Adapting a book into a move is always going to leave the latter in an uncomfortable position, simply because a visual medium under industry restrictions and directed entirely by one individual vision cannot, even if it wanted to, reflect the collective imaginative input of every individual reader.
However, sometimes, just sometimes, a movie does something special. It makes itself not only a good reflection of the work itself, but, in its own special way, does it better.
Case and point, see below:
1 - The Lord Of The Rings
Guys . . . I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. I would rather sit down and watch all three of Sir Peter Jackson's movies back to back than I would read the books.
As with any adaptation, things needed to be trimmed. And, if you ask me, Tolkien shines best when trimmed.
Of course, it's not not nearly as immersive, and the level of detail and love that the Professor put into the work cannot be replicated, underestimated or replaced in any way . . . but Lord of The Rings, spectacularly cast, brilliantly acted, powerful, emotional, pacy, evocative and epic, with years and years of love and passion poured into costumes, sets and style, is exactly what you want when delving into this epic trilogy for the first, or even the ninety-first, time.
. . . And trust me, the lack of Tom Bombadil is also a mercy all on its own.
2 - The Princess Bride
Now, I know what most of you are thinking:
"Wait . . . this is based on a book?"
Let's just say there's a reason you've never heard of that book. It's . . . average. It's fine for what it is - a traditional swords-and-sorcery, true-love, fairytale-type thing that'll keep you entertained for an afternoon or so.
The movie, however, has an identity all of its own. The gloriously irreverant, self-aware humour injected into every scene and line of dialogue at once parodies and highlights the whimsical, campy glory of its fundamental traditional spirit.
There's a girl and a boy and a prince and a pirate and a journey and peril and bravery and treachery and swords and hijinx - we've seen it all before. But we've never seen it like this before.
3 - How To Train Your Dragon
Cressida Cowell's hilarious How To Train Your Dragon book series is a marvel all on its own, and I'd seriously recommend it to any fans of dragons - particularly those under the age of thirteen or so.
That said, the movie - and especially its sequel - are better, in my opinion It's got the same adventurous, unlikely-hero heart as the original books, but with the addition of a greater emotional maturity that lends it an appeal across all ages and walks of life. Couple that with suitably creative character designs, a stunning soundtrack, and a smattering of clever humour, and you have a radical adaptation that, incredibly, does everything right.
What about you? Do you agree with my choices? Or do you have any movies you'd like to have seen on this list? Leave me a comment, and let me know!
~ Charley R