Friday, October 16, 2009

Books vs. Movies

Where the Wild Things Are opens today! A little while back, we tweeted about these gorgeous photo stills from the movie, and more than a few of us here at Farley's are pretty excited to check it out. We've been ooohh-ing and aaahh-ing over the stills from Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland since they started floating around the internet too, and the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is pretty stunning as well.

All of the buzz around these movies has gotten us thinking, and more often than not, it seems that the film adaptations of our favorite books fall woefully short of their predecessors in print. How many times have you left the movie theater thinking, "Wow, the book was so much better!" Take the recent movie version of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, for example. While not a bad movie, per se, it definitely did not live up to the book... much of what we loved about the main characters Henry and Clare didn't make it to the screen, and their love story just didn't get the time it needed to develop.

So often, that's just it: something we love from the book is inevitably left out of the movie. But when everything's got to fit inside of a two-hour window, however, some details have to be compromised... don't they? Still, there seem to be successful ways to go about that. Take the Harry Potter empire. Sure, there are plenty of HP fans out there who can't stand the movies because they leave so much out, but there are just as many who are understanding of the time constraints and enjoy them whole-heartedly regardless. (We're among the latter.)

Then there's the matter of casting. There's a certain joy to envisioning a good novel as we read, which sometimes gets lost once the film is released. Can I ever recall my original imagining of Henry DeTamble now that I've seen Eric Bana in his shoes? How many times have you seen a movie trailer and thought, "That's not how I pictured him/her at all!" Of course, the opposite can happen too... Daniel Radcliffe, we're talking to you!

That's not to say there's no such thing as a good film adaptation, of course, or that the reverse can't happen. Watching a movie can just as often spark interest in the book, and of course there are some wonderful books-turned-films out there. After all, Slumdog Millionaire took home an Oscar, and there are a number of movies out there that rival or far outshine the books that inspired them. There's The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and perhaps the greatest book/movie combination of all time: To Kill A Mockingbird.
And what about The Princess Bride?? We can't tell you how many visitors we get who spot that book on our racks and say, "Oh, they made a book out of this? I love that movie!" While the movie is a total cult classic, we've got a sneaking suspicion that more people than not don't even know about the book--which is, while markedly different in some places, equally enjoyable and even more amusing. So what makes the difference here? Is it that most people have seen the movie first? Do we tend to love the form we're first exposed to more?

Whatever the case, it's always entertaining--or at least interesting--to see how someone else envisions the books we love, and if Where the Wild Things Are lives up to even half of its promise, we'll likely be happy campers. To anyone who makes it to the theaters today, please let us know what you think!

And to everyone else out there, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well! What is it that makes a good film adaptaion? A bad one? What are your favorite (and least favorite!) movies inspired by books?

1 comment:

Alex said...

The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story, High Fidelity... All excellent film adaptations. The award for the worst has to go to I, Robot.