Saturday, February 5, 2011

Books on Film

I have a t-shirt from a local bookstore with the slogan “Books – Read the Movie.” It’s an interesting concept, I think – reading. Mostly because I *love* to read. But I also love to watch movies. And when the two combine, it reminds me of the old commercials from the 70s for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”
Lately, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon, though I’m not sure you can call it that. Books made into movies where the movies seem to become either the authority on the subject or a separate entity altogether. Which brings about even more interesting digressions.
For example:
Harry Potter. Read the books, loved them. Saw the movies, also loved them. But in my mind, they are completely different things. The movies have a sense of drama and suspense that I don’t find in the books; yet the written pages exude a sort of lush artistry the movies can’t quite depict.
Lord of the Rings. Really, there’s a set of books? Yes, J.R.R. Tolkien is the bee’s knees, but personally, I’ve never been able to slog through his work. I know many, MANY people who have and adored them, but not me. However, I can sit through Peter Jackson’s visual interpretations time and time again. In fact, not too long ago, I watched the last 45 minutes of Return of the King, then whooped when I discovered it was going to show again immediately. I didn’t care that it ended at 3:40 in morning. I watched the whole thing. Again.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Now this one is unique. Certainly Dr. Seuss’ book occupies an ever-present (pun intended) on my keeper shelf, but the cartoon version with the delightfully dulcet tones of narrator Boris Karloff makes my heart pitter-patter to this very day. THEN it got the live action treatment from Ron Howard. I’m still on the fence about it, but whenever I think of the Grinch, I think cartoon.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians. I only saw the movie on this one, but my son loved all the books and Ron Riordan gained a lifetime reader out of him. I do plan to sit and read the books one of these days.
Gone With the Wind. Eh on the movie, though visually it was stunning. Then and now. I read it once and had to force myself to struggle through it. Neither of these impressed me and I don’t really know what all the fuss is about. If I were Rhett Butler, I would have smacked Scarlett and ridden away about 10 seconds into meeting her.
Jaws. Once the scariest movie I’d even in my entire life seen. So bad that my family still teases me about it. And now it’s one of my favorites of all time. The book differed wildly from the movie. I mean, Hooper and Ellen, Sheriff Brody’s wife have an affair in the book! (Hey, I’m not calling spoiler on that one cause you should have read it by now). And the movie itself spawned THREE sequels (Jaws 2 was decent; Jaws 3D is awesome for humor and Dennis Quaid; Jaws: The Revenge had the unfortunate tag of This Time It’s Personal and good grief, was not even worth seeing for free.) Not to mention the movie inexorably tied the haunting sounds of the cello with danger. That’s something not as easily done in a book.
The magic of books ... and film ... and television
And there’s the flip side, as well. TV shows and movies have created long-lasting worlds of books. Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica (the rebooted series), Star Wars, X-Files and many, many more.
I find it all entertaining, which is the point of imagination, but I also wonder if any of the original authors could even fathom for one second, how widely “seen and heard” their written words would become.
What are some of your favorite books into movies?
Happy reading/watching,


  1. Most movies I've seen that I'd read the book first, just wasn't able to capture the essence of the book. Not to say the movie was bad, just so much is missing. One of the first ones I read and then saw the movie was The Godfather. The movie was great but the book was so much better. Even to this day when it comes on, I'm saying to anyone who is in the room, "yes, but he did this because..." "but what really happened in the book was..." until I drive them crazy enough to leave the room or change the channel. :-) Great post, Jen!

  2. Jenn, sometimes even though the movie and book are different, they are each good in their own way. Sometimes not. You didn't mention THE SCARLETT LETTER. In the movie the heroine goes off with the minister to live HEA, when he was the villain of the book. ??? Demi Moore's comment, "Oh, no one's read that book anyway" ticked off a lot of people, me included. I boycotted the movie. I know, the producers could not care less, but it made me feel better. LOL

  3. What the they said! ;-)
    Usually, if I've read the book I'm disappointed in the movie. However, I do love having the visuals the movie provides, especially in this day of computer enhancement. I watched The High and the Mighty (John Wayne) this week. Leonard Maltin did the introduction and commented that you can't compare old movies to current movies, you have to get involved with the actors. Ella

  4. I too, usually prefer the book to the film, only because I believe I get a totally different visual from the book. But I'm also a movie lover, so I don't mind the differences and sometimes find it fun picking them out! Great Post, Jen.