Thursday, January 19, 2017
Let's Go to the Movies
"Pride and Prejudice" sounded like the most mind-numbing, the most boring show to my sixteen-year old mind. A story about a family trying to marry off their five daughters? Pass. Happily for me, Grandma insisted, and when Grandma insists it's impossible to refuse for long. So with much teenage eye-rolling I joined in watching the new adaptation of her favourite novel. She had six VHS tapes and thus, by her decree, one for every night of our stay.
The rest was history. Within moments I was hooked. My voice the loudest in clamouring for "More!" after the first tape. The one thought I had while watching Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy alongside Jennifer Ehle's endearing Elizabeth Bennett was "I must read this book!". Ultimately, I found that an adaptation is the best introduction to the classics, or indeed any book outside my comfort zone. Among other things, this one sparked my lifelong passion for Jane Austen's novels.
Any time I see announcements that a beloved book is being transformed into a movie or TV series I have a war of emotions. Part of me wants to skip with glee. Will is be as wonderful as I've imagined? Bliss! The other half of me is tearing my hair in anxiety. What if they destroy it? Calamity! Some adaptations are disappointing, others I adore, and then there's the small number that I -rbrace yourselves- prefer over the book.
So brew yourself a pot of tea. Make a big bowl of popcorn. Either way, may the following inspire as much reading and viewing pleasure as they have for me and mine.
Movies That Don't Do the Book Justice
1. Harry Potter
Now, before someone makes to grab a pitchfork, first please let me explain. I do enjoy these movies. I've gone in costume as a favourite character, on opening night, to see these movies. We watch them regularly on Friday's Family Movie Night. Pottermore is visited frequently. But I've reread all of the books more times than I can count, and the film doesn't come close to what I've come to know and love there. If you only know the films you'll miss so much. Example: Neville's truly heroic moment. On the page it gave me goosebumps. On screen it wasn't nearly as good.
2. The Hobbit
Thanks to Peter Jackson, I now love "The Lord of the Rings" (before those films I kept getting Sauron and Saruman confused), but his version of the prequel was disappointing. Suddenly we need three movies to tell the shortest story in the entire series?! And what makes Bilbo in the books so endearing is what a reluctant hero he is. My mum once insisted I bring only one, just one book, on a three-month adventure to Germany. For that book of choice, I was hoping for more when it came to it's appearance on the big screen.
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
My first copy of this book by the amazing Roald Dahl was loved down to a shadow. Okay, I'll admit that Tim Burton's version came the closest to getting it right, but Willy Wonka's invented dentist daddy issues distracted from one of my all-time favourite stories.
Movies That Compliment the Book Just Right
Here is where Peter Jackson excels! No family road-trip, from my childhood onwards, is complete without a few books with the tales of that plucky young reporter Tintin. When I was young, impatient for my turn to read, I had to steal one of the books from my Dad. Now I have to do the same with my kids. By this movie's opening credits, I was laughing in delight.
2. The Martian
Each time I watch this film I can't help but exclaim "They captured the book so perfectly!". My pleasure in watching Mark Watney survive on that red planet is equal to rereading it. Not everything made it into the movie, but that's on the page. The movie shows what happens to everyone afterwards, when the book doesn't. Both are equally enjoyable.
3. Northanger Abbey
There's a reason why I chose this heroine and hero as pseudonyms for myself and my husband! "Pride and Prejudice" was my favourite Jane Austen novel- until this adaptation from Masterpiece came along, made me see this book in a whole new light, and changed my mind. A heroine who's active imagination and fondness of reading leads her into scrapes? I can relate to that. Once I had a crush on Mr. Darcy, but Mr. Tilney stole my heart. Which is why I married him instead.
Movies That I ("Gasp!") Prefer Over the Book
Telling the famed detective's stories set in modern London? I was sure that poor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was turning in his grave... until my friend Trillian made me watch an episode. Despite my fondness of the books, the characters have always felt rather stiff to me. As for the TV series, from Inspector Lestrade, Watson's wife (who is mostly a non-entity in the books), to the good doctor and brilliant sleuth themselves, I cannot help but love them all.
2. The Count of Monte Cristo
Revenge, sword fights, romance and treasure! The film of Alexandre Dumas' tale is so fantastic, so satisfying that it is the one great exception to my usually ironclad rule. Having been assured that the books is quite different, I don't have the heart to read this book for fear it will spoil the movie in my mind forever.
3. The Princess Bride
This one is partly due to nostalgia. I was six when I saw this movie at the local theatre. Going with my two best friends, getting our very own popcorn and drink made the night awesome... but the movie made it unforgettable. It is still, and always will be, my favourite movie. Mr. Tilney knows he has only to say "as you wish" to melt my heart. I discovered the book when I was thirteen, and while I love it too, and reread it frequently, push comes to shove the book doesn't make the cut for my desert island list. The movie tops it.
What are the book adaptations you love? The ones you hate? I'm always up for discovering more! Until Monday then, happy reading (and viewing) to you all!