Along with being a writer I’m also a huge movie fan. Most of my blogs in one way or another have some connection to movies. So I figured why not write about book-to-film adaptations.
Now, there are hundreds, heck, thousands of books that have been turned into films. In most cases the books were better than the movies. I have always wondered why that is. Books have the capacity to evoke emotion, make us feel like we are right in the action, and even scare the daylights out of us. So they would easily translate into movies, right? Wrong.
There are many factors at play. When an author writes a book it is solely his/her vision. They are, in essence, the actors, the directors, the scriptwriters; they are everything they need to be to tell a story. What they are not are producers, this title will be placed on the publishers. On the other hand, in a movie there are actual actors, a director, one or several scriptwriters, and producers. What happens is that when a book is adapted an author’s story is then passed through several people: the scriptwriters, the actors, the director, and even the producers. That one person’s vision gets filtered through that many people and becomes something else entirely.
There are also other reasons why a great novel turns into a terrible movie: the scriptwriters may not understand the novel, the actors may not be suited for the parts, the director may be inept, and the producers may only be concerned with the budget. This process can be very frustrating for the authors. For this reason authors rarely are hired to write the screenplay of their works.
Writing a book is like giving birth, it’s a long and painful process, but in the end the results are often beautiful. So to go back and change your ‘baby’ is something that most cannot do. It is better to write your book and then let someone else make their movie.
There is a great quote from Ernest Hemingway about Hollywood: “Let me tell you about writing for films. You finish your book. Now, you know where the California state line is? Well, you drive right up to that line, take your manuscript and pitch it across. No, on second thought, don’t pitch it across. First. Let them toss the money over. Then you throw it over, pick up the money, and get the hell out of there.”
There are many books I’ve enjoyed reading but loathed the movie versions. My favourite author, Michael Crichton, his books never turned into good or great movies. While the movies based on his books were successful (see Jurassic Park) they never came close to what the books were. Whenever I read a Crichton book I always felt like I was watching a movie in my head, but unfortunately, what was written on the page never converted well onto the screen (see Congo, Timeline, Rising Sun).
Below are five titles (in no particular order) that I have enjoyed both the novels and their respective movies.
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?/BLADE RUNNER
Deckard, a blade runner, has to track down an d terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to earth seeking their maker. (courtesy of IMDB)
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (courtesy of IMDB)
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
In 1984, the USSR’s best submarine captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the USA. Is he trying to defect, or to start a war? (courtesy of IMDB)
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (courtesy of IMDB)
An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression. (courtesy of IMDB)