Hello all, it’s Sabrina! I recently read and watched Moxie, and it really got me thinking about book-to-movie adaptations – especially the potential for changes to a story to fit another time and medium. There have been some adaptations I’ve loved and some I’ve hated – but the vast majority, like the Moxie movie, have fallen somewhere in the middle. Today I’m going to tell you my favourites and least favourites, as well as talk about a few in the middle. It turns out that I’ve watched a lot more adaptations of books I’ve actually read than I thought, so I’m only going to talk about some of those today. Let’s get into it!
Howl’s Moving Castle
It’s no secret that Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite books, but it’s also one of my favourite movies. This wasn’t always the case – the first time I watched it, I was so confused and a little upset at just how different it was from the book. At some point though, I stopped looking at the movie as an adaptation and thought of it as its own separate thing, and that’s when I finally allowed myself to appreciate and love it for what it was. I absolutely love the beautiful animation and the peaceful but magical atmosphere it exudes.
Sense and Sensibility
As much as I love the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie, Sense and Sensibility is by far my favourite Jane Austen adaptation as of writing this. The scenery in the movie is unmatched and I love the whole cast as well. Unfortunately, I read the book after having already watched the movie, so I can’t recall if there were many significant differences between them – but if there were, they didn’t bother me, so that’s also saying something. It definitely makes my list of comfort movies, and I can’t wait to watch it again – ideally in winter in front of the fire.
I was so nervous going into the Divergent movie, because of a few reasons. First, because I had loved the book so dearly and hoped they wouldn’t change too much. Second, because I had recently experienced some not-so-good adaptations and didn’t want this movie to go down the same path. And finally, because I had already read Allegiant at this point and just wanted to feel good about this series again. Fortunately, I loved the movie. It gave me almost everything that I wanted, but most significantly, it left me feeling exactly the way I had felt after finishing the book for the first time – like I was on top of the world.
I recently read this book for the first time, and it shocked me, because not only was it quite a bit different to the movie, but… I didn’t like it nearly as much. I’ve given a lot of thought as to why this was, and I have a few theories, but the main ones are that I don’t think I liked being inside the main character’s head so much, and I wish the other characters had played a more significant role in the story. These are the changes in the movie I most cared about, though I also much preferred the way the movie ended things. Having said that, I haven’t yet read the rest of the Southern Reach trilogy, but I’m in two minds about whether it’s worth my time, especially having heard negative things about the second book.
Catching Fire was my favourite of the book trilogy, so I suppose it’s no real surprise that is also my favourite of the movies. I love the setting in this one and the new range of characters. I also enjoy the pacing and that there is a lot more to the story than simply the Hunger Games. Plus, it is the movie where I feel we really start to see more of the politics of the world of Panem, putting the Hunger Games themselves into a wider context. Finally, I also have to admit I just like the production style of this movie better than the first. Sue me.
SPECIAL MENTION: Stardust, for being my favourite movie though I have yet to read the book.
IN THE MIDDLE
The more I think about it, the more disappointed I am by this movie Unfortunately, I think a lot of choices made when adapting the book for the screen were not the wisest ones, because they resulted in different motivations for the characters (especially Vivian’s) and a lot less nuance. One of my favourite things about the book by Jennifer Mathieu was how though at the beginning it seemed quite simple and surface-level, the events of the story accumulated in a way that was complex and, in my opinion, mirrored real life. Sadly, the movie never really left that surface-level examination. I particularly wish we had seen certain conversations with Seth, that events surrounding the principal had happened like they did in the book and that there had been another character with Claudia’s book arc – because I do like what the movie did with her character, but we also lost some important discussion there. I did like how the movie included a more diverse range of characters than in the book, but even with that I question the effort that was put into it – for example, there is a sapphic kiss scene that has no lead up or follow up which makes it feel like an afterthought, or a box to be ticked. Still, there were some scenes that I enjoyed, so I’ve kept it in this category.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
I do feel now that this is a relatively bad movie, but I can’t hate it because it meant so much to me at the time – I had been following all the movie news from the beginning and it was such a fun experience for teenage me to be involved with a group of people that were so entirely in love with the same thing. I think the movie made some nonsensical plot choices and the romance was pretty cringe-y to me, but it was fun and funny all the same.
The aesthetic of this movie was so good that it overshadowed everything else for me, but in a good way. I loved the outdoor settings and the house – it was such a visually appealing movie. On the other hand though, I thought some of the casting choices were weird and that the movie had quite a different tone to the book. Also, the main character had a totally different personality! These are not necessarily bad things except for the aforementioned weird casting – the main two characters are supposed to have an age gap, and while this is apparent in the script, it is not apparent in the casting. It’s not a movie I overly loved, but it was good enough for me to enjoy the experience of watching it.
Like with Moxie, this movie made some changes that I didn’t like because they messed with the overall message of the story and the nuance of the characters. Particularly, I didn’t like the changes made to Leah’s motivations and how extra bratty this made her. I’m one of the few people who didn’t hate her in the books, so it was irritating for me to see everyone else’s opinions reflected in the movie, lol. I was also annoyed with the scene near the end that is so public when the point in the book was that it was not public! Infuriating stuff! Still, I did like the movie overall and Simon’s mum’s speech was a nice touch.
I just feel like this movie was okay. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was one of the first ever mystery-thrillers I read, and I loved it, but it had been some time between me reading that and me watching this movie. So keep that in mind when I say that I did not find the movie to be as creepy. I was much more annoyed with the main guy in the book – in the movie I just felt hatred. It’s in the middle though, because it’s hard for me to say to what extent me having already known what was going to happen affected my viewing experience, and I did still like watching it.
SPECIAL MENTION: The Hunger Games, for beginning an era of YA dystopia.
After the wonderful experience that was the Divergent movie for me, I was initially uneasy but hopeful when the trailer for Insurgent dropped. I was confused, but I had faith. It was badly misplaced. The main thing I remember thinking when leaving the cinema was “what the hell?”. I actually wrote an entire rant review of this movie on my old blog, so I went back and read that to remember exactly what my main issues with the movie were – the side characters that were reduced to nameless faces and that weird, weird box. As a side note, I was so annoyed by this movie and by the fact that they were splitting Allegiant into two parts (lol, remember that plan?) that I never watched the next movie.
Maybe it is unfair of me to include this movie here when I really did not enjoy the book by Richelle Mead either, but I’ve done it nonetheless. I did, in all fairness, think I might like the movie after seeing the trailer, but I quickly realised this was not going to be the case. I didn’t like any of the characters, especially the main character, and thought they made some ridiculous choices. I was hoping for a funny movie, but instead it came across as silly and immature. I would say that it’s possibly just a me thing, but I know this movie has low average ratings, so it’s definitely not just a me thing.
Mockingjay Part One
Mockingjay was easily my least favourite book of this trilogy – I thought the tone was different, the pacing was slow and that not enough really happened. So, I was a bit shocked that the movie people decided to split it in two. I don’t think I saw this movie in the cinema, and I definitely didn’t watch the second part in the cinema either. I actually only watched that movie for the first time last year. Back to Part One though – I thought it was boring and not up to the standard of the first two movies.
If I Stay
This is another movie I watched based on a book I didn’t really like, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that I didn’t like this movie. Still, I was intrigued by the trailer so I decided to give it a go. Aaand I almost fell asleep. This movie felt like it went for days, which is saying something considering it’s based on such a short book. I wouldn’t have even finished watching it if it weren’t for my sister requesting it.
The Book Thief
Unlike the last three books in this category, I did actually love the Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Unfortunately, I think this book just lost its charm when it was translated into film. The writing style and the main character were what worked best for me in the book, and of course the writing style was lost in the movie. I’m struggling to remember exactly what else was lost in the movie – it has been a long time since I have watched it or read the book, so details are missing from my memory – but I think there was a picture book the main character was completing with a man they were providing shelter to that was important to me, but wasn’t included.
SPECIAL MENTION: Breaking Dawn Part Two, for almost giving me a heart attack.
What do you think?
Have you watched these movies or read these books? Do you typically like book-to-movie adaptations? What’s a book you would like to see adapted for the screen? Let me know!