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I had a novel idea


I took a week off from forking over my cash to the theater partially in protest of the extra cost for seeing Resident Evil in 3D. I’m not going to pay the extra and they weren’t showing it in 2D. While looking at options for a post, I heard the news about the adaptation of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King into several films and a television series. Roland will walk somewhere other than my mind’s eye (*girlish squeal and happy dance*). That being said, I wanted to talk about my favorite film adaptations from novels, skipping graphic novels, video games and all other adaptations. I also want to hear from you on your favorite adaptations (no restrictions on you).

I’ll be honest; I’m probably going to be all over the place on this, as my mind is already on my vacation next week celebrating nine years of marriage to a wonderful woman.

Now, on to the show. In no particular order are some of my favorite adaptations from novel to film.

Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk’s diatribe against consumerism, masculinity and the status-quo blew my mind. I didn’t realize that it was okay to write like that. I had always believed conventional, linear narrative was the only way to sell books, but, a few years out of high school; that all changed. Three years later, the same story rocked my movie-going world as well, propelling David Fincher from former video director who nailed it with Se7en, to a filmmaker that I must watch.

It wasn’t long after I saw Fight Club that a friend loaned me a book by an author unfamiliar to me. The author’s name – Bret Easton Ellis; the novel and film – American Psycho. Ellis gave us the journey of an investment banker’s descent into madness. If I thought Fight Club was non-linier, the random thoughts of Ellis’ Patrick Bateman allowed me to consider experiencing the world from any number of skewed viewpoints. This was the first film where I remember Christian Bale, taking specific note of his ability to portray someone who is passionate about some things yet unfeeling toward people. I was most fascinated by the fact that this film was directed by a female director since so many women spoke out against the source material and the way it treats violence toward women.

In all fairness, I had to read this for film class. Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. This novel was adapted into the film Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze. I enjoyed The Orchid Thief much more that I expected I would. It is a well written story about her experiences with John Laroche. I love the meta aspect of the film. The film is about Charlie Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the novel into the film that is going on. If that doesn’t make sense, that’s okay. You’ll understand if you have seen another Spike Jonze film Being John Malkovich.

An adaptation where I didn’t enjoy the source, but love the film is Boileau-Narcejac’s D’entre les morts which translates as The Living and the Dead. You know the film as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Vertigo is Hitchcock’s masterpiece is about a retired police detective who suffers from a terrible fear of heights (just like me). James Stewart before he was a punch-line and Kim Novak share better chemistry that most couples that pair on screen these days. I don’t want to talk too much about this one, in the case that someone has not seen it. It may not play well for the ADD enhanced, but this is one of the great ones in my book (still unsure if I intended that pun or not).

I know… where is the LOTR trilogy, how about Schindler’s List, Jaws, or The Exorcist, Mr. Horror-fan? LOTR was an important film, based solely on the scale of the production, so it deserves mention. I never read the source novel for Schindler’s List or Jaws. The Exorcist is still the only book that has frightened me, so while I love the film, the book holds a special place in my heart.

Hopefully, one day, a list like this will include The Gunslinger.

What are your favorite adaptations?

Jay (J.C.) Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast

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26 comments

  • YES! I’ve been waiting for the dark tower to do something for a long time now! But the books will undoubtedly be better, by far. Even if they adapt the book word for word, front to back, the book will still be better. In my mind, Roland never shows his face, it’s always covered by a shadow, and if you do catch a glimpse, it’s covered in scars and creases that could tell a thousand stories :)

    P.S. How good are the Dark Tower comics! I spent money that should have been spent on absolute necessities on the last 4 issues of the journey begins!

  • I don’t think any other movie at our college’s DOC films auditorium/mini cinema was applauded and cheered as much as Fight Club did at the opening credits and the closing credits. It was one heck of a cinema experience… and it was only $2! (free if you have a DOC films pass, though it’s probably doubled now. still, $4!)

    So I approve of your protest against Resident Evil 3D. :)

  • DT=BEST BOOKS EVER!

    Stephen King is a god. And if they screw up my all time favorite books…I will write angry letters to Ron Howard. And Akiva Goldsman. And whoever else is responsible.

  • I’ll agree that the “Twilight” series thus far has been well-done even though it deviates a little from the books.

    To the person who mentioned “True Blood”: I listened to the first two books and I know what you mean. my wife, however, is immensely frustrated at some of the things they have done.

    I’ve only read one or two of “The Dark Tower” series books. I guess I need to grab The Gunslinger and read it before this movie comes out.

    As for a movie I wish someone would make from a novel: “Ender’s Game”. There is so much potential for that book to be adapted to a movie with today’s technology.

    On a side note, I just recently read “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and I now want to see the movie to see if they did the book any justice. I was very moved by that story.

  • Let the Right One In was the best of both worlds, although I would have liked it if the film carried over more of the horror elements from the book.

    Fight Club is one of my favorite movies and books. Hopefully they adapt Chuck Palanuick’s Rant as well as they did it.

  • I have to say that I have enjoyed both the movie and television series versions of Frank Herbert’s DUNE novels. In the 1984 David Lynch adaption, the sets, costumes and atmosphere of the production was incredible. The actual story telling part wasn’t bad at least it was very true to the book.
    The television series was brilliantly cast, acted and was an incredible production overall.

  • Maybe I missed it, but what about Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption?
    True, not really a novel but a novella as part of a collection, but this was one of the first book/movie combos where I felt that the movie had more to offer than the book.

  • I agree with everything Shaelena said about the Dark Tower.

    I love the adaptation of Slaughterhouse Five. I was a kid when I first saw it and was expecting something of a horror film – I’m glad I got past the title.

  • I was 12 years old when I saw a clockwork orange…..(fill in the therapy blanks for yourselves)

    Watchmen: Earl Hailey who played Rorschach had an outstanding performance in this film….other than that….I’m not quite sure what went wrong. The film was nearly word for word from the graphic novel then went by the wayside toward the end…..and I thought it was completely unnecessary to change the ending. The film makers should have stayed faithful to the book.

  • Snow Falling on Cedars. While the novel was good, the soundtrack and the mood of the film was stellar. This is one instance where I liked the movie more than the book.

  • Trainspotting – i will forever love this adaptation. I also agree with @Cass. that effin’ baby (both in the crib and on the ceiling) still ooks me the hell out.

  • I would definatley have to say twilight. It is the movie of our generation and the books are classics…

    On a serious note though I love the assiduous of fight club and A Clockwork Orange. ACO is just so twisted in the book and he movie portrays it perfectly

  • Can we please return to the Dark Tower series for a second?! This is either the best or worst idea EVER. Like most if not all of the hard core fans of the series out there, I am ecstatic about the notion, but terrified of the possible result of screen adaptation. And if it does turn out terribly I may never stop crying.

    What is particularly risky though is the way in which they’re approaching the project: a feature film for Gunslinger followed by a TV series to bridge to the next feature film and so on… I know that everything Ron Howard touches turns to gold, but is this really his cup of tea? There is an air of heroism to his adventure/suspense films that I think is too simple for the character of Roland. Ugh, and casting…who, but the young Clint Eastwood?

    On a separate note, I’ve often had a difficult time selling others on the Dark Tower because they have such strong associations of King with horror (and 7 epic volumes takes serious commitment). This is NOT a horror series, my friends- more like epic-western-fantasy-awesomeness if you ask me. If you call yourself a nerd and haven’t read these books, stop what you’re doing and go buy the Gunslinger.

    And Ron et al, you will crush a lot of nerdy hearts if you mess this up.

  • The Gunslinger is too complex for film. They will edit it down to a really weird western/scifi. Besides, I always pictured a young Clint Eastwood character for Roland and Clint’s getting a little old.

  • In my opinion you cant have a list like this without mentioning “L.A. Confidential” the movie was by far the best move made in the 90’s. and its source material was a epic gritty Noir master piece by James Ellroy. and the film adaption took just the right elements of the book and did what is often unheard of in movies and improved on it.

  • I don’t know why these two stick out to me… but the novel Ordinary People was far better than the movie. Conversely, the movie adaptation of the Horse Whisperer was far better than the movie. Both movies were directed by Robert Redford.

  • Good: No Country for Old Men-the most literal adaption out there
    Clockwork Orange-Messes with the source material a little more than tolerable, none-the-less a Masterpiece
    Bad: One Flew over the Cukoo’s Nest-Good Book, in my unneeded opinion, Terrible Movie
    To Kill A Mockingbird-Gregory Peck saves this from being a total cluster-f*** of poor adaption and classic hollywood badness
    Ugly: Watchmen-Let’s completely ignore what this is all about and have a decent soundtrack

  • I want to pick up The Living and the Dead. We watched Vertigo in a class I took, but we paired it up to Hoffman’s The Sandman. Of course it wasn’t a direct link, but the ideas were there.

    I think sometimes adaptations can be better than the books. I’m thinking of True Blood mostly. After awhile the books get really repeititive and without any real defining plot. The show expands on the ideas in the books and makes it a fuller, fleshier world.

  • Straying from your normal scope of topical films… I loved The DaVinci Code both in hard copy and on film. I thought the translation of concepts to film held up with the right amount of suspense, while leaving the viewer with many “WHAT IF” questions unanswered. Likewise, I thought Angels and Demons followed up in true Ron Howard style. Opie did good. And anything with Tom Hanks ranks at the top of my list.

  • The Shining adaptation is a winner for picking only the best details from the book.
    The Basketball Diaries is pretty cult-level, but it’s true to every word in the book and on screen is such a terrifyingly honest story.
    I’m also pretty partial to Coppola’s Dracula, Gary Oldman is king.
    But Silence of the Lambs may take the cake.

    *Jay, awesome topic!

  • I thought the adaptation of “Dexter” from the novels is one of the best I have ever seen. The books are so unbelievably good, so I was extremely skeptical about the show…….to my delight, it is one of the greatest shows ever made.

    The Notebook : I know it’s an uber cheesy story made into an even cheesier film, but the adaptation was nearly flawless and as a woman…..I love me some Nicholas Sparks

    Frankenstein: Not the 1931 Boris Karloff version, but the 1994 version written and directed by Kenneth Bragnah

    Empire of the Sun : based off of J.D Ballards autobiography, stars Christian Bale before his epic Mel Gibson like outburts

    Trainspotting : The dead crack baby on the ceiling, still gives me the creepers

    No Country for Old Men : Javier Bardem…..sexiest psychopath ever

    Frankenstein: Not the 1931 Boris Karloff version but the 1994 Kenneth Branagh version. I’m not sure why I love this adaptation so much….oh wait…it’s because Robert De Niro is Frankenstein’s monster…nuff said.

    I’d continue on but then we’d be here all night

  • I really loved The Pianist, even though it’s not technically a novel, it’s a priceless first hand account published in 1945, not 30 years later like most other survivor’s stories. I thought they did an amazing job adapting it into something that didn’t drag like it easily could have.