Andy doesn't have a cell mate because it made sense that the Warden would want to keep him happy.  The Warden is using Andy to embezzle money, after all. 

And what of the Warden?  In the movie it's one guy during Andy's entire duration.  In the books the prison goes through several wardens.  Again, this works in a book, but is horrible on film.  For a two and half hour movie we don't want to go through watching four or five different actors portray four or five different wardens.  If that happens it sort of takes away how corrupt the last one is.  The last one is the novel is the corrupt guy while in the film the corrupt one is running things from the beginning.  Why does this work so well for film?  Because making him there from the get go gives the director time to develop the character.  Remember, in the book, King can introduce him as late as he wants and still develop him through a span of a few pages.  In film you have to rely on the actor's charms and likewise you have to rely quite heavily on a few quick minutes of back story.  For Sam Norton, the warden, you need actual development to understand how corrupt he is and why he's corrupt.  Something King is able to flesh out in a book even if he introduces him late.  But you CAN'T flesh out the major antagonist in a movie in the last twenty minutes.  You CAN flesh out the main antagonist within the last twenty pages of a novella, however.  There's so much more you can do to develop a character in a novella than in a film.

Also, King's narrative in the novella (which was actually titled "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," had a far more complex narrative.  The film is pretty straightforward but the novella has the main character reflecting on himself from time to time, jumping ahead in the story and then jumping back.  Likewise, the main narrator is actually writing it all down in the novella and has to somehow smuggle them OUT of prison when he finally gets released. 

Perhaps my favorite change is how Darabont decided to really bring out the "instituionalized," message that King merely touches on for a brief moment.  There's that scene where Brooks gets released and doesn't know how to cope with the real world.  In the novella, Brooks's release is just a paragraph long and his fate is left unknown.  In the film Brooks actually can't cope with the outside world.  In the novella this actually happens to Red.  He doesn't kill himself, of course, but he does remark when he's out of prison that he doesn't know if he can survive... but the only reason he does is because Andy is waiting for him.

Another big change that I think worked for the film was that Andy's escape actually comes ten years earlier... probably so that they wouldn't have to put a lot of makeup on Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (there's that budget thing that the film just didn't have much of).  It's not a big deal, of course.

But the most amusing change actually comes with how Darabont changed the ending.  The novella ends with Red recounting Andy's escape and deciding to take a chance to see if he can find Andy.  The novella ends on a hopeful note, but not actually really showing us if Red actually finds Andy.  If the movie had ended that way... I would've been pissed.  I didn't sit through two and half hours of these two mending a friendship together for them not to reunite with one another.  I'm glad Darabont gave closure to what could probably be considered a Prison Fairy Tale. 

I suppose what I'm saying is that it's a great adaptation because it keeps the important pieces and builds up on King's themes rather than trying to emulate them.  Darabont knew what he could bring to film and what he had to leave well enough alone.  This is especially true given that King's narrative style for the story was extremely complex and complicated.  To put it simple, it's one of those stories you're not sure could be done as a film the first time you read it.  I recently read the novella again and actually found that I had an appreciation for the challenge that Darabont had in order to really bring the story to life.  There's a lot left on the cutting room floor... but it SHOULD be on the cutting room floor.  The story was too long and too filled with important narration for the entire story to be adapted within a good timeframe (Darabont also adds a lot, the whole italian girls singing over the radio bit wasn't in the novella at all).  Likewise, the film only had a 25 million dollar budget.  They just couldn't afford to get the whole novella.  But at the very least they were able to provide the basic story, add to it and realizes that they WERE working with a film and not a book.  The end result is a film you can appreciate even more if you actually read the story because one can easily see what needed to be changed versus what didn't.  King's story is wonderful for a novella, but Darabont's film is pretty much the way you do an adaptation.  You take what you can from the original source material... but you're going to have to fill in the blanks with what you can't... or work around your limitations.  Darabont did that. 

That's not to say Shawshank would be bad otherwise.  I'm sure most people wouldn't have known anyway.  After all, it's not like a great deal of people have actually read the original story titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.
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answered:    March 20, 2011
Very nice question, William! I'm jealous I didn't think of this one for my community. ;)

My favorite book adapted into a film would be a tie between two of my all-time favorite fantasies: The Last Unicorn and The Princess Bride. The reason these are my favorites is because I experienced as much enjoyment from the films as I did from the novels. I don't expect the films to follow the books precisely, and neither of these did, but I do expect the films to inspire as much emotion in me as the novels--maybe even more so. The animation from The Last Unicorn was fantastic, as was the music. The idea of being the last of your kind was aptly expressed in the film as the book. Similarly, the movie of The Princess Bride really brought the characters to life. It was amazing to see what I had only been able to imagine before. These are films and books that I will never tire of.

Other honorable mentions include The Stand, The Lord of the Rings series, The Neverending Story, and Memoirs of a Geisha. The last one is an especially poignant film because it is one of the rare cases where I liked the film 100x more than the novel. Memoirs of a Geisha came off as fake and unrealistic as a novel, especially after having read the autobiography called Geisha, a Life. However, the film provided a new means of enjoying the novel through a different medium.

Again, excellent question, William! Absolutely loved this one!
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answered:    February 17, 2011
Too many to name but I will try.. Some great examples are The Color Purple, Joy Luck Club, Salo, Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, Psycho (though it takes a lot of liberties and doesn't really remind me of Robert Bloch's novel too much), The Exorcist, Whitley Streiber's The Hunger, Stephen King's Stand By Me, Interview With The Vampire (this surprised me actually), Witches of Eastwick. Ok, I will stop now. LMAO
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answered:    February 16, 2011
Too tough of a question. I can think of so many that are great.

In terms of films that actually surpass their source material, I immediately think of The Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, and Jaws.

There are quite a few books that were adapted into films where the films weren't very faithful and yet they were still excellent and of those, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Michael Mann's version of Last of the Mohicans spring to mind.

But to come up with a single film adaptation of a book that stands above all others... far too difficult. I could probably do it if I did a top 5 and broke it down into genres, but that would take forever. LOL!
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answered:    February 16, 2011
Fight Club -- novel: Chuck Palahniuk, movie: David Fincher

The book vs movie argument is as tired as it is endless -- they are different media.  The laws of thermodynamics and uncertainty drive that home even more: stuff is lost when you translate from one form to another (thermodynamic) and just interpreting the book affects the outcome of your view of the movie which will often be vastly different than the guy sitting next to you (uncertainty).

The movie that breaks those laws least is not my favorite, but I cannot leave it unrecognized.  John Houston's adaptation of James Joyce's short story "The Dead" is so close that you can actually follow along with the text almost like it's being read out-loud.  It isn't an exciting movie but it is solid. 

The reason Fight Club is the favorite is because of the ways Mr. Fincher departed from the text.  He left the dark hilarity intact so, in that sense, if you followed along in the text, I doubt you would find any funny bit left out.  But Mr. Palahniuk stared down the barrel of his story and blinked.  The momentum of the story demands the ending that Mr. Fincher gave the film; its the only one that makes sense.
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answered:    February 15, 2011
It would be a tie between Frankenstein 1931 film and the original Planet of the Apes film. Both movies totally deviated from the storylines of two classic novels and made epic classic films.
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answered:    February 12, 2011
That's a tough one, since there have been so many. I still haven't seen Gone with the Wind, and -- if you can believe it -- I've only seen pieces of Jaws and The Godfather. I can say that I'm a big fan of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the animated Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. I also love Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, although I'm not sure that counts since it's based on a short story, not a book.
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answered:    March 21, 2011
The TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's THE STAND was fairly faithful ... at least so much so that a TV entity could be given the source material. And despite what some of the whining naysayers might say about Peter Jackson's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, there was a solid foundation provided in 'adapting' the books into the film. For an overlooked comics property, PLANET HULK is also pretty faithful to the source material, so much so that it's definitely worth viewing IF you've read the graphic novel collection.
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answered:    March 22, 2011
I like all the Jane Austen movies that are done in the proper period. The modern version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow was abysmal. My favorite among the good ones is Persuasion (1996), with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, who have the gift of expressing emotion in a restrained but effective way. I especially like that one b/c Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel.
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