Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The One In Which I Have Beef With Hollywood

Am I the only one that thinks Hollywood is running out of material?  I feel like one out of every 2-3 movie previews I see these days is an adaptation from a novel.

Granted, this can be a good thing (The Godfather, Shutter Island, and the Harry Potters come to mind).  But often, it is not (The Stand miniseries...GAH.  And Jurassic Park the book, SO MUCH BETTER than the movie).

So I decided to see how Hollywood fared with some of my literary favorites.  I went through my faves list on Goodreads, and picked out the books that had movie adaptations (that I've seen).  Here's my assessment:

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

This is a perfect example of a movie that was very good...just not QUITE so good as the book.  The novel wow'ed me with the way McEwan used language to draw out these subtle undercurrents between all of the characters.  This is not something that translates well into film.  While I do think the movie retained an atmosphere similar to that of the book, there is just a feeling of something being missing when you compare it to the prose.

2. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

Both the movie and the book made me cry.  However, this is one of those movies that, though enjoyable, completely leaves out and/or changes significant parts of the novel.  And when I like a book to begin with, it's tough to see significant changes made in the movie version...even if the movie is otherwise excellent.

3. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Potentially my all-time favorite book, and a complete flop on screen.  First of all, the time travel just does not translate well between how Niffenegger wrote it and how it was done in the movie.  A lot was lost there.  And THE ENDING.  This goes up there with My Sister's Keeper for Worst Hollywood Butchering of a Book Ending.  Horrid.

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (US version)

I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this movie.  NAILED IT.  Right down to the dark-and-depressing atmosphere/setting.  I loved the opening song on the soundtrack (so fitting, and it's actually on my running playlist now), and Rooney Mara is a fan-fricking-tastic Lisbeth Salander.

5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I felt kind of blah about this movie.  It's an extremely Hollywood-ized version of the book.  The whole illustration of Susie's "heaven" in the movie was quite obviously adapted so that it would be visually pleasing on screen.  And a LOT of important details were left out regarding the circumstances surrounding Susie's death and the investigation afterwards.  As a result, I think the book packs a much more powerful punch.

6. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Ah, a favorite from my childhood!  And I'm happy to say that the movie did not disappoint.  I adore the film version, and as a kid I loved seeing a visual representation of the book heroine I had come to love. Plus, the movie highlights some of the funny parts a bit better than the book.  I am definitely due for a re-watch (and a re-read) of this one.

What do you think, readers?  How has Hollywood handled some of your literary favorites?


  1. Ha, I actually really like the Jurassic Park movie, though I loved the book too. I think I saw the movie young enough that I will always love it and the book for their own different merits. I do not, however, care for the HP movies much at all, though I'm sure I would if I'd seen them first.

    1. Atonement was hard to take as a book with the unending depression, but it worked. The movie, I felt, just was too dreary. My friend and I did manage to sit through the whole thing, but we didn't enjoy much aside from the beginning, and we felt cheated when we got to the ending. I don't remember feeling that way about the book version.

    4. I've only seen the foreign film of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it was right on point for the most part, though from what I remember it over-romanticized Lisbeth and what's his face. Of course, I also didn't love the book, so I'm not as bothered by slight changes.

    5. Blah is right. It seemed a lot cheesier than I remember the book feeling.

    6. YES. Matilda is the best!

  2. I completely agree with you about Jurassic Park, the book was a million times better.

    I loved the American version of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (who doesn't love Daniel Craig?) but I thought the Swedish version followed the book a little bit better.

    I haven't seen any of the others except for Matilda which is just adorable.

  3. Christina, I like the JP movie but when I read the book, it was one of those "wait...this is not at all the same?" sort of moments. The movie is good for what it is...campy action. :) I do agree that Atonmement (movie) was much more depressing as well.

    Denise, I have been meaning to watch the Swedish version for a while...I am interested to see the differences with the US one.

  4. I've never read What Dreams May Come, but I really enjoyed all the other books that you've mentioned.

    I too loved the film version of Matilda, although I haven't watched it for years! This must change. It's such an iconic, magical childhood film.

    I recently re-watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and my good opinions of it haven't changed. However, I must say that it was considerably more awkward watching it at the cinema the first time than at home!

    Although I didn't find it a bad film in itself, I think that Atonement had to become something else in order to become a successful film.

  5. The only one I read AND watched the movie was The Time Travelers Wife. I didn't LOVE the book anyway (I liked it a lot though) so I was pretty satisfied with the movie. I have found I usually say that I'm going to read the book first and then I never get to it so I never get to the movie. But yeah, I'm usually not satisfied with the movie after reading the book.

  6. I've seen many movie adaptations of novels I've read, and the only movie that did the book proud was "The Maltese Falcon" with Humphrey Bogart.

  7. Matilda! Oh my word how I love that movie :) My daughter was fairly obsessed with it when she was young. In fact, I gave her the DVD for Christmas this year. She has her own place and I didn't want her taking MY copy darn it!

    I'm very interested in seeing Life of Pi. The book was beautiful and I can't wait to see how they translated that onto film.

  8. Someday I will get around to reading (and watching) The Time Traveler's Wife. Someday. I agree with you about Atonement. I was really impressed with the book and loved how they did the movie. It wasn't quite perfect, but close. I've yet to see the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm sure I will one of these days, but I liked the Swedish version so much that it's hard for me to imagine anyone else playing Salander's character than Noomi Rapace.

    I actually like it when I see movies come out that are based on books. Sure, the books are usually better, but I still like to see books I love getting extra attention, especially by non-readers or people who didn't even know there was a book. I see the originality of Hollywood coming out more in all the remakes they do. But I understand where you're coming from.

  9. lack of originality, I mean. Oops!

  10. Lucy: "I think Atonement had to become something else in order to become a successful film." Awesome observation! I agree with that.

    Candace, I do the same thing. I always avoid movie adapatations until after I read the book, but with a TBR list this long...

    techeditor, haven't read or watched that one yet, but I am curious now that you mentioned that.

    Jennifer, I agree about Life of Pi. I was originally afraid it would not translate well to film, but it's won so many awards, I must be wrong!

    Literary Feline: I can agree w/the book getting extra attention--that is definitely a good thing. Except for 50 Shades. They could skip giving that one more attention...lol.

  11. I didn't actually like Atonement, but I may have to give it another chance since I saw it years ago. And I've heard how people didn't like The Time Traveller's Wife but actually, I enjoyed it! But I haven't read the book yet so I can't really say much about that haha. And oh Matilda, one of my faves <3

    1. Did you read Atonement too, or just see the movie? And I would definitely be interested in what you think of TTTW movie after you read the book...I think the comparison is what ruined the movie version for me!

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