Film Adaptations: Winners, Losers, and a Draw by Nick

No doubt you’ve participated in the eternal discussion as any avid, passionate reader has: which is better? Should I see the movie or read the book? Was the filmmaker hopeless or inspired? Did they lose the plot in favor of cheap CGI thrills? Below are some notables that stand out.

The Winners:

Bret Easton Ellis creation Patrick Bateman in American Psycho is arguably one of the more disturbing characters in contemporary literature. It would have been easy to render this character a comical, insincere parody in the film adaptation, yet Christian Bale and director Mary Harron captured the psychopath in a brilliantly disturbing approach.

It’s rather unfortunate that author Chuck Palahniuk has, in his recent novels, failed to live up to the promise of his debut novel Fight Club ; however filmmaker David Fincher delivered a quality film highlighting Palahniuk’s palpable ennui and dissatisfaction with modern, consumption driven society.

Surely author Michael Ondaatje can be pleased with the adaptation of his novel The English Patient , as the film won nine Oscars.

Other quick notables are: A Clockwork Orange (link to film ), 1984 , The Godfather (link to film ), Jaws (link to film ), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , (link to film ) and Trainspotting (link to film ).

The Losers:

It’s unfortunate, because so many of his books are sacrosanct childhood favorites, but you’d do well to steer clear of most (all) of the Dr. Seuss adaptations. I’m looking at you How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. (Mike Myers, I hope you fired your agent after that travesty.)

The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore, turned Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of imposed puritanical morality into something you would find on Cinemax. Another unfortunate case is the Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The novel has a dedicated cadre of fans, but Peter Jackson failed to capture the family members’ relationships in a heartfelt, genuine manner.

Other disappointments: Gulliver’s Travels (neither Jack Black nor Ted Danson could do right by Jonathan Swift ), Bonfire of the Vanities , Lolita (link to film ), The Human Stain (link to film ), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (but really, who could match Tom Robbins’ narrative style?).

The Draw:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy collectively won 17 Oscars but purists, such as myself, will cry foul because of some plot deviations. My heart sank when some nonessential yet enigmatic characters were notably absent (Tom Bombadil). And those who read the books might have gone back on numerous occasions searching and digging for the astral projection love affair between Aragorn and Arwen. I know I did, and you know what? That’s not in the book. Way to gussy up the most remarkable fantasy series of all time with a needless love story, Mr. Jackson.

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