Friday, February 23, 2007

Handle with care, everything (even the predators).

I read Bridge to Terabithia yesterday. I haven't read it since I was about 10 years old, but when the movie trailers started coming on, I was thinking, "wait, that doesn't look right." All that fantasy? I mean, don't get me wrong, I love me some fantasy. But I just didn't remember Terabithia being a fantasy book. So my memory was right (which is no small feat) - that's not what the book is about. Yet another stunning book trashed by Hollywood.

Why is it so hard to make a good movie out of a good book? With the rare & wonderful exception of To Kill a Mockingbird, I can't even come up with an example of a movie I like as much as the book, much less more. It's not that I think film is a lesser medium- I love movies. I ingest more movies than books. But why is it so impossible to translate the printed word into an acceptable, watchable format?

What are some of your favorite book-to-movie translations??

OK, edited to add: Don't throw things at me, but I actually liked all three Lord of the Rings movies better than the books. Mostly because they are totally dude books and they're so frakkin' long that I'd rather spend 3 hours with one than 3 weeks. Also, they were extremely well done by someone who obviously regarded the original work with the utmost care and respect.


Anonymous Tom said...

Definitely Lord of the Rings.

I thought The Stand did the best they could with the budget and dated special effects that they had. And it definitely worked better as a miniseries, then crammed into a two hour movie.

The Tales of the City script is lifted DIRECTLY from the text. Word for word.

Election was pretty impressive for an adaptation.

And I thought 25th Hour was DEAD ON. Actually how I pictured the book in my head. But I know some out there disagree with me.

From what I understand, the Bridge to Terabithia trailers are a little misleading. And it is more realism than it is CGI. But that being said, it's still unforgivable that they would even THINK about going there with such a touching book.

Great topic. I can't wait to see other's responses. I'm sure there are plenty of debatable ones here that we haven't thought of. Nice going, Hawkins!

February 23, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

I liked The Stand, too, T, but it was definitely not as good or better than the book. And re: Tales of the City- just because they didn't alter it... did that make it better? Or just good. I mean, I know you liked the movie but did you like it as much as the book?

February 23, 2007 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Uncle Al said...

Fave book to movie: Prosser and Keeton on Torts, 5th Edition

February 23, 2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger J.T. said...

The Godfather.
That book was terrible!
The movie- beautiful.

February 23, 2007 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Yeah, but that's a little different. Shoeless Joe was not an impressive book, but Field of Dreams (while it's arguable if the movie should be considered great, or is extremely over-rated) is easily better than the book. It's a Wonderful Life was based on The Greatest Gift, a forgettable short story. It's easy to take a mediocre book and turn it into something extraordinary by cutting the bullshit and fine-tuning the plot points. (for example: Godfather, Jaws (which only works because Bruce the Shark looked terrible on camera), or The Exorcist)

Jamie's talking about taking a book you love... and making a movie you love as much, if not more. And those are much harder to single out.

February 23, 2007 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Kiddo said...

I thought the exact same thing when I saw the trailer and had to double check with everyone I knew. I'm really pleased with the casting though so I'll try to keep an open mind.

House of Mirth was an excellent transfer although still not as good as the book.

February 23, 2007 11:37 PM  
Blogger nathanielmiller said...

Has anyone seen The Shining? just wondering, because I hear it's an ok movie.

February 24, 2007 12:58 AM  
Blogger krysten said...

*nothing to add*

i've either never read the book, or never seen the movie, hah.

February 24, 2007 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I'm SO TORN on The Shining, Nathaniel!!!!

It's a brilliant movie, but such a different take than its equally brilliant book.

That will forever be the exception-to-the-rule in my book. I never know how to justify it, so I try to ignore it. (Except when it's on pay-cable at 1 AM, uncut. I can't say no then)

February 24, 2007 12:25 PM  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

The Shining is SCARY AS HELL and I'm probably biased, because I actually saw the movie before I read the book, but I will say they left out the scariest scene in the book, when the topiary animals come to life and chase him back into the house.

The casting was great, though. *shudder*

February 24, 2007 12:59 PM  
Blogger krysten said...

i've seen the old one and the new one of The Shining...but i've never read the book. :(

brad said the same thing about them leaving out the topiaries though, haha!

i wonder if some people leave things out because they KNOW they wouldnt be able to do it justice?

February 24, 2007 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

The REALLY weird thing about the topiary scene (and hopefully, you can back me up on this Jamie!), there is ABSOLUTELY NO POSSIBLE WAY to film that sequence (I don't care how good the CGI is) in such a way that it recreates the intense and utter FEAR you get when you're reading it. The second you SEE those bushes come to life on the screen, you'd be immediately ripped out of the reality of it and feel like you're watching a movie.

But that sequence in the book is completely terrifying. I still have nightmares... So thank you, Stanley Kubrick... for having the good sense to keep the scariest scene in the book OUT of your movie. (Never thought I'd say that...)

February 25, 2007 1:06 AM  
Blogger nathanielmiller said...

Yes, in the shining the animals coming to life and one other scene did not make it into the movie (the other scene is not as vital, something to do with Scatman Crothers getting killed i think). I will say this about the debate, which I love every time it comes up. Books are books and movies area movies and without getting too philisophical or killing debate so quckly, I think it's important to remember that the two shall never be exactly the same. That being said, the topiary scene is a good example of how a movie is a specific version of a story (ie. except in the example of The Thin Blue Line, where the idea is to maintain a question of what the actual story is) and that a movie has to make choices on how it's going to tell the story. Scenes like the topiary scene being cut are sometimes inevetable in creating a movie from a book (Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings is another example I can think of). I think it's part of the game in telling a story that someone else has told, but keeping the basic idea intact. I could be wrong and I realize this comment is a bit too long, but what about asking the question of aren't stories, at the very least, subjective? If you like a book and have a certain picture in your head the movie will, on a good day, simply have a slightly different take about some small facet of that story, on a worse day will fall short of your imagination when you read the book. Have two people ever been able to talk about a book and have the exact same picture of how someone looks or how a scene plays out? Of course not, but that's what great about books and even more amazing about movies, that we all have the imagination in us to picture things differently and every once in a while a story is told on the screen that comes damn close to hitting the mark for all of us.

February 25, 2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger nathanielmiller said...

ohh, and on the bad book, but great movie list, how about Psycho? I'll be honest, I haven't read it, but I herad it was a pulp novel at best.

February 25, 2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

I actually agree with you on the "books are books and movies are movies and never the twain shall meet" statement, Nate, which is why it's all the more thrilling when I find one I love. A movie of a book I loved will hardly ever live up to my imagination (which is actually a problem I have with life in general, not just the movies, but that's a whole 'nother therapy session)- but if it can capture the theme of the book, the tone, the way the book made me feel when I read it- that's where it succeeds.

Chronicles of Narnia was pretty much exactly like the book- I can't pinpoint what I would have done differently, but it didn't spark the sense of awe and wonder as the book did.

A sort of opposing example would be the 3rd Harry Potter book/movie. They had to cut out SO MUCH of that story to fit into a feature-length film that one would think I, lover of the book, would have hated it. But of the 4 so far, it was by far the closest in tone and theme.

Silence of the Lambs was a pretty good adaptation, but as with The Shining, I actually saw the movie first. I think my main beef (with the noted exception of LOTR- man, I wish Peter Jackson could work out his business differences with The Hobbit) is with movies that contain even a hint of science fiction and/or fantasy. Michael Crichton- great books, awful movies. Tom Robbins- great books, awful movies. I shudder to think what they're going to do with the forthcoming versions of my precious Life of Pi, Time Traveler's Wife, and His Dark Materials.

February 25, 2007 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I don't even want to think about Time Traveler's Wife. Perfect example of a story that really only works as a book. Much like Invisible Monster by Chuck Pahlahniuk. There's a central moment in the story where it's really important to NOT see a visual of what's happening. I just don't know how it can be done (well, it can ALWAYS be done... just not well)

GREAT call on Psycho, Nathaniel! You're right... I haven't read it either, but that's a great example.

February 26, 2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Krysten said...


Anne of Green Gables!!

great books AND great movies!

March 02, 2007 6:14 PM  

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