The Literate Movie Goers Guide

Books into Movies…

Why some movies CAPTURE or IMPROVE the author’s work

While others turn a night at the theater into an expensive nap  zzzzz…

“What Book to Movie translation is your favorite?”

Mike:

Lord of the Rings.  Lord of the Rings PosterThe three Lord of the Rings books were very descriptive and well defined (honestly, sometimes to the point of tedium). This level of description gave Director Peter Jackson ample  material for his creative team at Wingnut Films. The acting, special effects, and the musical accompaniment combined to capture the feel of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Hobbits, Kings, and Wizards. The classic trilogy translated well to the screen.

Don:

The GodfatherThe Godfather Poster.  The Godfather was Mario Puzo’s pulp novel about gangsters. However, in the loving hands of Director Francis Ford Coppola, this dime-store story became a classic film trilogy equal to the great Shakespearean dramas about family and betrayal.  The story of Don Vito Corleone and his corrupt children became a twentieth century King Lear.

With both the Lord of the Rings and The Godfather, the movies increased the fan base and boosted book sales.

But this isn’t always the case….

 

“What Book to Movie translation DIDN’T work?”

Don:

The Book Thief PosterThe Book Thief. The movie had the major plot points but didn’t capture the emotion of the book. Even worse, it didn’t capture the unique voice of the author. So much of The Book Thief is about the author’s writing style, but the movie had none of that. The take home is that words do matter, not just the plot.

Carolyn:

The Book Thief. No novel since To Kill A Mockingbird has captured the lives of young people caught in a tragic world of prejudice and death like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Set in Nazi Germany during World War Two, the narrator is Death, and he’s busier than he’s ever been. But Death takes a liking to a young German girl and her adoptive family. A riveting plot, yet there is much more to love about the novel. The author’s unique point of view character allows the reader to experience tragedy and hope on the same page, sometimes, in the same sentence. The movie version of The Book Thief only hinted at the depth of the emotional impact of the book. It never ventured into the stories within the story that provided much of the character development. Hitler and the Holocaust are barely mentioned in the movie, yet they are in every chapter of the book, as if the movie version thought that telling this side of the story would be too much for viewers.

Carolyn:

The Firm.  John Grisham gave readers an exciting tale of moral ambiguity, even among the  heroes.   The movie sanitized the hero and changed the last third of the story, leaving viewers with a hero that didn’t change from the beginning of the movie to the end.   Isn’t that one of the primary caveats of a good story?  That characters change?

Mike:

The Watchmen.  Once again, the movie version sanitized the source material, this time a Hugo Award-winning graphic novel.  The novel was weirder and more political, and had a stronger ethic than the movie.

 

These opinions belong solely to the O’Neal family.  Read the books, watch the movies, and decide for yourselves.   Add more titles in the comments!

 

— Carolyn O’Neal

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