Over the past month, I rewatched the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, which motivated me to reread the books (it’s been several years). Half way through The Fellowship of the Ring novel, I realized that despite the differences between the two forms, I truly love each as a separate experience.
This isn’t usually the case with me.
It’s been difficult in the past seeing a much-loved novel made into a disappointing film. Intellectually, I know the limits, but more often than not, I’m frustrated when a film doesn’t live up to its novel. Dune, I, Robot, the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice, the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma, and even a couple of the Harry Potter movies spring to mind.
Then, there’s the movies based on Stephen King novels. I’ve only read a couple of his books. One scared the crap out of me (IT) and the other really made me think about the possibilities (The Stand), but, like all of the movies based on his books, they were campy and cartoony and not even really scary at all. I have to admit, though, that because The Stand was a tv miniseries, it was much closer in detail to the book. I’ll give them that.
Another peeve I have deals specifically with what I think are poor casting choices in some films. Maddeningly, those are the images stuck in my brain on subsequent readings of the novels. It’s my personal opinion the casting director of Interview with the Vampire should have been shot for casting Tom Cruise as Lestat. It was after that movie I decided to be very picky which film adaptations I choose to watch.
For that reason, I refuse to see One For the Money because I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and have very specific images in my mind of her characters. The actors they chose were so far from that it ruined my interest in the movie.
And don’t even get me started on the choice of Tom Cruise to play the very tall, ex-military cop Jack Reacher character from the Lee Child novels. That one just literally blows my mind and apparently other fans feel the same. (Please don’t think I’m against Tom Cruise. I’ve liked him in other roles.)
Strangely, this has never been the case with the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films.
Watching the “making of” videos included with my DVD set, it’s obvious these films were made with inordinate care and love of the novels. From the director, writers, and actors, down to the lowliest grip, most seem to have read these books at some time in their lives and loved them. How could that not show in the final product?
Yes, many beloved characters and scenes from the novels didn’t make it into the films. Yes, some of the actors were different from those I had in my mind. Yet, for some reason, none of this bothers me. In fact, I often feel the films are better than my imagination.
I can’t think of any other instances where I loved both the novel and film as equally as I do The Lord of the Rings. However, after wracking my brains, and ultimately turning to the internet for help, I was able to come up with film treatments of favorite novels that I did actually enjoy. (And, honestly, I didn’t want this to turn into a complete rant.)
Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. As a miniseries, it was able to include more of the story, the acting was excellent (Mrs. Bennett was dead-on), and they finally found an actor who, honest-to-God, was Mr. Darcy.
I truly loved the first three Harry Potter films and felt they were as faithful to the wonder and magic of the original books as they could get with movie constraints. I also liked The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, for the reasons I noted in a previous post. But the rest? I can take them or leave them.
Strangely enough, I must have been one of the few people who liked all the science in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I found it fascinating and it added to my belief that dinosaurs could be bio-engineered. However, I wasn’t upset they kept it to a bare minimum for the movie, and the rest of it was amazing.
I suppose when it all comes down to it, this is all very subjective.
What about you? What film versions of novels do you love or loathe?