It’s difficult to watch any book to film adaptations without having some strong opinions on the integrity and quality of the output. This goes double for readers, who tend to form deep and intricate bonds with our favorite works. It’s easy to wail and moan that, for example, Starship Troopers was a completely ridiculous interpretation of Heinlein, It’s harder to see Starship Troopers for what it is (i.e. a completely ridiculous interpretation of sci-fi monster stories). That said, it’s harder to honor those films that manage to nail it- to illuminate and build upon a favorite story without degrading its original quality. To that end, here’s a woefully incomplete list of my top book to film adaptations: The Good, The Bad, & The Inexplicably Absent
Let the Right One In
A good adaptation should not only be true to the integrity of the source material, but it should best condense, alter and fine tune for a different medium. Let the Right One In succeeds in being a terrific film for this reason; the liberal cuts condense the many backstories and head hopping down to their most essential points. While the film loses a bit of the human horror in doing so, it maintains a swifter and more graceful pace and leaves delicious ambiguity where the book delved into detail. Most notably: Eli’s ambiguous gender and the disturbing relationship with servant Hakar. What in the book is shown as outright sinister, evil and depraved, the movie shows as complicated, subtle and ambiguous. Plus, it’s hard to imagine how the final scene in the swimming pool could be improved upon in any medium.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Capturing the frenetic, cynical hilarity of Hunter S. Thompson is a job I don’t envy, particularly with his committed and near rabid fan base. Creating credible trip scenes is an added hurdle. Major kudos go to director Terry Gilliam (perfectly suited for this material) and Johnny Depp (who manages to transform his usual dreamboat-ness into wacky psychonaut with nary a prosthetic in sight. That’s talent, folks.)
Company of Wolves
One of the more creative reinterpretations on this list, The Company of Wolves does a terrific job condensing three of Angela Carter’s short stories into a cogent and smart film. Perhaps, as a female werewolf aficionada, I’m biased. But Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea with a unibrow, fabulous feminist commentary and some wicked (and unconventional) werewolf transformation scenes? I mean, come on.
Honorable Mentions: Brokeback Mountain, Wonder Boys, The Lord of the Rings TriologyRead More...