Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bookworm: TV and Film Adaptations I Haven't Hated

It is rare to find a film/TV adaptation of a book that doesn't make me want to kill someone (or at least force them to read the damn book- Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy director, I'm looking at you). They either edit it down to nothing, make stuff up or mangle the plot and characters to the point where it no longer resembles the book it's supposedly based on.
However there are, very rarely, exceptions to this rule.
Normally I like to read the book first, but sometimes that doesn't happen and I end up doing things the wrong way round. In the case of Julie Powell's Julie and Julia, I've seen the film several times (love Meryl Streep in just about everything) but only just read the book. I loved the book, I loved the film, and yes, there are slight differences, but still it's a really good adaptation. If I ever meet Julie Powell, I'm going to give her a hug!
William Boyd's Any Human Heart is another one where I've seen the adaptation first, in this case a TV serial shown over several Sunday nights, watched curled up with The Boy. I liked it, I thought the protagonist, Logan Mountstuart was annoying at times, however as I'm reading the book, right now, I'm warming to him. The written Logan comes across so much better than portrayed, much more rounded. Although I rather liked the TV version too.
At the moment I'm really enjoying The Crimson Petal and the White on Wednesday evenings, a gorgeously filmed series for the Beeb. I haven't read Michael Faber's book, but I can see my copy from where I'm sitting. I think I might have to crack it out and see how the show pairs up.
There have been films that have led me to the book (see above, and also the slightly odd adaptation of Elizabeth Taylor's story of a bonkers writer, Angel, film is bizarre, book good). Then there have been books that led me to films.
I am wary, especially, of adaptations of books I love. Sometimes they're very hit and miss, and when it's a much loved favourite, it can be that much harder to like. Having said that, the new run of CS Lewis' Narnia books has been quite enjoyable, I thought Prince Caspian was fun (although the influence of the recent Lord of the Rings films was quite evident) and I'm looking forward to getting around to seeing Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The Nineties adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for the BBC is quite a good retelling, fairly faithful and enjoyable to watch. I only knew it existed from a comment in the introduction to the Author's Preferred Text edition, and promptly had to hunt it down.
The Sky adaptations of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels have, at times, got it completely wrong. Hogfather was really good, Colour of Magic much less so, but Going Postal was cracking, very funny, and reassuring to spot 'Messed about with by Terry Pratchett' in the credits. If the author's involved, often it seems a little stronger.
I know that for many readers (including myself) the story comes alive in your head, you have a clear picture of the what the character looks like, how they talk etc and any adaptation is fraught with concerns about how the fans are going to take it. Sometimes the director is a fan, and is therefore more willing to stick to the text, but sometimes it feels like they haven't even bothered to pick up a copy of the book and leaf through it, let alone read it.
So, which adaptations have you liked, and which have you loathed?

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