Books and Movies

I normally don’t enjoy movies based on books I have read. Being a verbal/book orientated person I just seem to enjoy the books better. The movies almost always are a disappointment. Plus, it is weird watching a movie when you already know what is going to happen. I hated Last of the Mohicans because it just didn’t match the book and my imagination. I was underwhelmed by the first two Harry Potter movies and didn’t even see the second one in the theater. Recently, there have been some exceptions. I particularly enjoyed Peter Jackson’s film version of Lord of the Rings but a work of that scope had a lot more to work with than the rather light in comparison Harry Potter. (I also enjoyed Big Fish but I haven’t read the book).

This weekend I risked disappointment again, venturing out to see the third installment of Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As you have probably noted from the reviews, it is better than the first two as a movie – the first two being largely film illustrations of the books. The film started a bit slowly in that the acting is rough in spots and the plot unclear – things just kind of start happening assuming you already know the backstory – but it gradually picks up pace and actually has a rather fast paced ending. The cinematography is lush and beautiful and the mood seems about right. The students seem a bit old and the Hogwarts grounds are different than in previous films, and of course there are things left out that puritanical fans will miss, but overall it was enjoyable. Nothing amazing but solidly entertaining.

While watching the trailers before the movie, however, I realized I might have a chance to reverse this trend of liking the book more than the movie. It seems that Lemony Snickett’s A Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events is being made into a film starring Jim Carey. I read the book but it didn’t really grab me; perhaps because I am not its intended audience. The movie trailer, however, looked quite interesting. I have a feeling that the dark yet humorous tone of the books might come off better in the film. Plus, it should be fun watching Jim Carey do his stuff with multiple characters. I plan to catch it when it hits theaters in December.

I would be interested to hear your reactions on this topic. Are there books where you enjoyed the film version better? Do you have a favorite book turned movie? Leave a comment and let me know.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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5 Comments

  • Like you, I rarely enjoy movies if I’ve read the book. I really get into books and have a vivid imagination. The movies rarely live up to the images already in my mind. LOTR was a rare and wonderful exception.

    I enjoyed the first two potter movies. They weren’t “as good” as the book, but enjoyable. I did not enjoy the third as much. Not that it was a bad movie. If you’ve never read the books and only knew the movies, it was a better movie than the others. It had to leave so much out, though, and so much of what was left out was what I really loved in the original story.

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  • I’ll name a movie that I liked as well as the book, despite some changes to the characters and story: Coppola’s Dracula. It is marred by a truly awful performance by Keanu Reeves, though he is more than made up for by Tom Waits’ portrayal of the poor inmate, Renfield.

    Anyway, the film drops the whole violation of a pure woman theme in favor of a love story between Dracula and Mina Murray, but I accepted that. The movie had great visuals and an over the top treatement, which is really the only way to deal with a vampire story.

  • I am generally of the philosophy that you should try to forget the book if you see the movie version, for the very reason you say: it so rarely measures up to what’s in your head.

    And yet, and yet, when it seems to me that if the writers and director truly love the book, they can usually do it justice. Peter Jackson’s a good example and, in the area of light fantasy anyway, the best movies made from comic books have been by directors who clearly loved the comics (e.g. Spider-Man).

    Someone who’s genuinely trying to bring an author’s work to the screen rather than trying to put their own spin on it will generally do the best job if you ask me. Although they tried hard and failed with Dune, at least they tried.

  • I say that if you greatly enjoyed a book, don’t see the film, as your own imagination is infinitely more powerful than a few sound effects.