We have had quite a few films which managed to outdo the text in many ways. Either the execution of the story was nicer or they just added their own theme to the plot which worked better than the original.
Movies based on book rarely do justice to their source material, let alone bettering it. But we have had quite a few films which managed to outdo the text in many ways. Either the execution of the story was nicer or they just added their own theme to the plot which worked better than the original. Or in some cases, they explored greater dimensions, fleshed out the story, characters, themes, and so forth.
Some of them even cut out the uninteresting parts making the plot compact to ensure that it gets easily digested without having to wade through tedious, dense prose.
Here is my list of 10 of them.
1. The Shawshank Redemption: Considered as one of the greatest movies ever made, The Shawshank Redemption was based on a novella by Stephen King: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Surprising, yes? I read the novella by chance in an old paperback story collection called Different Seasons. Considering the kind of stories King usually writes, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption came as quite a pleasant surprise. It left me high-spirited, but it was pretty boring as well. And then I saw the movie some 4-5 years ago. It had none of those irritating lengthy descriptions of people and things which don’t matter and about which nobody cares about… except King, maybe. And it had Morgan Freeman as the narrator, which sealed the deal for me.
2. Forrest Gump: One of Tom Hanks’s finest performances yet. And so much better than that draggy book which had some truly awful narration. Admittedly, I watched the movie first but couldn’t spot a single thing which was better done in the book no matter how hard I tried. It is amazing how someone could transform that heap of garbage to such a lovely film.
3. Fight Club: Now, this book by Chuck Palahanuik was really good unlike the previous two. Good in a sick, twisted sort of way. But the movie was even better, as the movie takes the story further than the book ever could. Also, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton delivered career-best performances in Fight Club.
4. Schindler’s List: I read the book Schindler’s Ark when I was young enough to read only fairy tales. It was a dark, depressing story but remarkably moving. But movie was better. More moving and, thankfully, retaining the dark (literally and metaphorically) tones of that incredible novel. Not to forget the fantastic cinematography and excellent portrayal of Oskar Schindler by Liam Neeson, of course.
5. The Silence of the Lambs: This movie bested the book by the same name just by the sheer quality of film-making. Also, being a little more blunt. A spine-tingling watch. The book is also recommended, though. Especially if you liked the movie.
6. The Lord of the Rings trilogy: I can almost hear outcries voiced by Tolkien-pedants. Relax. I know you want my head on a spike but to tell you the truth, I too was unsure about this decision of mine. But later on, after a bit of contemplation, I decided to go with Peter Jackson’s beautiful adaptations because of many reasons. Amazing cinematography, stunning battle sequences, and fantastic score are just some of those. In this case, I read the book (that fat red tome) first. Not to say that I didn’t like it, I surely did. But once again, the prose was too dense. Also, it had those annoying and distracting poems popping up sporadically. On a different note, I like the children-oriented, playful, and lightly funny The Hobbit more than the Lord of the Rings. Yeah, I’m going to find cover now…
7. Jurassic Park: Second Steven Spielberg’s film in this list after Schindler’s List, Jurassic park was based on Michael Crichton’s book. The book was pretty good, I admit, but it was little more than a jumble of a multitude events pieced together to form a misshapen lump. It was thrilling, yes, scary, even. But fell far short of Spielberg’s mind-boggling adaptation that was much more coherent. At a time when 3D animation was still in its infancy, Jurassic Park came and shattered all expectations with its stunningly designed models and high-quality CGI dinosaurs. A truly terrifying depiction of the events which materialise when those monstrous reptiles of the bygone era are thrown abruptly in today’s world with the help of advanced genetic technologies. And above all, the devastating consequences of that audacity.
8. Shutter Island: To be fair to Dennis Lehane, the author of Shutter Island, I knew what was coming at the end of the story as I began to read the book. So probably I couldn’t like it as much as I would have, had I read it before watching the movie. As you well know, the magic of the story lies with the climax. Also, this book reminded me of Dan Brown in an uncomfortable sort of way.
9. The Pursuit of Happyness: Well, this film was based on a non-fiction book, a biography. I didn’t even know who Chris Gardner was until I watched the movie and read his biography. Writing was strictly so-so, too. An inspirational rags-to-riches story, though, and brilliantly portrayed by Will Smith in the film.
10. The Godfather: Yes, I liked the The Godfather movie more than Mario Puzo’s book. As is usually the case, the book explained things better to me, it was far more detailed, but I don’t think I would have been as attached to the story if they hadn’t made that marvel of a movie. It followed the novel very faithfully whilst embellishing the already great story – one of the many reasons I prefer it over the book.