Movie Adaptations of Books

This week’s blog post is about books that inspired great films and others that perhaps should have remained in print form only.  Of course this is a highly subjective matter and these are merely suggestions on my part.

Books that made great films

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk


Book Synopsis: Every Sunday during the early hours men congregate to fight one-on-one in basements and car lots.  These disenfranchised young men were brought up with absent fathers and fed on a diet of mass media that led them to believe they would be superstars.

The Film: Released in 1999, the film starred Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter.  Fight Club was nothing if not controversial and the the critics loved and hated it in equal measure.

Summary:  There is no doubt that Chuck Palahniuk’s dark, menacing, brutal and nihilistic creation was not to all readers liking.  However there are few films that have kept so closely to the book that inspired them.  The screen writer’s job must have consisted of little more than some cutting and pasting.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Book Synopsis: As we all know the story the book is about an island off Costa Rica, where a billionaire philanthropist and a small team of scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs, which end up running amok.  Did I mention it’s fiction.

The Film: Directed by Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park was a landmark with regards the use of computer generated imagery.  It was also the highest grossing film in history at the time.

Summary: Crichton’s imaginative and suspense filled tale was perfect for adaptation and so it proved with Spielberg wielding the genius and the financial backing to make it a reality.  The sequel The Lost World was a great success too, but then lamentably came Jurassic Park 3 and 4, both abject straight to DVD B movie atrocities.

The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining

Book Synopsis: The ill-tempered Jack, his wife Wendy and young son Danny move to an isolated resort, the Overlook Hotel, where Jack has taken a job as a winter caretaker.  But paranormal activities that involve telepathy and possession result in disaster.

The Film: Directed by the iconic Stanley Kubrick, the film was not initially well received having been criticised by many as deviating from the book.  However over time the slow moving film has been widely accepted as a masterpiece.

Summary: The image of the crazed Jack Nicholson peering through the partially open door is one of the most memorable film shots of all time.  However author Stephen King remains unhappy with Kubrick’s adaptation of  The Shining to this day.  What can I say other than to praise it, after all criticising Kubrick would be an act of hubris.

Books that perhaps should have stayed in print form

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book Synopsis: As we all know the book follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins, beginning in the Shire and culminating in The Battle of Five Armies.  Ultimately it can be viewed as a book about the development of the protagonist’s character.

The Film: Directed by Peter Jackson the film is the prequel to The Lord of The Rings trilogy.  A number of characters reprise their roles from the earlier films.

Summary: Many have deemed it questionable why after three great films we really need this fourth instalment, a case of milking the cow to death perhaps.  The book moves at a slower pace than The Lord of The Rings trilogy and lends itself less easily to film than the first three.  And then there’s the issue of reprising the roles of Hollywood stars Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood, even though their characters do not even appear in The Hobbit.  Did I mention it’s 169 minutes long.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S.Thompson

Fear and Loathing

Book Synopsis: The book, which is partially autobiographical in nature, follows protagonist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr.Gonzo to Las Vegas, where they discuss the 1960s counterculture, whilst indulging in a dizzying array of drugs.

The Film: Directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp, the film was a disaster at the box office.  However over time it has become something of a cult classic.

Summary: Hunter S.Thompson voiced concerns about a movie adaptation of the book.  After all Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not a plot based story and there is no doubt that personal hallucinatory experiences do not lend themselves easily to film.  There is also the fact that many viewers struggled to empathise with a character who insisted on taking large quantities of drugs at every opportunity.  Personally I enjoyed it but the book is much better.

The Informers by Brett Easton Ellis

Book Synopsis: The Informers are a collection of short stories set during the decadent 1980s.  The author attempts to link these stories together with the same continuity.  In typical Ellis fashion the characters are mostly vapid, shallow and obsessed with image and consumption.  The book can be viewed as a commentary about the decline of society.

The Film: The 2008 film saw a star studded cast acting out the mostly soulless characters from the book.  There was Winona Ryder, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton and the list goes on.

Summary: Short stories involving numerous mostly vapid characters was never going to be easy to film and so it proved.  The film was lambasted by the critics and viewers alike as being tedious, tepid and a disgrace to cinema.  But this was not Brett Easton Ellis’s fault okay.  I stress again he was innocent and can take no responsibility for how the film came out.


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