As an avid book lover, it’s quite hard for me to admit that sometimes—sometimes—movies can be better than their literary counterparts. Especially since I grew up insisting the opposite was true. While I do believe that books can bring more depth, detail, and development, there’s just something magical about sitting in a movie theater with ants in your pants, anticipation nearly killing you, as you wait to see a world that has thus far only lived inside your head come to life in loud and vivid color. When done correctly, it intensifies your adoration for those worlds, even the ones that will only ever exist in fantasy. When done badly, you’re forced to defend the essence of the story, because despite sitting through a cringe-inducing train wreck of a film, it’s still one of your favorites. It was incredibly hard to choose only five (which is why my honorable mentions are a mile long), but here are the page-to-screen transitions that I loved, hated, loved to hate, and hated to love.
1. Harry Potter
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
AS IF anything else could be my #1. I’ve already mentioned the impact Harry Potter has had on me in other ways, so it should come as no surprise that when I first met Daniel Radcliffe with his little lightning bolt forehead and adorable British accent, I was hooked. He was truly the perfect Harry. The films paid beautiful homage to J.K. Rowling‘s beloved book series and the franchise only improved as the years went on. A decade of my life was dedicated to the anticipation of the next film. When I finally turned the last page of the last book, I thought to myself, how in the world would the film live up to it? I needn’t have worried. David Yates performed magic. The trailer alone completely riddles my body with goose bumps and when I saw the film on opening night, I had heart palpitations for the entire two hours. I cried like no 23-year-old should cry while watching a fantasy film “for kids.” I damn near peed my pants when I walked through the gates at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando two summers ago. There will never be a book series or film franchise that I will champion more than Harry Potter.
2. The Hunger Games
★ ★ ★ ★
Truthfully, my star ratings are ranked more along the lines of how much I love them, not how well they translated to the silver screen, because they all did a damn fine job of that. (Well, except Twilight. That pile of poop really deserves NO stars.) Anyway, I jumped on board The Hunger Games buzzwagon a few months before the first film came out. I fell in love. It was the first time I’d ever heard of or seen Jennifer Lawrence (can you imagine?) and Suzanne Collins‘ story was my first YA dystopia. I found it intriguing. The film was SPOT. ON. in comparison to the book and wonderfully acted. J.Law IS Katniss. Catching Fire, my favorite book of the trilogy, was even better on screen. The bigger budget in Francis Lawrence’s capable hands blew me away. I can’t wait for Mockingjay.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
★ ★ ★
The book, a short little paperback that took barely a night to read, was a touching story about a high school outsider told solely through letters. While I’d definitely recommend it, I wasn’t overly amazed. I was, however, thoroughly enchanted by the film. Brilliantly directed by the author himself, Stephen Chbosky, “Perks” was perfectly casted and poignantly acted. I cry nearly every time I watch it.
4. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
I loved reading this series and I loved how the first film became one of my go-to instant-good-mood movies. It made me wish that I had grown up in a fab foursome of best friends just like Lena, Bridget, Carmen, and Tibby. It’s been a long while since I read the books, so I’m not positive how much was changed, but I do know that Ann Brashares gave readers (and therefore, viewers) one of the best stories on female friendship. What I didn’t love was how lazily the next three books were crammed into one sequel. I just read that they’re turning the much later published fifth book, Sisterhood Everlasting (which takes place ten years later) into a movie sometime soon. And now I’m excited all over again.
You know, the books weren’t that bad. My freshman year of college, I actually really liked them. But now I can’t read a single sentence of Bella’s internal monologuing without seeing Kristen Stewart’s bucky beaver teeth in my head. My former roommate and I were both fans, so we went to see the first movie together. Disappointed barely begins to cover it. No, they did not get better as the years went on. More tolerable, but not better. The acting never improved. The special effects never reached their potential. And after a while, I began to see why feminists were denouncing Bella as a role model for young girls. Stephenie Meyer‘s vampire saga sits in hardcover on my bookshelf, right next to all my other favorites, but I’ve never looked at them quite the same way since.
I loved all of the following (except The Host, which was an absolute disaster): The Princess Diaries (2001), LOTR (2001-2003), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (2005), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Marley & Me (2008), Angels & Demons (2009), The Help (2011), Something Borrowed (2011), The Host (2013), Divergent (2014), and anything by Nicholas Sparks, which is usually completely hit or miss.
I’m very much looking forward to The Fault in Our Stars. I am not, however, looking forward to Fifty Shades of Grey—coming VALENTINE’S DAY 2015. Really? The pornographic drivel started out as Twilight fan fiction. Enough said. Check out this link to see if any of your favorites are coming to the silver screen in the near future.
As an avid reader and huge film buff, I’m always excited when it’s announced that one of my favorite books is getting a movie adaptation. I will fess up to being one of those “the book is better!” jerks. Here is a list of some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) book-to-film adaptations.
1. No Country For Old Men
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Written by Cormac McCarthy, directed by the Coen Brothers. Full disclosure: I think that Cormac McCarthy is the best living American fiction author, and one of the best writers of all time. His novel Blood Meridian, a nightmarish western with imagery too explicit to describe here, is an absolutely amazing achievement in literary fiction. McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men follows his common themes of ultimate even and existential angst. Antagonist Anton Chirguh is less human contract killer than unstoppable force of chaos, literally deciding who lives and dies on a coin toss. The Coen Brothers, who I also hold in very high regard, capture the spirit of McCarthy’s novel perfectly on screen. The panoramic south Texas landscapes and periodic explosions of violence are handled with equal attention to detail and visual panache. Not to mention the performances – Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Josh Brolin and, especially, Tommy Lee Jones are perfect in their roles.
2. The Tommyknockers
Written by Stephen King, directed by John Power. I’m cheating a bit on this one, as it’s technically a miniseries and not a theatrical released film. One thing that I won’t equivocate on is how god-awful it is. Seriously, it’s just terrible. Jimmy Smits, who I think is a decent actor, couldn’t even save this heaping pile of crap. Stephen King was at the height of his popularity when he wrote The Tommyknockers in 1987. He had recently gotten clean from a raging cocaine, booze, pills, whatever addiction that ravaged his health for the better part of a decade. It’s telling that Cujo a novel that King claims was written in such a drug-induced stupor that he has no memory of actually writing it, is a much better tale than The Tommyknockers. It involves aliens, green glowing lights, telepathic powers and tons of other nonsense. With such bad source material the miniseries was doomed to fail. Combine a stinker of a book with network television production values in 1993 and you get a Tommyknockers, whatever the hell a Tommyknocker is.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Written by Nicholas Pileggi, directed by Martin Scorsese. It’s easy to make the case that Goodfellas is one of the best movies of all time. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s pretty amazing how many sayings and quotes from this film have slipped into the cultural zeitgeist. Combine great performances by Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci with Martin Scorsese’s direction and you have an all-time classic. The source material Wiseguy:Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi is pretty amazing itself. The true story of gangster turned FBI informant is a compelling one and Pileggi is one of the best writers there is in the true crime genre.
Written by Alan Moore, directed by Zach Snyder. Watchmen, a graphic novel from the mid-1980’s by infamously curmudgeonly writer Alan Moore, is one of my personal favorite comics. The alternate history timeline where superheroes emerge in the mid-40’s with a global impact on foreign policy and huge world events – they help us win the Vietnam War and eventually push the United States to a near nuclear war with the Soviet Union – is smart and infinitely entertaining. Ultimately, the comic is about the personal struggles of the individual “heroes” as they cope with what they must do to save humanity at large. Great stuff. However, Moore himself considered his work as impossible to adapt for the screen. After many directors were attached to the project throughout the years, Zach Snyder took up the mantle. If anything, Snyder’s hyper stylized, ham-handed directorial approach proved Moore’s theory that his story should have stayed on the page.
5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
★ ★ ★ ★
Written by Hunter S. Thompson, directed by Terry Gilliam. Hunter S. Thompson was the quintessential rock star journalist, inventing his own unique style, “gonzo,” where he inserted himself into the story. Far from objective, his tales of debauchery and excess are often hilarious and present harsh insight in a very entertaining way. Fear and Loathing is his best-known work and offers a harsh indictment of what he calls “the American Dream.” Thompson exposes the vile underside of culture with wit and explosive prose. Former Monty Python player turned director Terry Gilliam was the absolute best choice to direct the film adaptation. Known for surreal imagery and off-kilter story telling, Gilliam captured the acid-drench insanity perfectly. Johnny Depp, who plays the Hunter analogue, “Raoul Duke,” in the movie, actually went and lived in Hunter’s basement for a few months prior to filming. Anybody familiar with Hunter’s strange gait and speech patterns knows just how pitch-perfect Depp was for the role.
Stand by Me, written by Stephen King and directed by Rob Reiner. The best coming of age story ever committed to film.
The Rum Diary, written by Hunter S. Thompson and directed by Brian Robinson. A young journalist struggles to make it in San Juan in Hunter S. Thompson’s earliest work.