Films Now, Books First

As a general rule, if there’s a movie or TV show based on a novel or a play, I always try to read the original work first before I see the new version. When the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby came out in theatres earlier this year, I begged friends who hadn’t read the book yet to read the book first, so they would be familiar with the original story in case the movie changed things or left things out.

Because book-to-movie adaptations do that a lot – they change things. That’s why they’re called adaptations. Books and plays and films and TV are different mediums. When they shift from one medium to another, stories are going to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much, depending on who you talk to and how attached they are to the source material. When you read books, you might picture characters and settings one way, and another reader might picture them a different way, depending on your experiences and your interpretations of the author’s words.

I recently asked various friends what upcoming book-to-movie adaptations they were most looking for to, and why. Here are a few titles they brought up:

To date, the critically-acclaimed horror writer Stephen King has written over 50 novels and over 200 short stories, many of which have been made into feature films, TV movies, and comics which you find in online comic books store. The current Syfy Channel television show Haven is loosely based on his novel The Colorado Kid. His first published novel, Carrie, took the main character through high school horrors to the extreme. Without spoiling too much, I’ll tell you it’s about a girl who discovers she has telekinesis (the ability to move things with her minds) and uses her powers against people who have teased and hurt her. The latest film adaptation of Carrie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as the title character and Julianne Moore as her mother, was released in theatres on October 18th. The trailers show the climactic scene at the school dance, which might disturb those who can’t stomach the sight of blood. This iconic scene is well-known by people already familiar with the book or previous films, but putting it so prominently in the commercials might spoil it for some people – but then again, it will probably draw others to it!

More than one person expressed excitement about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which Warner Bros. recently announced. It hasn’t even started production and this Harry Potter-related story already has the world buzzing. “I’ve read the whole book series three times and watched the whole movie series twice,” said Divya, age 16. “I have too many emotions about it!” The new movie will supposedly be written by J.K. Rowling, who wrote the seven original bestselling Harry Potter novels as well as the “supplemental” books: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was supposed to be a textbook Harry got at Hogwarts; Quidditch Through the Ages, a history of the game; and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of wizard-related fairy tales. Will any familiar faces pop up in the Fantastic Beasts film? We’ll have to wait and see.

“I’m excited to see The Hobbit Part Two,” chimed in Aidan, age 17. “The D&D [Dungeons and Dragons] club always goes to the openings together, and it’s always fun to see a movie with friends.” The Hobbit, based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, was published in 1937. The other books set in Middle-earth, often split into three separate books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, are collectively referred to as The Lord of the Rings. Here’s a fun fact: According to Wikipedia, the first authorized adaptation of The Hobbit was a stage production by St. Margaret’s School in Edinburgh in 1953, a year before the first part of The Lord of the Rings was published!

The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth will appeal to people who like dystopian stories – stories about a community or nation dealing with a society or government which enforces “undesirable” rules and regulations. In Divergent, a 16-year-old girl goes through a required initiation process and challenges the way her society is broken into different virtuous factions. The movie is coming out next March, and Victoria, age 14, plans to check it out. “I’m excited to see Shailene Woodley do the action scenes.” Daniel, age 15, will also be checking out the film. “I like to see book-to-film adaptions to see how other people interpret the book.”

Other books-turned-movies on the radars of kids I talked to include but are not limited to:

  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, starring Jennifer Lawrence
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry, with Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (My favorite John Green novel is Looking for Alaska)
  • – and many more.

I myself am hoping that the film adaptation of The Book Thief is faithful to Markus Zusak’s original book. I’ll let the cover flap summary speak for itself: “It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…” Read it. Read it now. It’s positively brilliant, with an unlikely narrator telling a heartbreaking, memorable story.

Like I said before, I like reading books before I see the movie – but I can’t always help it. I first saw the movie Strangers on a Train when I was really, really little, and didn’t read the book until years later. I was really surprised by the events in the book because so much was different! I actually like the movie better than the book. Much better. Alfred Hitchcock directed the movie; multiple writers worked on the adaptation.

Now for some books I love that were made into some really good films: The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende is an amazing fantasy novel, a story-within-a-story, a nice, long book for those of us who love nice, long books. Note: I love the first movie, which I feel got a lot of things “right.” I like the second movie, which also included events and elements from the book. I didn’t care for the third movie, which I felt deviated too much from the book.

One of my favorite books of all time is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Many adaptations have been made, ranging from silent films to animated movies, from TV mini-series to my favorite version, the 1972 live-action musical starring Fiona Fullerton. Though some of the singers are admittedly better than others, the whole thing is so much fun, and a lot of the lyrics in the songs are taken right from the book. Kudos to John Barry and Don Black for creating such a pretty soundtrack, and to the costume and set designers for creating such a lovely Wonderland.

What book-to-film-adaptations are you looking forward to this fall and winter? Leave a comment below and let me know!

allie costa

Allie Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover. She can usually be found on a set, in a theatre, or in a secondhand bookstore. She worked with the hosts of Teens Wanna Know on the film Nerd Wars! Her character, Natalie Grace, was named after legendary actresses Natalie Wood and Grace Kelly.

Allie’s Website

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