Before you slam your laptop closed in disgust and protest the mere concept of a film adaptation being better than the book it’s based on, let me start off by saying that I love books. I am a book addict, a readaholic and the majority of the time, no film can ever live up to the sheer awesomeness contained within pages. That being said, there is the odd time an adaptation manages to surpass its predecessor, and in doing so, opens that book and any others by that author or in that particular genre, to a whole new audience. Whether it is by understanding that the things that work on paper do not necessarily translate onto the big screen (see my review of the original Pet Semetary adaptation) or acknowledging and maintaining the sanctity of the book, these adaptations managed to take a beloved book and create an adaptation that not only honoured its origins, but managed to beat them. Before we get started, don’t forget to comment which adaptations you preferred over the books they were based on!
1. The Princess Bride:
This is one Hell of a book and I love it now as much as I did when I was a child. How could you not? It has sword fights, romance and revenge. Saying that, the film adaptation starring the ridiculously handsome Cary Elwes as Westley, Mansy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya and Robin Wright as the eponymous Princess Bride, took the best features of the book, such as that amazing humour, and ramped it up. The book for example, contained regular humorous asides from the author Goldman. The movie maintains that wry sense of humour and introduces two new characters, a Grandfather telling his Grandson the story before bed. These characters are able to provide the asides, as well as opening the story up to a more family based audience. This creates a great framing device and draws the viewer in as a book would draw a reader in and we are able to go on the adventure along with these readers as well as the story’s protagonists. The casting is perfect and each actor genuinely brings their character’s to life. This movie is fantastic on its own, whether you have read the book or not and I think that may be the secret…to take amazing source material and use it to create an amazing film, not just an amazing adaptation. Does that make sense? You know what I mean! lol
2. Practical Magic.
Not a lot of people realise that the 1998 movie (man I feel old) starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman is based on a book by Alice Hoffman. Hoffman is an incredible writer and an atmospheric storyteller. Her words are a joy to read and I cannot recommend it enough. Saying that, it has a lot of difference with its eventual adaptation. The movie has a romantic aspect the book does not, the aunts feature heavily (whilst they are barely in the book), the book features more on Sally’s children whilst the film focuses on Sally and her sister Gillian and you know the curse they bang on about constantly? Not in the book. Surprised? So was I. So whilst the movie and book seem to be worlds apart, the movie adaptation captures so many of the books intrinsic themes perfectly, whilst making it suitable for the big screen. The movie added in a dash of romance, never a bad thing, and ramped up the magic big style whilst maintaining the book’s atmosphere and depth and I will continue to watch it every halloween without fail.
This supernatural urban fantasy depicting the ongoing battle between the forces of evil (Day watch) and the forces of good (Night watch) is written by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko and whilst I did enjoy the book, it was completely eclipsed (sun pun there for you) by the movie adaptation. I think that a lot of the books momentum and humour was lost in translation, resulting in a sometimes clunky read. By comparison, the movie is action packed and despite depicting an ageless war, it is incredibly funny. The protagonist Anton Gorodetsky is played perfectly by actor Konstantin Khabensky. The action sequences and special effects are amazing, really bringing the world of the ‘others’ to life. If you have not heard of it, or its badass sequel Daywatch, go and watch them immediately. You won’t regret it.
4. The Silence of the Lambs.
Thomas Harris is an incredible writer who is particularly adept at creating dark and interesting characters and bringing his books to the big screen was always going to be a difficult task (see the original Manhunter for reference), yet the adaptation of Silence of the Lambs surpasses every expectation creating an instant classic worthy of its many accolades and oscars. But with the exceptional Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in the lead roles, was it going to be anything but? Whilst some of the elements found in the book are missing in the movie, such as the personal stakes for Clarice as she risks her placement with the FBI to continue her investigation into serial killer Buffalo Bill, the film perfectly captures the intensity and creepiness of it’s source material and with a darker ending where Clarice never manages to silence the lambs and feel the peace she craves, it stays with the audience longer.
5. Jurassic Park
I am slightly biased with this particular one, because the Steven Spielberg movie represents such a massive part of my childhood. I did enjoy Michael Crichton’s novel, but as a book filled with incredibly dark and gruesome scenes, it is definitely intended for an older audience and if the director had stuck with that more violent source material, whilst I think it would have still been a badass movie, it would definitely not have had the same impact as the family friendly version which has firmly cemented itself as a cult classic. The book explores the core themes such as the ethics behind such scientific break throughs as de-extinction in depth, along with the actual mechanics of the park. Whilst these are touched on in the Speilberg adaptation, the film is much more of an adventure story focusing on the wonder, excitement and eventual danger posed by the park’s inhabitants. I definitely recommend reading this one though as it provides a more intellectual insight into the park as well as a more grown up version of the story.