Hey! Hallie here!
I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this blog talking about book adaptations that I enjoy. There’s a few I’ve dedicated many, many posts to because I’m obsessed (‘Howl’s Moving Castle’). I just really enjoy talking about books I love, and when their movies are just as good, or even better, I can’t resist gushing over them. So this post is dedicated to five of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations just so I can obsess over them. As the title suggests, some of these adaptations I consider just as good as the original content, but some of my opinions are a bit more controversial than that. So here’s you reminder that this is just my opinion and all (respectful) opinions are welcome here. And if you haven’t read or watched any of the titles below, be aware of SPOILERS. Alright, let’s get into this!
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’:
There’s a pretty big debate over whether the book is better than the movie with this one. But, and there’s not really an argument here, the movie has the larger fanbase. Studio Ghibli elevated this book to a level of popularity that only Studio Ghibli can really accomplish. Especially when they animate men in the way they animated Howl. Still, there are really good parts of both the book and the movie. The book has a lot more of a headstrong Sophie and Howl, which leads to some really entertaining interactions between them. Sophie doesn’t take any of Howl’s arrogant behavior, nor does she ever let him intimidate her. Meanwhile, Howl’s heartlessness is shown through his vanity and pretentiousness which are qualities he is at first proud of, and then eventually learns to overcome for Sophie. That said, I really enjoy the movie’s interpretation of a shy, insecure Sophie who breaks out of her shell as her confidence grows. I also do love the way that war becomes a more central part of the storyline, and the most evident representation of Howl’s heartlessness, as a critique of senseless violence. On top of that, the book gets a bit weird in parts when it comes to the revelation of where the missing prince and wizard went off to. Let’s just say, it gets a bit Frankenstein. I definitely prefer the simpler changes to this part of the storyline in the film. Overall, I tend to prefer the film. The animation can’t really be beat and the visual representation of Sophie learning to love and accept herself, as seen by her age lessening as the movie goes on, is extremely powerful. But really, both are popular for a reason.
‘The Princess Bride’:
A while ago I made a post confessing that this book is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite one. It’s a perfect high fantasy fairytale while also managing to be an interesting critique of fantasy tropes and a hilarious joke in its entirety. The book’s popularity however, pales in comparison to the way the movie took off. Some people aren’t even aware that ‘The Princess Bride’ was a book before it was a film. There’s a lot to love in the book that’s missing from the movie. Buttercup and Wesley, as a departure from most high fantasy couples, both have a lot of vanity and sarcasm that make their relationship amusing. The book also explores the backstories of Inigo and Fezzik in much more detail. The focus on Fezzik in this book actually made him my favorite character in ‘The Princess Bride’, especially because of his inner dialogue that reveals his thoughtfulness and kindness. Also, the book has a major joke element the film is missing. Namely, the gimmick that a fake author (S. Morgenstern) wrote ‘The Princess Bride’ and another author (The actual author, William Goldman) is cutting it down to only the good parts while also putting in interludes to his miserable life. Of course, the book is all William Goldman’s and the miserable life he writes for himself is all a fabrication, but the writing in the book has fooled many a reader. That said, the movie is perfection. Many scenes are ripped word for word from the book, a nice side effect of Goldman himself penning the screenplay, and it takes a somewhat less funny, but a much more magical approach to the story. Both versions are so perfect, I really couldn’t say which I like more in this case.
I really like Neil Gaiman, but this is one of the only books I’m putting on this list that I thought was amazing in concept but didn’t quite live up to expectations in execution. I really loved the world building in this book, which is no surprise because Neil Gaiman perfects world building. The world of Faerie feels whimsical and dangerous, from the marketplace to the kingdom of Stormhold. But there’s definitely awkward sex in this book that feels out of place. Both main characters also suffer from a bit of plainness that you don’t often see in Gaiman books, though that might be because the book itself is so short. The movie fixes these problems well. It breathes life into the bumbling but well-meaning Tristran (Or Tristan here) and the confident, argumentative Yvaine. Most importantly, it gives us Robert De Niro in perhaps one of my favorite roles he’s ever taken on. Captain Shakespeare is the queer representation we need more of in fantasy stories, and he barely even makes an appearance in the book. In the movie though, he’s the perfect mentor to Tristan, often teaching him to reject toxic masculinity. He also boasts one of the largest hearts in the movie. It’s hard to walk away from ‘Stardust’ without Captain Shakespeare being your favorite character. But despite the large amount of changes in the film, the main storyline and the overall feel of the book remain intact. The movie’s commitment to the original content, while also changing story elements around to create its own fairytale, proves its brilliance.
The ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy:
This is a bit of a cheat because this is technically three books. But I feel my sentiments towards each book and its adaptation within this trilogy are very similar. The movies capture the main plot and the overall feel of each of Tolkien’s books. And most of what the movies cut out is pretty understandable. For one, while Tolkien is second to none when it comes to world building, sometimes it’s exhausting to spend several chapters having every part of a town described to you. Also, characters like Tom Bombadil, while fun, aren’t necessarily important to the overall plot. I really don’t have any gripes with what Peter Jackson kept out of the movie trilogy. I even appreciate the direct changes he made from the book. The first that comes to mind is his decision to make Arwen the savior of Frodo in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ after he’s attacked by the Nazgul. In the book, the famed elf Glorfindel is responsible for this heroic act. While I adore Glorfindel and his very interesting ties to the Fall of Gondolin, Arwen was a very fascinating character in the books who never got any characterization at all. She barely showed up in any of the books and the largest section dedicated to her is in the very back of ‘The Return of the King’, where she and Aragorn’s romance is explored more than her own characteristics. Given that LOTR is a series that has too few lead female characters, I think it was a perfect decision to bring Arwen to the front and make her the badass we all knew she could be. Overall the LOTR trilogy perfects gorgeous cinematography, excellent story, and fitting deviations from the books.
‘Pride and Prejudice’:
Unlike some of my opinions above, I’m not here to tell you that the 2005 movie is better than the book. This book is one of my favorite pieces of literature of all time and it’s definitely my sister’s favorite book for a reason. The snarky humor radiating off of Elizabeth and Darcy make this book a delightful read. And though it may look long, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is one of Austen’s more fast paced books. You very rarely go a chapter without being taken to a scandalous party or a romantic trip to the countryside. When Austen does choose to idle in one place for a while, it’s only to give you some juicy gossip that will make you question Elizabeth and Darcy’s feelings for each other. The 2005 movie simplifies a lot of the things that happen in the novel. Some events are merged together to make for a more eventful scene. Some dialogue is modernized to make it easier to understand. But none of it is to the movie’s detriment. The movie always keeps the feel of the book, and much like the LOTR trilogy, never skips out on a plot point. It only cuts out some excess. In the occasions it does change things around, I also generally like the changes. I like that Mr. Bennet takes his time to comfort Mary after embarrassing her at the ball. I like that, instead of Darcy confessing his feelings to Lizzie during an organized walk, we get a more private scene where Darcy walks to her in the early hours of the morning because he couldn’t sleep. Also, the cinematography in this movie is stunning. From the dance scene where everyone disappears except Darcy and Lizzie, to the scandalous behavior at the ball that’s done in only one shot, to the picturesque scenery on the hill, to the female-gaze feeling shot of Darcy’s hand. You really can’t find any fault in the book or the movie.
And that’s it! I really enjoyed taking some time to demonstrate how head-over-heels I am for these books and their movie adaptations. I could watch any of these movies over and over without stopping. And I very much like that, among the movie adaptations I chose, none set out to be 100% accurate to the book. All make changes to the book that slightly alter the story in a way that sets the movie apart. But each movie also sets out to keep the overall plot and feel of the original story to honor its source material. They strike a perfect balance, and I couldn’t love them more for it.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!