It’s been a year of some major book to movie adaptations, some more successful than others. (And some just downright terrible – cough Allegiant cough). But for book lovers, there’s always the eternal debate of which version was better – while the book usually wins out, sometimes the movie adaptation just adds that little extra something which makes the whole story more magical.
Here are our thoughts on five of these book-to-movie adaptations:
Me Before You
Told with such candid emotion and fluidity, Me Before You is one of my all-time favorite romance books. It’s darker than most romance novels yet it’s filled with so much heart, wit and chemistry that’s carried throughout the plot. Also, as one who tends to read quite a bit of romance books, it’s easy for stories to blur after reading one after another. However, Me Before You stands out from the rest. With an ending that left me in tears (or I’d like to label as….”allergies”), I knew that this book was quite different than any other.
Since I was quite obsessed with the book, I made sure that I got to meet author Jojo Moyes, herself and personally thank her for creating this story. When I met her, she was currently on tour promoting the movie. After watching the exclusive trailers, I was set with high expectations and initially thought that I would love the movie. However, it was not the case.
Though the movie covers the major plot points of the book, the film felt rushed and a bit staggered. The movie version somehow lost the fluidity and grace that I loved so much about the book. Also, though I loved the performance of Emilia Clarke (who played Louisa Clark) and Sam Claflin (who played William Traynor) separately, I felt as if their chemistry together wasn’t what I felt or envisioned as I read the book. Perhaps if there was more development and build up that led to the emotional ending, I would have loved it more. But due to its shortcomings, I just didn’t fall in love with it. And though I don’t like saying that the book is usually better than the movie version, I find it to be the case for Me Before You.
It’s a bit harder to do a book vs. movie exploration for a movie based off an ongoing, decades long superhero franchise, where one character has been written and drawn by hundreds of people since that character was first created. That being said, I’m going to have to give this one to the book, simply because the film does not take full advantage of the sheer level of WEIRD that Doctor Strange can offer. Iconic creators such as Steve Ditko, Steve Englehart, and Frank Brunner take full advantage of the inherent, well, strangeness in the concept of Doctor Strange, having Strange battle all sorts of demonic cultists, travel through different surreal dimensions, and making one of his greatest foes a guy who’s head is perpetually on fire. Doctor Strange the film interprets Stephen Strange learning magic as a relatively paint by numbers superhero origin story, with the “magic” straying less towards the fantastic and more towards a beefed up version of Inception. There’s so much potential for the SURREAL here that it’s really disappointing that the film sticks to a safe story we’ve seen before countless of times.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Some movies seem determined to fail no matter how much they have going for them. Take Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for example. This had to be one of the greatest mashups ever, taking one of literature’s best heroines, Elizabeth Bennet, and making her an ass-kicking slayer of the undead. And the book is still set during England’s Regency Era, with all its rituals and customs existing alongside zombie attacks. Then there’s the cast, which boasts names like Lily James, Bella Heathcote, Charles Dance, Lena Headey, and Matt Smith. But after giving us a few good moments, the movie decides to mess with a good thing (a perfect thing really). While the book was a careful, line for line rewrite which gleefully, seamlessly paired manners and dismemberment, the film adaptation removes much of what made its source material so fun in the first place. It refuses to let its premise stand on its own and expands the story to a bigger stage, adding in a baffling subplot involving intelligent zombies that’s barely even taken advantage of. Worse, this puzzling lack of trust also means that one of the greatest love stories of all time comes off as rather flat. So if you’re a fan of any of the many genres “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” incorporates, avoid the movie like the zombie plague. You won’t regret it.
A Monster Calls
I must say that A Monster Calls is very faithful to the novel it’s based on. Reading the book not too long ago and seeing the movie last week, it definitely hits the same story points while capturing the essence and themes of the novel – all very well cinematically. My only gripe is the very last scene which is the most obvious departure from the book. It just takes away from the previous scene which felt like more of the true ending for this story. The follow-up was unnecessary and took away from the magnitude of emotion we had just experienced.
The Girl on the Train
Having rather enjoyed the book, I was interested in how it would be adapted for the big screen. Sad to say, the movie version didn’t quite work for me, the primary reason being that it’s much easier to depict an unreliable narrator on paper than on the screen. The scenes showing Rachel’s alcoholism and memory loss tend to slow down the pace of the movie somewhat. There’s a disconnect in the scenes she misremembers – I would have thought it would make more sense to have them shown from Rachel’s eyes and perspective, and not have the audience looking from the outside in. (I’m no film buff, so I don’t know what the technical terms are here!) I did, however, feel that the film was excellently cast, particularly with Haley Bennett, who plays the role of the luminous, conflicted Megan Hipwell. It was also a very faithful adaptation, barring the change in setting from London to New York.