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Film adaptations of books


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1 hour ago, Vimster said:

I Am Legend is a superb book, joyously bleak, full of dashed hopes. There have been several adaptations of it but the one that really got my goat was the one starring Will Smith from 2007. It was almost like the adaptation was based on a vague description of the plot, a few elements like the dog and the woman he encounters, twisted to fit a more hopeful narrative that really goes against the spirit of the original book. The novel's protagonist was a nobody trying to do his best with nothing, they swap him out with Will Smith's army doctor. I can understand why they did it, it's only miserable sorts like me who would relish the ending being adapted properly, it would turn off a mainstream audience. My pet peeve adaptation. 

 

What I never get is why not adaption uses the end of the book as:

 

a) It's fantastic

and

b) it's the only thing that explains the title.

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The Bourne Identity has a lot of differences between the book and the 2002 movie. (I've never seen the '80s TV version, but apparently it's more faithful.) In the novel there's a lot of stuff about Carlos the Jackal, Vietnam war flashbacks, etc.

 

But there was one change that I found most memorable and significant. In the book, when he meets Marie and gets her to drive him across Europe, he essentially kidnaps her at gunpoint, threatens to rape her, and generally terrifies her. You can understand why they didn't want to show Matt Damon doing that! So in the film, he bribes her (and IIRC there's also an element of her helping him out of the goodness of her heart). This meant that the characters getting into a romantic relationship was a lot more believable in the film than it was in the book!

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6 hours ago, iknowgungfu said:

I slogged through the original book trilogy of Bourne. It is probably the only example I can remember where I (personally) felt the films were better than the books. 

Read the 1st one and agree, the movie was an improvement on the book.

 

Going to add another,  The Day of the Jackal, both  book and movie are fantastic.

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10 hours ago, iknowgungfu said:

I slogged through the original book trilogy of Bourne. It is probably the only example I can remember where I (personally) felt the films were better than the books. 


I made it through around three pages of the only Bourne book I tried that I picked up in a cafe. Was easily one of the most badly written things I’ve ever read.

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3 hours ago, lolly said:

Read the 1st one and agree, the movie was an improvement on the book.

 

Going to add another,  The Day of the Jackal, both  book and movie are fantastic.

I hate his politics but Frederick Forsyth wrote bloody good thrillers, The Day Of The Jackal (the original 70s one) is indeed great, The Fourth Protocol is also a decent adaptation.  

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20 hours ago, Vimster said:

I Am Legend is a superb book, joyously bleak, full of dashed hopes. There have been several adaptations of it but the one that really got my goat was the one starring Will Smith from 2007. It was almost like the adaptation was based on a vague description of the plot, a few elements like the dog and the woman he encounters, twisted to fit a more hopeful narrative that really goes against the spirit of the original book. The novel's protagonist was a nobody trying to do his best with nothing, they swap him out with Will Smith's army doctor. I can understand why they did it, it's only miserable sorts like me who would relish the ending being adapted properly, it would turn off a mainstream audience. My pet peeve adaptation. 

 

Does the movie have a moment where Will Smith does a weary look and goes "Aw hell no!"? Because I'm not sure if it does but it feels like the source material was so bastardised that it would have fit with the film.

 

A big disappointment for me was World War Z. Not that the book is incredible, but it is full of interesting ideas about how different societies and groups would react to a world-ending disaster, that would have lent itself well to a TV series. Instead we got Brad Pitt surviving a plane crash and plugging Pepsi.

 

In Pitt's defence though he starred in a great book adaptation to film, Fight Club, which does everything really well (even if the ending is changed).

 

Similarly, Trainspotting veers enough from the source material to be more dynamic to serve as a film, but cast everyone perfectly and managed to keep the themes of the novel and the right mixture of unrelenting bleakness and dark comedy.

 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy should never have worked. Having to adapt a billion pages of Tolkein's rambling about how green the hills of the shire were with the odd action scene, with impossible effects for the time and loads of backstory. But someone could watch the films in an afternoon and enjoy them as a faithful adaptation of the books. No Tom Bombadil, and a few characters merged for sensible reasons, but the Hobbit films that followed it showed how easily it could have been much worse than it ended up.

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Unfilmable, you say?

 

I think Tarkovsky does a pretty good job of Roadside Picnic in Stalker. Although he does take three hours and almost nothing really happens for much of it.

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46 minutes ago, BossSaru said:

 

A big disappointment for me was World War Z. Not that the book is incredible, but it is full of interesting ideas about how different societies and groups would react to a world-ending disaster, that would have lent itself well to a TV series.

 

Yeah, completely agree. A film or series presented as a documentary could have been brilliant.  Apparently the audiobook is done in that way and is really good.

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2 hours ago, Vimster said:

The Fourth Protocol is also a decent adaptation.  

 

Beat me to it.  It's low budget (well, standard for British films in the 80s) but does a good job of condensing a thickly plotted book into a two hour film - mainly by throwing the first half away.

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Because of the mention of the Fourth Protocol, I've dropped down a rabbit hole of adaptations from Alistair McLean and Jack Higgins books.  Those sort of 60s and 70s war and spy thrillers - when the phrase "airport book" meant something. 

 

Great films from books where I've read and seen both: The Cruel Sea, Ice Station Zebra, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

 

Great films I've seen from books that I haven't read: Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed.

 

On the decent thriller book/movie spectrum... Firefox?

 

Before becoming Bond, Pierce Brosnan appears in a quite a few of these.  The aforementioned The Fourth Protocol, the surprisingly excellent Alistair MacLeans Death Train and   I keep wanting to find an old TV mini series adapted from a book that he was in called Noble House, set in a very 1980s Hong Kong.

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1 minute ago, Plissken said:

Because of the mention of the Fourth Protocol, I've dropped down a rabbit hole of adaptations from Alistair McLean and Jack Higgins books.  Those sort of 60s and 70s war and spy thrillers - when the phrase "airport book" meant something. 

 

Great films from books where I've read and seen both: The Cruel Sea, Ice Station Zebra, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

 

Great films I've seen from books that I haven't read: Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed.

 

On the decent thriller book/movie spectrum... Firefox?

 

Before becoming Bond, Pierce Brosnan appears in a quite a few of these.  The aforementioned The Fourth Protocol, the surprisingly excellent Alistair MacLeans Death Train and   I keep wanting to find an old TV mini series adapted from a book that he was in called Noble House, set in a very 1980s Hong Kong.

Good call on Firefox (and The Eagle has landed), it's a decent adaptation, Eastwood is good value. Also, Firefox Down & Winter hawk , one obviously being the sequel and the other features Gant again are both pretty decent reads.

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Another Alistair McLean book that is well-adapted is Fear Is The Key. Apart from the awesome Roy Budd soundtrack it's a thriller where something happens at the start, there's no explanation for what comes next, until later when you learn what it's all about. Pretty tense. It's been years since I read the book (was one of the mountain of similar books my dad had). Features a young Ben Kingsley.

 

Another of those paperbacks was Death Wish. They managed to cram a surprising amount of the book into Michael Winner's film, and was faithful to how Charles Bronson's character's revenge was more a desire to do something but leads to him becoming a liability, as opposed to the later films where it's straight up exploitation. 

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Or is it the other way around? 🤔

 

Foster being the go-to guy for SF film novelisations.

 

Forgot one of the all-time greats; Bladerunner. Fantastic movie, despite completely reversing the point of the book. And of course, PK Dick has been adapted so many times. Blade runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, Adjustment Bureau...

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 03/09/2021 at 13:23, Plissken said:

I keep wanting to find an old TV mini series adapted from a book that he was in called Noble House, set in a very 1980s Hong Kong.

 

And guess what just appeared (via a terrible trailer, including a typo)!

 

 

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On 02/09/2021 at 12:56, Plissken said:

The mid-40s adaptations of The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely (aka Murder, My Sweet) do a very good stab of taking quite racy material for the time and adapting it for the strict censorship in force on the screen.  Both hit well on the machine gun patter of Chandlers writing.  I keep meaning to see the 70's remakes with Robert Mitchum.

 

The adaptations of 2001 and 2010 are interesting.  The former was a sort of collaboration between Clarke and Kubrick where the book was being written at the time of the film being prepped but there are several crucial differences - not least the planet around which the monolith resides.  Clarke "fixed" it for 2010 which is a very filmic book but even then the film throws in some Cold War allegories which very firmly dates it.

Both the 70s adaptations of Chandler's The Big Sleep and Farewell my Lovely are available on Youtube.

 

Mitchum was a fantastic Marlowe, a bit older than he was in the books but he captured the tone fantastically. I'd put him just behind Bogart. As for the films, Farewell my Lovely isn't too bad. Although it does take out a lot from the novel. It's only about 90 mins. The Big Sleep is more faithful, despite the fact it has been relocated to the UK in the 70s. The material (pornography, drugs, homosexuality, nymphomania) which the 40s film hinted at is fully there in 70s version. But it doesn't quite work, because the books 40s sensibilities are carried over. Why should anybody give a shit about buying porn or being photographed naked? What was taboo in the 40s was pretty tame 30 years later.

 

 

There's another 70s version of a Chandler novel, The Long Goodbye. With Elliot Gould as Marlowe. First time I saw this version I hated it. It's nothing like the book. It takes the conceit of what if Chandler's 40s Marlowe was stuck in 70s LA. Marlowe with his code of honour is completely out of his depth in the deeply cynical 70s. 

 

it's definitely the best film of the three but the least faithful.. 

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As much as I love all these books.... 

 

American Psycho film is better than the book. There's moments in that book that were never going to be committed to film. 

 

Fight Club is superior to the book in every conceivable way. Helps when you have Fincher directing. 

 

Trainspotting again I think is much better in film form. 

 

Jurassic Park. Film honestly pisses all over the book. 

 

I could name countless others but that's enough. 

 

Someday I hope to see Blood Meridian brought to film but I think it may be unfilmable. Would take an auteur to translate it. The only directors I think could make it work are perhaps The Coen Brothers or David Fincher

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The Dead Zone (1983): Christopher Walken, in the role he was born to play as a crippled psychic, leads a wonderful all star cast (Herbert Lom, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt), in a super natural tale of lost love, right wing psychopaths and a world in turmoil.

 

In my opinion, the best Stephen King adaptation and it is helped

immeasurably by the practical effects of the time. I saw an interview with Walken, in which he confirm that the scene with him lying in bed and surrounded by a raging fire, was literally just that!

 

If you haven’t seen this, go watch it! The book is good, but the movie (with its subtle, understated acting and wonderful direction by David Cronenberg) is better.

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21 hours ago, Vespa Alex said:

Possibly the opposite to what was intended, but The Warriors and Starship Troopers are far more enjoyable than the novels they are based on. 


No. The film is great, but the novel is excellent.

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On 02/09/2021 at 10:01, Sabreman said:

The Woman in the Dunes. One of my favourite books and one of my favourite movies. I think it did as perfect a job as you could do in adaptation, considering the amount of inner monologue you lose in the transition to screen. The novel gives you more to chew on in its themes, but the film has a visual storytelling edge that comes into its own.


I watched the film for the first time this year. So good. Haven’t read the book though.

 

I have a soft spot for 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 (the older one) although neither are anywhere near as good as the books.

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