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Books vs Films

a review of the best and worst book adaptations

Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05

   Hollywood has been big in producing adaptations of beloved books, but not always do the adaptations live up to the book.

There have been films that manage to become good adaptations of a beloved book by taking the essence of the character and tone of the story directly from the page to the screen, but there are those that fail at capturing what made the book such a fascinating read or a best-seller.

Here is a list of what can be considered good or bad adaptations based on the success they have had on the big screen:

The Good:

“Harry Potter”

The film franchise, adapted a massive series of seven books into a cinematic vision with much success. It would however require some stuff to get cut out from the book. That is something that every cinematic adaptation has had to face at one point or another, but where the Harry Potter films delivered was in capturing the spirit and complex mythology of J.K. Rowling’s world.

The crew behind the films knew exactly what it was that they needed to edit out, while retaining the most important aspect of the characters and storylines. Not to mention, the films had some talented directors to tell the stories with a particular magical vision, and the cast, being new to audiences, portrayed the characters perfectly on screen.

“The Lord of the Rings”

Based on a beloved series of books from J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, director of the films, did something unprecedented with the saga. He took the spirit of the characters and Tolkien’s storyline and made a fantasy world come to life.

Jackson also completely translated the different languages and cultures cinematically, while still changing some parts. Many parts of the movie were considered to be “un-filmable,” but Jackson did them anyway. Not only did the films succeed in every department of filmmaking, they were also commercially and critically successful. The trilogy won 16 Academy Awards.

“No Country for Old Men”

From celebrated author Cormac McCarthy, the book is not only a great cat and mouse thriller but it also has a great sense of place. What the Coen brothers (directors of the film) did was take McCarthy’s words and take them to visual terms, adding their trademark dark humor and style but keeping it extremely close to the source material. While telling the story in a cinematically rewarding way, the movie had an outstanding cast, which included an Academy Award-winning performance by Javier Bardem. The movie continued with its success in winning multiple awards that included Best Picture.

“The Godfather” (Parts I and II) Considered two of the best films ever made, Francis Ford Coppola (director) and Mario Puzo (author), decided that in order to tell the best version of the story the first film had to follow the aging Don Vito Corleone and the development of Michael. For Part II, they not only expanded the storyline by telling the story of the young Vito, but also expanded upon Michael’s storyline to create one massive crime tale that would instantly become a classic in film.

“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Director Milos Forman, along with screenwriters Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, stuck close to Ken Kensey’s acclaimed novel, which details the struggle against the authority of an Oregon mental institution. Ultimately, both the film and the book, show the overcoming of human perseverance that looks at the patients in a sympathetic fashion. Now almost 40 years later, the film is considered one of the greatest in the history of American cinema. Also it gave the world one of the signature Jack Nicholson roles as Randall P. McMurphy. The movie is not only scripted perfectly, almost resembling the words written on the book, but the casting is also exceptional. Each character was portrayed in the essence that each has in the book. There is no mystery as to why it was nominated for so many Oscars.

The Bad:

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”

Compared to the book, the film lacks development and characters. Director Robert Schwentke tried to cram one of the most epic novels into a movie that runs less than two hours, and we all know that’s just a big no, no.

Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams play their parts well in the movie, but that does not distract audiences from the fact that the whole screen play is a mess and is missing a fair amount of pages.


Another fantasy adaptation based on a bestselling work by Christopher Paolini, which was touted as the beginning of a new franchise but ultimately fizzled at the box office. Inspired by the works of George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien, Paolini created a book that relied a lot on the relationship between a boy and his dragon. The book was a rather long novel, but the film skimmed by it as if it was a chase film, missing a lot of the character moments and ultimately feeling like about half of the book was skipped. Ultimately the film became a missed opportunity.

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