Book vs. movie (or TV show)

A lot of books are made into movies – sometimes they’re made into two or three movies, even. And lately, the new thing is to make them into TV shows (Stephen King’s Under the Dome, anyone?)
I have watched several movies made from books I’ve read, and I always find it fascinating to note the differences between the two. Sometimes those changes aren’t a big deal, and other times they change everything. Sometimes the change isn’t so much a change as underplaying or overplaying a detail.

There are some that I have watched, and loved, and others that I’ve watched and hated. Watching TV shows made from movies can be interesting, too.

Here are some of the books made into movies that I’ve read and seen, and a quick explanation of why I preferred the book over the movie, or vice versa.

  1. Fried Green Tomatoes (written by Fannie Flagg).  Right off the bat, I’m going to throw you for a loop. I didn’t prefer one over the other for this title. I love the book and the movie equally. The book provides rich details, a unique love story (that does not play out as obviously on screen), an interesting murder and a whole host of lovable characters that you come to feel are family. The movie also includes lots of details, and though the love story is made subtle, it’s still there. The actors chosen to play each role were spot on and each took their role and made it their own. The characters were true to who they were in the book. It’s a wonderful movie that takes you back to another place and time and immerses you visually into another way of life that just doesn’t exist today.
  2. The Shining (written by Stephen King).  I loved the book. I thought it was great (of course, I think almost anything by King is great). There were two movies made – one in 1980 that was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and another in 1997 that starred Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay (not directed by Kubrick). There are some massive differences between the two, the most obvious being the length of the movies. The Kubrick version is 146 minutes, and the 1997 version is a 273 minute miniseries. While I admit Kubrick’s version is good, I prefer the miniseries version. I felt that Kubrick’s version left a lot to be desired in terms of scare factor. It’s been documented in many places, and is noted in the trivia for the miniseries that King was unhappy with Kubrick’s version, and I can see why. The characters in that version didn’t strike me as the same as the ones in the book and there were many things left out. The 1997 miniseries was a TV adaptation that King had a very hands on role in, and the difference is amazing.
  3. Water for Elephants (written by Sara Gruen).  Although I love the movie (so much that I own it), I did enjoy the book more. Part of it may be that Robert Pattinson plays the male lead, and I hate the whole Twilight phenomena. I did enjoy Reese Witherspoon’s performance as the female lead, and found myself caught up in the depiction of a 1930s circus, with all the animals and the drama that goes with it. But the book seemed better to me, perhaps because I imagined the male lead very differently than Robert Pattinson.
  4. The Help (written by Kathryn Stockett).  This one, like Fried Green Tomatoes, is one that I enjoyed the book and the movie equally. The book was well written, with plenty of detail and a clear understanding by the author of just how difficult things were during that time period. The actors are all excellent in their roles, with attitude and spunk that exactly matches what I got from the book. I actually plan to use both the book and the movie when my children are older in our homeschooling, to help teach them about the civil rights movement and show them what things were really like in that period.

I haven’t watched a whole lot of TV shows made from books, but I do watch Haven on SyFy, which is based on Stephen King’s Colorado Kid. In fairness, though, I do have to admit that I have not read that book, as I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy (anyone got a copy they’re willing to share?).

I am looking forward to CBS’s series of Stephen King’s Under the Dome this summer. I read that (very thick) book a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to see what they’ve done with it.

What about you? What movies have you seen that were based on books? Did you prefer the movie or the book? Do you often find you prefer one over the other?