As a book and film lover, book to film adaptations are always a double edged sword. I get excited to see books I’ve read adapted into film, to be able to see stories played out on a screen rather than staying locked in my mind’s eye.
But book to film adaptations are nearly always a disappointment.
This is because a film adaptation cannot possibly capture all the little details, or show us every scene from the book, because it just doesn’t have the time. So things that we readers think are important or significant parts of the book are often glossed over or skipped entirely. Dialogue is trimmed down or changed. Themes and ideas are not fully explored.
Let’s talk about what is perhaps the most important aspect of book to film adaptations: the characters. They rarely look like how you pictured them in your mind: Too tall. Too short. Wrong colour hair. Different race. Looks too old. Not good looking enough. Or the actor playing them plays them differently than you’d imagined and their personality seems all wrong. And because the screenplay strips down the book so much, the characters might also feel underdeveloped or lacking the depth they had in the book.
Sometimes a film adaptation can never live up to your expectations no matter what it does, especially if you loved the book. You watch it being extra critical, with the mindset that it’ll never live up to the book. So it doesn’t. Sometimes, even if an adaptation does somehow manage to get everything right, it will still be a disappointment simply because it’s not the book.
However, there are some adaptations that, while they’re not and cannot be perfect, manage to get most of it right. They manage to capture the important parts of the book, convey the important themes, make you feel the same emotions you felt when you read the book, get some of the character descriptions or personality traits spot on. So, here are some book to film adaptations I feel did just that.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald adapted into The Great Gatsby (2013)
I was at uni when this film came out and we were actually studying The Great Gatsby again, so a lot of people from my class went to see this adaptation, and a lot of them didn’t like it. However, although I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio is the best choice for Gatsby, I love this adaptation! It really depicts the story how I’d pictured it in my mind. The extravagant parties were just how I’d imagined, the characters’ personalities were pretty accurate, and all the themes and symbolism explored in the novel were present.
- The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins adapted into The Hunger Games series (2012 onwards)
One of the best YA book to film adaptations, in my opinion. Now, although I’m not a fan of most of the casting choices, especially Katniss and Peeta, these films really capture the bleak dystopian future Suzanne Collins gives us in the books. And, to be honest, a lot is glossed over or skipped, but the stuff that they do manage to get into the films are done well and are very true to the books.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn adapted into Gone Girl (2014)
I really think Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike make a great Nick and Amy Dunne. Pike plays psychotic Amy fantastically, and, well, Affleck has always been good at playing douchebags so Nick isn’t so hard for him to get right. The film made me feel all the thrill and shock and nail-biting emotions the book did, despite the fact that I already knew what was going to happen. And that scene with Neil Patrick Harris? It was actually better than I’d imagined!
I must admit, this list of films was difficult for me to come up with, which is why I only managed to get three adaptations on there. I guess there aren’t too many adaptations that live up to my expectations! There are other book to film adaptations I love, like the Harry Potter films and American Psycho, but, as I haven’t read the books yet, I can’t talk about how well they did as adaptations of the books.
So, what are your favourite book to film adaptations?