I’ve said for years that I mostly prefer books over their movie adaptations. I usually prefer the source material to the adaptation because I’m in a habit of looking for fidelity to the source. But there are times when movies make me interested in their original books.
A little while ago, I watched one of the Nostalgia Critic’s videos about a Dr. Seuss movie. In it, he suggested that the movies might be so bad so that we’ll go back to the original source and read it and remember why we loved those books. For today’s post, I want to focus on good movie adaptations that made me interested in reading the source material. These movies are so good that I also read their good books.
Is the list below definitive? No. But it’s a list of seven movies and books that mean a lot to me.
As Lent is beginning, a traveler moves to a little village and opens a chocolaterie. Throughout the movie, people fight her and themselves of whether they should follow their rigid roles in the town or allow themselves to be tempted by truly harmless chocolate. The kids of the town also bully her daughter, but she has a wonder about her that overshadows that part of the village’s shunning. Vianne, the woman of the movie, also helps one woman get away from an abusive husband. There’s also family drama between an eccentric old woman, the artist grandson, and the daughter who seems to be in love with the Comte. This is a Johnny Depp movie, so he plays an outcast role and a romantic interest. It’s a movie about acceptance and open-mindedness.
The novel isn’t quite as light as the movie. First, it focuses on Vianne’s and the priest’s perspectives. Second, it’s largely about Vianne’s insecurities and the way the super religious of town try to drive her out, while being led by the priest (replace the Comte de Reynaud with the priest). It’s a heavier story with the religion being antagonistic, but it’s compelling in its own way.
The movie told me more of what to expect when I was thinking about reading Speak. It’s about a high school freshman who was raped at a house party and decides to not speak. Meanwhile, everyone has turned on her for calling the police after she had been raped. The movie stars Kristen Stewart, and she kills it as someone who doesn’t speak throughout the movie. It’s very noticeable, and it makes me wonder if she pulled this experience into the Twilight movies. I digress. This adaptation and Stewart’s acting brought the story to life, and I loved seeing her making artwork and how people acted around her. After seeing this movie, I knew that I really needed to read this book soon. Now that I have read it, I know this is a very accurate adaptation. The book itself is very good.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
I didn’t really want to read or watch Harry Potter until I was in fifth grade. I finally decided to read the first book then, but it was hard to get through that first chapter because I couldn’t figure what was so great about it or if it was going anywhere. Luckily, Disney Channel was airing the first movie that night, so I stayed up to watch it. The movie was so magical that it finally made me push through that first chapter and eventually fall in love with the Harry Potter series.
The Little Vampire
I always loved watching this vampire movie, starring the kid from Stuart Little. I liked seeing good vampires who were cursed with something. I liked that this little, misunderstood outsider found another outsider friend who happened to be a vampire. It was fun and had weird bad guys, and then the parents help their son stop the bad guy. I loved that, and it became something that I had to watch every year.
Then I was surprised to find it was based on a German chapter book. I thought, “How did I not know that this was based on a book?” And I only found that out because I stumbled upon the English translation at my university’s library.
Surprise: the book is very different from the movie. The characters, plot, and names are different, but the story is funny. I think I would have liked it more had I read it when I was kid. Or I might not have. It’s mostly a comedy, and the stakes aren’t quite as high. However, it’s cute and sweet. The movie is very different from the book it’s based on, but both are good stories.
Barbie in the Nutcracker
This was the first Barbie movie I watched, and I loved this version of the story. It fostered a love for the story and for ballet. I like that there’s more interactivity of the villain, more development of the nutcracker, and that there is a real surprise of Barbie being the Sugar Plum Fairy. I’m still mournful that I don’t watch it anymore and that no TV channels ever air it. Eventually, I read the original story (not just the many retold stories in picture books) and found it to be very different. I think both this movie and E.T.A. Hoffman’s original are good on their own, and I am okay with the way the story was changed.
The Book Thief
I remember when The Book Thief, the novel, came out and when it was put on display at my local library. I also remember a friend reading it for the Summer Book Club, but I wasn’t interested in reading it at the time. Then the movie came out. I waited a while for it to come to TV, and then I finally watched it. It was absolutely amazing with the story, characters and tone. I cried over Rudy’s death and when Liesel reunites with Max. It’s a wonderful movie.
As good as the movie is, I love that Death is the narrator of the novel and has a stronger presence. Or, he’s at least more obviously the narrator. I also liked seeing more of the bond between Liesel and her adopted parents, like when her father repaints their dictionary of new words. There’s more of that detail that you can only get in books instead of a movie presentation.
A Monster Calls
There was so much hype around A Monster Calls a year or two ago, but I wasn’t sure if I would like it. It became available on one of the upper channels, so I watched it. It was thoughtful and heartbreaking.
I finally got around to reading it last month. I read the edition with the beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and those remind me a lot of the movie’s animations. It’s done pretty well, though I prefer certain parts of the movie over certain parts of the book, but that also works in reverse. I also think I cried more while reading the book than I did watching the movie.
As I looked at this list, I noticed that only one of the books and movies were realistic fiction. The rest have an element of magic, so I wonder if that says more about my tastes or the types of movie adaptations that capture interest in the books.