You would think that adapting a novel into another medium would be easy.
After all, the hard part is out of the way, and the author has already proven that people are willing to pay for the story. The characters are already there, the plot is already complete, and the villain is already feared. The chips for the, er, PlayCroco Casino Bonuses, are already paid out. Or something.
Yet time after time, Hollywood seems to just be so apathetic to the original work, so dispassionate about it, and are so eager for the quick money grab that they oftentimes fail miserably at adapting a beloved work. Some dishonorable mentions would be Percy Jackson, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Dragonball: Evolution, The Hobbit, and Artemis Fowl. All movies that should have been slam dunks but missed the mark so badly in almost every imaginable way.
It’s mind boggling how inept Hollywood seems to sometimes be about this sort of thing. But let’s not feel down about it: Here are five examples of amazing movie adaptations that remain true to their source material and put these beloved franchises on the big screen!
5) The Shining
Steven King is one of the most prolific writers of all time and has been churning out book after book for decades now. The cocaine probably helped, but that’s beside the point. “The Shining” is a gripping novel of a family already straining to stay together that moves out to take care of a seedy hotel in order to make ends meet. It turns out the place was haunted. Who would have thought?
Stanley Kubrik took the novel and made a masterpiece out of it. This was somewhat to Steven King’s chagrin, who apparently didn’t approve of how much the movie differed from his original work. For instance, the scene with the blood that comes out of the elevator isn’t in the book.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with the results. Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a terrifying movie that’s suspenseful to the last minute, full of iconic moments that are now immortalized in cinematic history.
4) Jurassic Park
In all honesty, I could have put a couple of Steven Spielberg’s films on this list. He’s a director that has proven himself as a master of his craft, and his 1993 “Jurassic Park” is a classic. In fact, it’s so good you may not have even known that the film was based off of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel of the same name.
Steven Spielberg understood that what viewers wanted out of a movie called “Jurassic Park” was to see terrifying dinosaurs chase people around a park for two hours, and that’s exactly what he delivered on. The actors really sell the idea that they’re walking around with dinosaurs come to life- or rather, they sell the idea that they’re running for their lives from dinosaurs come to life.
Top it off with some of the best props, special effects, and animations of it’s time that still holds up to this day, you get one of the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time. Oh, and John Williams’ score is simply iconic.
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
3) Spiderman (2002)
There are superhero movies out the wazoo these days, each founded on a history of hundreds of thousands of comic books that are still being cranked out to this very day. However, none quite capture the spirit of the original comics quite like Sam Rami’s Spiderman trilogy
Spiderman is one of the most popular Superheros of all time and easily the most profitable. New comics are released regularly, Spiderman merch flies off the shelves, and Spiderman oriented cartoons and movies rake in that moolah.
Sam Rami’s Spiderman films are possibly the first to truly bring its hero to life in a way no other Superhero film had since the first couple of Superman movies. Not for a lack of trying, mind you. I could name a whole slew of Superhero movies that Marvel and DC would rather let you forget, such as Daredevil, Catwoman, Elektra, and all of the Hulk movies.
What Spiderman did right was to stick to the themes and concepts that made Spiderman popular in the first place. A lonely nerd who suddenly given power and makes a mistake that leads to the death of his own Uncle. A power story, with a powerful message, that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
Then Sam Rami had the gall to make Spiderman 2 even better! Doctor Octopus is perhaps one of the most memorable villains Marvel has put to screen, aside from maybe Thanos. The fact that these movies produced characters and villains on par and better than the majority of the villains that Marvel churned out over the past decade of MCU films says a lot about the quality of this Spiderman trilogy.
Although, we should probably just pretend Spiderman 3 didn’t happen. While Emo Peter Parker is a glorious meme, it still makes me shudder and cringe when I actually watch him go in the movie. I petition to replace it with Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse!
2) Harry Potter
Ah, Harry Potter. The flawed masterpiece. Like millions of others, I grew up with these novels and have reread them more times than I’d like to admit. J.K. Rowling brought to life an amazing world full of rich characters and mesmerizing moments. These books are my comfort zone, from which I must step out of to read anything else.
Impressively enough, the movies managed to carry much of this across, which is an incredible thing to accomplish for one book and movie, much less seven books and then eight movies. Did the movies get everything right? Of course not. It would have been nearly impossible to cram in everything from the books without having a three hour run time. Oh, and they gave all of Ron’s best lines to Hermione, for some reason.
It’s actually really fascinating to watch video essays about the subtle differences between the personalities of book Harry and movie Harry- but that’s another tangent altogether.
Let’s talk about what the movies did right. For instance- the casting?!
There’s not a single actor I would replace. Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all nailed their roles. Alan Rickman (RIP), Maggie Smith, Richard Harris (RIP), and Michael Gambon all do an amazing job playing Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, and Albus Dumbledore, respectively. I can’t think of a single character who was cast wrong, and for a cast as large as Harry Potter’s, that’s amazing.
Oh, and let’s not overlook the themes of systemic racism, government censorship slash overreach, and class divisions in this franchise that drive the hero crazy. Themes that are still relevant to this day, and sadly probably aren’t going away any time soon.
“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!”
1) Lord of the Rings
The ultimate nerd fantasy, written by the Godfather of the modern fantasy genre, and brought to the big screen by Peter Jackson. While “The Hobbit” may have failed to live up to its literary counterpart, “The Lord of the Rings” not only meets the quality of the book it was based on, it exceeds it.
Of course, that’s just my subjective opinion, but I’ll do my best to back it up. For instance, Lord of the Rings is one of the only fantasy franchises I couldn’t actually finish. I know; shocking. I found the books plodding and slow and more of a chore to read through than anything else. Maybe if I picked them up again today, it would be different, but that’s straying into the hypothetical. However, let it never be said that I won’t give J.R.R. Tolkien his due credit. Almost every fantasy novel written in the past hundred years takes some inspiration from this man’s work, whether intentionally or not.
Peter Jackson went out of his way to bring his adaptations of Tolkien’s work to eleven. Everything about these movies screams EPIC. From the scale of the world to the characters, the monsters, the monstrous eye of Sauron, down to the lengths of the movies themselves. If you want to get into The Lord of the Rings, you’re in it for the long haul. The phenomenal actors really bring the characters to life in ways that no other franchise has. Elijah Woods, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, John Rhys-Davies, and Christopher Lee are the real standouts, in my opinion.
Top it all off with the amazing message that anyone, even a Hobbit, can change the world, and it’s no wonder that these films earned just about every Oscar available.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”