Movie/television adaptations of books

I often have difficulties with movie or television adaptations of books. I find that if I read the book first, I have my own book universe in my head – how the characters look, how they sound, their milieu. When I watch the adaptation, I often find it a jarring, cheapened version of the rich, detailed universe I have imagined from the book. If a book is popular enough to be made into a movie there is often a lot of money spent on a lavish production, but for me, it often still does not mesh with how I have imagined things to be.

This has applied to Outlander,The Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Pelican Brief, anything about Jack Ryan (Tom Clancy) or Jack Reacher (Lee Child), The Scarlet Letter, and The Golden Compass.  I did enjoy the Harry Potter movies, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Vampire Diaries though, even though I read the books before I saw the movies/television show. I could never get into The Lord of the Rings books so I have no opinion on those movies. Unlike most people, I am not a huge fan of the movies.

For me, the best film adaptation I have ever seen has been Brokeback Mountain. The original short story was 11 pages long, and was turned into a 2-hour movie without adding or leaving anything out. The screenplay deservedly won an Oscar. Annie Proulx can paint stunning pictures of Wyoming in very few words, and the movie really depicted that exactly, in my opinion. The actors were very young, absolutely brilliant, and risked their careers to play gay cowboys. I tried once to figure out how to give Brokeback Mountain a happy ending and I just couldn’t. If you were true to the characters and the times, the ending in the book and the movie was the only outcome. You cannot really add to the book either without destroying the perfection.

If I really enjoy a movie, sometimes I read the book afterwards and I find that goes much easier. Then the book universe in my head then looks like the movie. Sometimes, though, I have watched a movie adaptation of a book and I love it so much that I refuse to read the book. Examples of this are The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption, both by Stephen King. I also tried to watch the Bosch series on Amazon Prime, but stopped after one episode because each episode is an amalgamation of about three of the books and it was confusing because I had only recently read the books. Titus Welliver is a perfect Bosch though.

Does anyone else have any movies that they did not enjoy after reading the book first? Or any recommendations for good movie adaptations of books?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. I am TERRIBLE at watching movies/shows in general, and adaptations are no different.

    I read (and I mean DEVOURED) both Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson as well as all but the latest Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I attempted to watch the first WoT adaptations and was just. “nononononoooo” (it was so cheap! They’ve since done another I won’t bother watching) the whole time. With GoT I was semi curious because GRRM was involved but ended up really annoying my partner (who didn’t read the books) the whole time by being vocally opposed to the lack of authenticity to the admittedly un-acceptable themes in the books (incest, rape, paedophilia, EXTREME violence, etc. etc.). The one thing I do absolutely love about the movies is the recognition of the immense talent of Peter Dinklage (and he matched up very well to how I saw the character in the book).

    That said I have, over the years been just awful about seeing any kind of movie for anything, so it’s rare if I do bother & even more rare if it’s an adaptation. I tend to prefer longer series of books, so tv shows/miniseries seem to be better for those adaptations anyway.

    One beautiful adaptation that will always be intertwined with the book itself that won’t ever be inseparable for me is LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (and Anne of Avonlea) with the 1985 Series with Megan Follows as Anne. This is comfort tv & reading for me. Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, etc. etc. the cast is perfect & the settings just lush & incredible… I saw a meme about that particular Anne & Gilbert Blythe & it just game me the warmest fuzzies. I adore Megan Follows and always will.

    1. I loved Anne of Green Gables but I have never seen it onscreen. This makes me really want to! I did not watch the Little Women screen adaptation either. It was such an important part of my childhood. Books like that instilled in me my love of reading and really developed my imagination.

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