The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Book Adaptations

Actor Jonathan Crombie died last week from a brain haemorrhage aged just 48 years. This was devastating news to women of a certain age for whom Crombie was and always will be Gilbert Blythe from the screen adaptation of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series.

I love those books (all the more special because I have my mother’s copies) and I found the first adaptation very faithful and the sequel faithful in a “take the best bits from a few books” way. I prefer to ignore the later The Continuing Story movie which was something of a tarnish on the whole series.

Even after the umpteenth viewing (just the other day), the film version can still make me laugh and cry in all the same places. (Matthew’s death leaves me sobbing every time.)

I mentioned Crombie’s death at the dinner table the other night and this led to a rather extensive and intense discussion about screen adaptations of books with our three boys.

The following is a summary of the Good, the Bad and the Plain Ugly of adaptations as decreed by the MOSY Offspring.

WARNINGWe are a very nerdy household and I make no apologies for the nerdy leanings of the following reviews. If you’re looking for opinions on the adaptations of The Shipping News or Wuthering Heights, I suggest you look elsewhere.

These are the views of three boys aged 18, 16 and 13 and are strictly the ones they wanted to talk about with no prompting from their parents.

THE GOOD (OR AT LEAST OKAY)

Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Based on the books by J. R. R. Tolkien
Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplays by Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Stephen Sinclair (The Two Towers)

The View: Good adaptations and great movies in their own right.

Harry Potter

The Harry Potter Series (Eight movies)
Based on the seven book series by J. K. Rowling
Directed by Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, David Yates
Screenplays by Steve Kloves and Michael Goldenberg (Order of the Phoenix)

The View: Very faithful to the books. The movies did cut out a lot from the books but they kept the best bits.

Hugo

Hugo
Based on the book by Brian Selznick
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by John Logan

The View: Great adaptation! This was a great movie adapted from a book that is mostly illustrations but done very successfully.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
First of the Chronicles of Narnia movie series
Based on the book by C. S. Lewis
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Screenplay by Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

The View: Movie was semi-faithful to the book. It was a good adaptation. There was a drop on the symbolism and it was more of an action movie.

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Based on the comic books by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright

The View: Amazing comic book adaptation. Cut out a lot but still great. The movie even on its own is amazing.

Stardust

Stardust
Based on the book by Neil Gaiman
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn

The View: Loved the movie but too much from the book was changed. It lost a bit in translation.

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Four movies)
Based on the books by Suzanne Collins
Directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2)
Screenplays by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray (Hunger Games), Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt (Catching Fire), Peter Craig, Danny Strong (Mockingjay)

The View: Each movie’s merit is quite different. The first movie was good but not much energy in it. The adaptation was very close. “They made it their own.” (Direct quote from Middle Son.) The second movie was a much better adaptation and closer to the book. No opinion offered on the third and fourth movies (possibly not seen yet).

Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (Animation)
Based on the comics by Hergé
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish

The View: In terms of the original books on which the movie was based (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rakham’s Treasure), they changed a lot but they made a beautiful movie. The method of animation was fantastic.

Spiderwick

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Based on the books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Directed by Mark Waters
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum and John Sayles

The View: The Youngest Son said he watched the movie before he read the books. He thought the movie was good but the books were better.

Hitchhikers Guide

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Based on the book by Douglas Adams
Made into a TV series (Directed by Alan J. W. Bell, Screenplay by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd)
and into a movie (Directed by Garth Jennings, Screenplay by Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick)

The View: The TV series was great. The movie was okay but it took liberties.

THE BAD

The Hobbit

The Hobbit (Three movies)
Based on the book by J. R. R. Tolkien
Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplays by Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro

The View: A terrible adaptation and a total over-indulgence on Jackson’s part. Could easily have been made as one movie.

Eragon

Eragon
Based on the book by Christopher Paolini
Directed by Stefan Fangmeier
Screenplay by Peter Buchman

The View: This caused some contention. The Eldest and Middle Sons thought it was a terrible movie. The Youngest Son liked the movie but then conceded that he hadn’t read the book when he saw it. He then admitted that having now read the book he could see that the movie was not a good adaptation. The advice from the Boys was “don’t read the book before watching the movie and you might enjoy it.”

Inkheart

Inkheart
Based on the book by Cornelia Funke
Directed by Iain Softley
Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire

The View: The books are great. (Inkheart is the first in a trilogy.) The movie was okay as a movie but it was not a good adaptation.

Astro Boy

Astro Boy (Animation)
Based on the Japanese manga series by Osamu Tezuka
Directed by David Bowers
Screenplay by Timothy Harris and David Bowers

The View: Once again, this adaptation did not find consensus. The Eldest Son thought the movie was average and felt they had changed everything. The Middle Son thought the movie was okay if you ignored the source material. The Youngest Son thought the movie was pretty good.

Coraline

Coraline (Animation)
Based on the book by Neil Gaiman
Directed by Henry Selick
Screenplay by Henry Selick

The View: This is a good movie as long as you haven’t read the book. If you’ve read the book, it’s a terrible adaptation. It did not do Neil Gaiman justice.

THE PLAIN UGLY

Dragonball Evolution

Dragonball Evolutions
Based on the Japanese manga series by Akira Toriyama
Directed by James Wong
Screenplay by Ben Ramsey

The View: Woeful. Absolute disgrace. Avoid at all costs.(Those are direct quotes.) Their advice, if you want an adaptation of this series, is to watch the animated television series.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Based on the book series by Lemony Snicket
Directed by Brad Silberling
Screenplay by Robert Gordon

The View: TERRIBLE! BAD! SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN MADE! ABHORRENT MISHMASH! KLAUS DIDN’T EVEN HAVE GLASSES! (Yes, there was shouting.) And I would like to add my own appalled two-cents-worth. I adore this series of books and the movie was a complete travesty. Don’t bother with the movie. But do read the books.

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There were a few more (it was a lengthy, enthusiastic discussion) but that’s probably filled your brain enough.

So, tell me, what’s your favourite book-to-screen adaptation? What’s your worst? Let me know in the comments. Shouting is permitted but keep the language nice.

 

 

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To Have Or Not To Have

Is it acceptable, do you think, to ‘inherit’ something before the person who owns it has gone?

It’s probably a bit late to be asking that question, given I inherited my mother’s piano some years ago and she is still with us (see here).

Following the death of my father recently, my mother, in trying to accept this new reality, is trying to simplify her life. I think I would be the same.

So, as a result, she has told us to take whatever items we have always wanted now rather than wait until she is also gone.

It’s awkward. And uncomfortable. And upsetting. But understandable.

The piano was different. I could not live in a house without one. As the only child to learn the piano, it was a given that The Piano would come to me. But when would that ultimately be? I couldn’t wait. It was inherit early or buy a different piano.

I was lucky and my mother understood what The Piano meant to me and allowed me to take it when I left home. And every time I see it, play it, I love the connection to the past it gives me. An impersonal purchase from a piano store would never have been the same.

But raiding the house for everything I might want? Not in my make-up. When we packed up my grandfather’s house when he went into care, while my siblings took away books, furniture and knickknacks, I helped wrap up my grandmother’s glassware for my mother. And left with the toaster (ours had just died).

I am sure the same would occur now except that there is one item (other than the piano) that I have coveted my whole life (well, ever since I knew of its existence). And so, when my mother said I could take it, I did.

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It is a red leather-bound set of the works of William Shakespeare. It was given to one Henrietta Pierce, as a farewell gift from her students when she left The Friends (Quakers) School in Hobart, Tasmania in 1897.

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It includes a letter from the school. And this is what I love most about it. The set is beautiful and wonderful but it is the personal aspect of the letter that makes it so precious to me.

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Henrietta was, we think, the sister of my grandmother’s Aunt Margaret with whom my grandmother was sent to live when she was eight years old. As there seems to be no mention of Pierces in the family history we have, Aunt Margaret was perhaps an ‘adopted aunt’.

My grandmother never went back home. Aunt Margaret insisted that she must have an invitation to return and it was never forthcoming.

How did my mother come to have the books? She remembers being taken to the Quakers’ Meeting House in Melbourne where the service went for two hours. To keep a then four-year-old quiet, my mother was given a stack of books to read. Books were always important and she was always given one whenever they went to the meeting house.

Henrietta and Margaret lived together near the Hawthorn railway station. They obviously knew of my mother’s love of books and consequently gave her a number of their own, including the set of Shakespeare, whenever she came to visit.

This set is unbelievably precious and important to me, well beyond its value as a set of books. It is a strong part of my history, a strong part of who both my grandmother and mother were/are as women and I feel blessed and privileged to be given this link to our family history.

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“And Then Like My Dreams” by Margaret Rose Stringer (Not A Review)

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This is not a review. I don’t like book reviews. To me, reading a book is such a subjective act, how can one assess the quality of a book with true neutrality? With a book, one person may snort with laughter, drawing attention from fellow commuters on the train while another gets only ten pages in and wonders what was so funny. Or one may find the richness and sophistication of a narrative inspiring while another has no idea what the author is talking about.

Those who have already stumbled across the blog of Margaret-Rose Stringer (better known as M-R out here in the Blogosphere) will know that she has written a book. She claims she began the blog as a publicity vehicle for her book. Whatever the reason, I am glad she did. She is a fresh, wicked voice in the Blogosphere and book or no book, long may she reign.

I’ve read her book – And Then Like My Dreams {a memoir} – the story of her life with Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer, master stills photographer in the Australian film industry. But I’m not going to review it. What I am going to do is offer a response – the depths of my feelings while reading this remarkable book.

I must first confess that I had to put this book down twice before I got to page three. That’s not M-R’s fault. She describes the impending death of her beloved Chic and the news of her father’s death on those first two pages with such raw emotion that I, having lost my own father mere days before, could not read those passages without time to recover. But such is her writing that it was only minutes before I just had to pick it up again to see what else she had to say.

I feel I’ve got to know M-R’s voice pretty well through her blog and reading her book was like an extended conversation. Well, okay, she was talking and I was listening so it was a somewhat one-sided conversation, but as she had such a great story to tell, I didn’t mind.

This book made me laugh loudly, cry quietly and – being a sheltered wallflower – blush frequently. I moved through anticipation of the beginning to dread of the ending.

It almost drove me mad that my life went crazy just as this book arrived in the post. It meant little time to read and this was a book I didn’t want to put down. So desperate was I to keep reading, more than once it fell out of my hands late at night as I squeezed in what reading time I could before my eyes got the better of me and closed against my wishes.

Some of her memories are described in film script form. I loved these, having grown up reading and memorising Monty Python and Goon Show scripts. It set the scene perfectly and gave me a visual response to whatever memory she was conveying.

Her pithy little footnotes were also a delight. I do so love a pithy footnote.

I was insanely jealous in parts – of her experiences, her travels, her oh-so-capable husband (he builds their house, for Pete’s sake!).

The last quarter of the book is a difficult read. In fact, I almost contacted M-R to tell her the promised review would not be forthcoming as I wasn’t sure I could finish the book. Having watched my father’s deterioration and death less than a year after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, this section of their story hit a little too close to home. I can imagine it an emotional read for anyone who has watched a loved one battle cancer.

But I felt I owed it to M-R and to her beloved Chic to finish the story. To know and to understand the whole story.

So, after a not-so-little cry and a good blow of the nose, I pushed on. I’m glad I did and I encourage anyone who feels the emotion too much to keep going. There is hope and light and laughter to be had in the ending of the story.

I know that M-R did not write this book for fame (it is so often fleeting anyway) or fortune (she assures us this is certainly not forthcoming) but because she wanted as many people as possible to know about her wonderful and amazing husband. I encourage you to read this book and meet this most remarkable of men.

M-R, thank you for sharing your story and your ‘Stringer’ as you loved to call him. I am so glad to have met him. I am only sorry not to have shared one of Chic’s meals with you both over a bottle of Italian red. I do so love an Italian red. And what fun that would have been.

Check out Margaret-Rose Stringer’s blog here for details on how to purchase this book. Then buy it. Then read it. Trust me.

 

 

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