Some great, and not so great, book to film adaptations
Adapting literature to film proves a tricky task, here are some significant attempts. | Photo Illustration by Caleb Raney / THE CHIMES
Hollywood gets its inspiration from just about anywhere. Before movies were around to capture the world’s attention and imagination, books were responsible for that task, and they still are to some extent. Books have the unique ability to utilize the power to create in one’s mind more than any other medium. Without the same constraints as movies, readers picture a scene in their minds without the limits of computer generated imagery or special effects. Books have this imaginative advantage over films.
On the flip side, films can visually and physically create what was once only theater of the mind. Readers can invent scenes in their minds, but they still long to see it happening before their very eyes. Naturally, both novelists and filmmakers have sought to combine the two mediums and adapt books into movies. A current example of that is Disney’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” but Hollywood has attempted to adapt novels ever since its inception. Here is a look at some iconic book to film adaptations and a couple less iconic attempts.
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the small-town trial of Tom Robinson has long been a staple of American literature. Published only two years before the film in 1960, the novel tackles complex and weighty themes of racial inequality and sexual abuse through the eyes of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch. The film received floods of praise from critics with Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch becoming an instant Hollywood icon. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three for best adapted screenplay, best art direction and best actor for Peck.
Though technically cheating because Langton’s take on Jane Austen’s celebrated novel is actually a BBC television series and not a film adaptation, this format makes it stand out over others. It allows Langton to take his time telling Austen’s story. Told over six episodes, every plot thread receives due attention and every character effectively develops in a way that a film would not have enough time for. It allowed for a faithful adaptation of Austen’s story, making it a favorite of “Pride and Prejudice” fans everywhere. The stellar cast includes Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy wooing audiences with his smooth and elegant talk.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s absolutely legendary high fantasy trilogy has fascinated readers for years. Adapting an entire trilogy filled with themes of war, environmental conservation, temptation, friendship and an epic battle between good and evil was always going to be a tall order. However, Jackson proved up to the task with award-winning adaptations. Although not as faithful to the books as some would like, Jackson’s trilogy manages to create Tolkien’s world, which strikes the hearts of audiences with utter awe and wonder. Each of the three films received Academy Awards, with the final installment receiving nominations for 11 awards and winning all of them. The films transformed Tolkien’s epics into a pop-culture phenomenon that will be remembered for years to come.
Although critics and disappointed fans alike mauled Lynch’s film, it makes the list because Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is simply fantastic. Herbert creates a world as vast, intricate and interesting as Tolkien’s, but perhaps even harder to adapt. Lynch’s attempt fell way below the mark with ugly sets, ethereal tone and downright boring, uninspired story telling just after “Star Wars” made sci-fi cool.
5) “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” directed by Chris Columbus (2010)
Columbus’ “The Lightning Thief,” proved less comedic and adventurous than its source material. The Percy Jackson series uses myriad monsters, gods and assorted characters from Greek mythology to tell an epic tale of a boy who struggles to find his identity in the middle of it all. Its film adaptation received mixed to negative reviews as it felt more like a Harry Potter knock-off rather than doing justice to the novels.