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Top 5 Best/Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

Quinn Banford ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

The Best!

1. The Godfather: Oh you forgot that this was a book? I don’t blame you. Francis Ford Coppola’s had a horrendous time dealing with producers on this film, almost getting fired several times for his treatment of the Mario Puzo mobster crime narrative. While the acting, cinematography, direction, and a multitude of other aspects are fantastic, the fact that Coppola kept the title as “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather” shows how the storytelling stayed faithful to the original author’s creative output. Many times, the original author is forgotten, but where would an adapted film come from if it didn’t have the original text? This may be a fairly obvious statement, but look at films like The Silence of the Lambs or The Social Network. The author’s name is lost behind its title, while Mario Puzo will find his place alongside the adaptation for as long as The Godfather proves to be watchable.

2. The Harry Potter Series: If you’ve ever heard of this little cultural icon, you know that witches and warlocks aren’t what they used to be. J.K Rowling’s changed the literary fantasy world as much as Anne Rice changed the Vampire canon ten years prior. With such a massive following for the heroic Harry Potter, Warner Brothers jumped on this cash cow and turned a great book series into a great film series. It isn’t coincidence that J.K Rowling’s estate is worth upwards of $1 billion.

3. The Lord of the Rings: With 17 Oscar wins under its belt, this adaptation of J.R.R Tolkein’s classic trilogy has outdone the entertainment industry standard. What makes this adaptation a step beyond the ordinary is the amount of dedication in keeping the film as true to the book series as possible. Watch the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings series and you’ll see what I mean. This is a great adaptation which will undoubtedly impress viewers for many years to come.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick together worked on 2001 and published the novel simultaneously with the film. Because of this collaboration, the screenplay runs alongside the novel. The vision of space was born from two of the greatest creative minds before man had landed on the moon. Their research and dedication to the project was this film’s version of vertical integration. From start to finish, book to film, this adaptation was well made because the two men handling it were very well aware of their blossoming creation, and for that it makes this list as a successful adaptation.

5. Stephen King Novels/Novellas (The Shining, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Misery, etc): For some reason, Stephen King’s writing has translated incredibly well into films and this has been the case since the 1970s. Recently these adaptations have suffered from lackluster productions, lesser known actors playing bad roles, and possibly even oversaturation of Stephen King’s influence. But if you look into what’s in store for the next five years, your ears may perk up if a little something called “It” is being remade for us. His great storytelling has given the production its own way of telling the story. King can write a damn good plot, and he can almost guarantee that it will look pretty good (if not better) in the film medium.

…And the worst!

1. Battlefield Earth: I don’t really know what to say to this. John Travolta’s role in an adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard’s book set the bar low enough for Tommy Wiseau to make The Room. At least people still remember Wiseau’s priceless bits of dialogue. Let’s just say Travolta has had the acting “Fever” since his Pulp Fiction days.

2. John Carter: Massive budget, terrible box office figures. This is a flop on so many levels. I was unlucky enough to have seen this at a free screening last Spring, and it was an unbearably cheesy and boring story. You would think with the Curiosity Rover having recently landed on the surface of our planetary neighbor that a movie about Mars would deliver. Nope.

3. Troy: How is it that the one of the largest pieces of Western mythos has yet to be truly honored by Hollywood’s best? Instead of spending $200 million on an action packed popcorn loud fest, why not put that same money to a story that has influenced the entirety of Western literature? Well, they tried. Troy was a decent movie but it strayed away from the classic text we know as The Iliad. Calling Troy an adaptation is as intelligent a thought as eating chicken noodle soup with a fork. Not the worst idea you’ve had, but you lose the goodness in the flavor. We’ll wait and see if the next generation of filmmakers will take on the task of creating an accurate filmic version of the Homeric epic.

4. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Too theatrical and over the top. If you want a good adaptation, check out the classic 1930s versions, or the hilarious Young Frankenstein. Unless you’re a fan of an oiled up Kenneth Branaugh and a disfigured Bobby DeNiro goo child, you should avoid the adaptation of a literary classic. Read the book instead!

5. Catcher in the Rye: This is by far the worst adaptation. Why? Because somebody decided that it shouldn’t even be attempted as a movie. That person? Salinger himself, the creator of the angst ridden youth, that kid, that Holden Caufield character that people seem to be muttering about when their coffee gets cold. Will Catcher in the Rye ever make it to film? One can only hope so, and if it does, hope some more so that it doesn’t make the “Worst Adaptation” list. Then we’ll all be happy…or not, whatever, we’re all phonies.

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