Saturday, January 20, 2007

Movies That Will Never Be Made

I have very mixed feelings about books being made into movies. If I'm going to see a movie that's based on a book, I usually try to read the book first, because I've found that having seen the movie can often disrupt the experience of reading the book, while reading the book first rarely ruins the viewing of the movie.

I can only think of one movie that was actually better than the book, and that was The Shawshank Redemption -- since it was based on a short story, there wasn't so much to lose in the translation to film, and with Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman and the splendid perfomances of the film's supporting cast, the story really comes to life in a way that pleases my imagination. Mr. Freeman's Red Redding is embodied with much more depth than the character has in the book. And his voice always adds to whatever role his is playing -- I would happily listen to the man reading a phone book.

I can think of wonderful movies that are based on books, but most adaptations never reach quite as far as the tomes from which they rose. Gregory Peck gave us a beautiful Atticus Finch, but if I really want to wallow in that delightful story set in Maycomb, Alabama, I can't do it without pulling out out our well-worn copy of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. And while I am fond of all of the amusing attempts to bring Pride and Prejudice to the big screen (despite its rather obvious shortcomings, my favorite is the 1940 Garson/Olivier version, because Olivier is wonderful in every way), who could ever really prefer any of them to Jane Austen's beautiful novel?

Anyway, that's a long way around to saying that I think it's a good thing that for one reason or another, these books might never make it to the multiplex. I'm rather attached to the wacky casts of characters that have populated my imagination since savoring 100 Years of Solitude and A Confederacy of Dunces and would rather not have my versions replaced with someone else's. And who could possibly be so arrogant as to think he (or she) can bring life to Holden Caufield or Gregor Samsa in a way that would do the characters justice? And so on...

I think I'm glad these books have, so far, stayed safe from those would Disnify them. I hope it lasts.

(And I brace myself for what the film industry is going do to Phillip Pullman's wonderful trilogy, His Dark Materials, when it hits the theaters this fall.)


elvis drinkmo said...

I'm like you- I won't watch a movie until I read the book first. I like having my own image of what a character looks and sounds like without the interpretation of somebody (same with music videos- I hate them because every song I hear sort of creates its own unique image in my head and seeing a video seems to ruin that. Thank God Steely Dan never did videos- for example.)

But a couple of movies based on books that weren't bad (though not nearly as good as the books) are "1984" and "Interview with a Vampire". ("Queen of the Damned", however, really sucked.)

poopie said...

Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie, hands down.

sloms said...

When you read a book, you are the director, producer, cinematographer, and in charge of casting (and everything else), as you envision what you are reading. I think that is why most people prefer the book.

CSL said...

I usually prefer the book, too. I like to picture my own charcters. But for kids' movies, I thought the Harry Potter series has been well done. (On the other hand, the wonderfully quirky Stuart Little book was an abomination in movie-form.)