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Originally when I heard that so many movies were coming out last year that were being adapted, I had plans to clear my schedule when they were all released, because I am always excited to see books I’ve read, or musicals and TV shows I’ve seen, reworked and brought to the big screen. My biggest excitement though, always comes from the books. I’ve been an avid reader for years, and make a habit of trying to read anything I can get my hands on whenever I have a chance. Unfortunately, not all adaptations were a hit, and didn’t do the books they were adapted from justice. Nevertheless, here’s the top 10 that were adapted, compared to their original source materials.
10. One for the Money (Katherine heigl, Jason O’Mara, Daniel Sunjata; January 27th; Comedy):
Based off of Janet Evanovich’s novel of the same name, it’s the first in a long series which chronicles the adventured of the unemployed and single Stephanie Plum after she joins her cousin’s bail-bond business.
Novel vs. Movie: The book wins this hands down. That Stephanie plum is plucky, funny, and someone easy to tolerate because of the way Evanovich wrote the novel. Heigl’s version of the character is annoying, a little bit whiny when things don’t go according to her plan, and has an absolutely horrendous New Jersey accent.
9. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: (Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper; June 22nd; Fantasy):
Based off of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, it is about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, making it his mission to take down vampires that are planning to take over the United States.
Novel vs. Movie: Though the book isn’t one of my favorites, it’s still better than this blatant attempt to try and appeal to mass audiences that have a thing for Zombies and Vampires right now, while also capitalizing on a renewed film interest in the nation’s 16th president (who has been the subject, or at least one of the subjects, in three major motion pictures since 2011, with at least one more slated for release this year). I’m still not a fan of the book because I prefer my historical figures to stay pretty much revered as such. But the movie was not only something that felt forced, but it was also far too soon in my opinion to be released as a movie, considering the book was only released two years prior. While one other book/movie which appears later on this list did have less time in between its original and adaptation release dates, there are major differences. While it was definitely adapted and released to pander perfectly to a love-saturated, heavily female, Valentine’s Day audience, the story behind it is actually so deeply moving, courageous, and truly a miracle. Vampire Hunter? Not so much.
8. Cloud Atlas: (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant; October 26th; Sci-Fi Drama):
Based off David Mitchell’s novel, it is an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present, and future, specifically as one soul transforms from hero to killer, and one act of kindness ripples across the tenses of life to inspire a revolution.
Book vs. Movie: While the movie is appealing visually, and has some spectacular costumes, makeup, and sets, it’s a bit disconnected somewhere, distancing its audience from what actually happens on screen. The extraordinarily long, nearly 3-hour runtime also makes the movie eventually become boring, and a little bit exasperating. Stick to the book in this case.
7. The Lucky One: (Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner; April 20th; Drama):
Based off of a Nicholas Sparks novel about a marine, Logan Thibault, who travels to the small town of Hamden, North Carolina, to find a woman whose photograph he feels kept him alive during his tours in Iraq.
Book vs. Movie: While the movie does exactly what it’s supposed to do being a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, making its audience cry while still swooning for the heroic male lead. However, a small touch of what makes the story so special is lost in the movie translation. It’s hard to place what it is exactly, but I personally felt it was the match-up that cast Efron, Schilling and Jay R. Ferguson as the three parts of the quasi-love triangle. Efron is in his early twenties—and looks it. Schilling is in her late twenties—but looks like she’s in her mid-thirties. And Ferguson is nearly forty. The looks of three characters who are all supposed to be in their late twenties-early thirties are too different, making it seem like Ferguson’s character was getting involved with a woman he really was far too old to be with, and that she retaliated later by doing the same thing to another man. Reading the book, how they all look is left more up to your own imagination, which can keep the characters all in the right age range, and make them look more appropriate when paired up next to each other.
6. The Vow: (Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill; February 10th; Drama):
Based on the real-life story of Kim and Krickett Carpenter, a couple that beat the odds when after an accident completely erased Krickett’s memory, she and Kim were able to fall in love all over again.
Book vs. Movie: Though the real-life story is so incredibly compelling, and truly unbelievable (to this day Krickett has not regained her memory), the book is much harder to get through than the movie because Kim and Krickett Carpenter are also religious Christians, and Christ appears often throughout the book that tells their story. While for their personal story, this is important, for readers who are not necessarily as full of faith as they are, the read is much more of a struggle. In the movie however, Leo and Paige’s story does not reference any faith, making it a little more general audience friendly. The only major flaw for the movie is the fairly abrupt ending that doesn’t really give the audience any resolutions for the fictional characters, instead referencing back to Kim and Krickett and letting the audience know what happened with them. This is somewhat more of a toss-up as to which is better because both have aspects that could turn people off of them, but I would give the slightest edge to the movie only because I am not anywhere near as religious as the Carpenters’, and definitely struggled with the book as a result.
5. Dr. Seuss The Lorax: (Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito; March 2nd ; Comedy):
Based on the Doctor Seuss book about a 12-year-old boy who searches for the one thing that will give him the girl of his dreams—a real live tree, and his encounters with The Lorax, a creature that shares the enduring power of hope.
Book vs. Movie: I don’t know a single kid (myself included), who didn’t love their Dr. Seuss books growing up, so I’m always curious when they are adapted to movies these days. I loved How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but hated The Cat in the Hat. After seeing it, I’m still on the fence with Lorax, because like the book, it is still cute and funny. But the moral simplicity that makes the book (and the Lorax’s ultimate goals) so great, are lost in the CGI and overproduction Hollywood is known for.
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: (Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage; December 14th; fantasy):
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel to the successful Lord of the Rings franchise, about young hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and his adventure with a spirited group of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain , on a mission to reclaim it from a dragon named Smaug.
Book vs. Movie: The book wins here by a tiny, tiny margin. Both are very good. Peter Jackson didn’t win three Oscars for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and get nominated for Two Towers and The Fellowship of the Ring for nothing, and his work and magic touch for Tolkien’s works are as ever-present here as they were in before. The only thing about the movie that makes it pale just a tad bit in comparison to the book is its deliberate pacing to make a 305 page book into a nearly three-hour movie, where the other movies were three hours or more, based on books that were 400-500 pages each.
3. Think Like a Man: (Chris Brown, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart; April 20th ; Romantic Comedy):
Based on the Steve Harvey relationship advice book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the movie stars four friends who conspire to turn the tables on their women when they find out that the ladies have been using Harvey’s advice against them.
Book vs. Movie: Here, I choose the book. The movie was funny enough, (specifically Hart), but it’s too loose of an adaptation for me to have enjoyed it thoroughly, especially considering how much I actually enjoyed the book, which I read during a particularly low point after a painful breakup. I actually found Harvey’s book to be refreshing and actually more revealing about why my failed relationship may not have worked out after all—versus the other books out there that don’t really say anything. So while I enjoyed how they chose to market the movie, I don’t think it worked quite as well as it could have.
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: (Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller; October 12th; Drama):
Based on the Stephen Chbosky novel of the same name, about an introverted freshman who is taken under the wings of two seniors who help welcome him to the real world.
Book vs. Movie: There’s not a contest here, as both are equally excellent. The acting is phenomenal, and Watson truly shines in her first post Harry Potter role. But the true beauty of this movie is that Chbosky himself wrote the script, which makes the movie one of the truest to its original formats in existence. Chbosky is bound to get himself at least an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay, if not the actual award itself.
1. Les Miserables: (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway; December 25th; Musical):
Based on the Victor Hugo novel and Schonberg and Boublil musical, about Jean Valjean, who is being hunted by ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, and his agreement to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette, as the French revolution breaks out.
Book/Play vs. Movie: It would be hard to top the phenomenal original materials this is based off—both the novel and the Broadway Musical. The movie is equal parts haunting as it is authentic to its roots, because the actors sang live, instead of to pre-recorded tracks. I waited patiently all year (literally), for this movie to come out, and I was not disappointed. It’s gotten some criticisms for the live singing, with people saying that those with better voices would have been a better choice for something sung live with no editing done to the songs. But that doesn’t always disguise a voice that isn’t top quality (Pierce Brosnan singing in 2008’s Mamma Mia comes to mind), and besides that, this story isn’t as lighter or frothy as several other movie musicals are. Sure they deal with darker material and topics sometimes, but they’re meant as entertainment first and foremost, whereas Les Miserables is meant to tell a chilling story. The only other musical adapted to film that was meant to do that was 2005’s Rent, and the thing that made it truly suffer was the pre-recorded singing, something that was unnecessary considering ¾ of the cast was in the original Broadway production and could clearly sing on their own already. Though Les Miserables uses Hollywood big ticket stars instead, it’s still done the way a more emotional and deep musical movie should be.