Movies That Meet (or Exceed) the Book

breaking dawn

There is always controversy when movies are adaptations of beloved books or plays. Films such as The Hobbit, which use outside source material to extend a revered original, are dissected as fans determine which moments, if any, should have remained untouched. But I felt nothing but delight with the changes made to Breaking Dawn Part 2. Be warned, I am heading into spoiler territory here so if you haven’t seen the film, quit reading.

Fans of the book are familiar with the scene towards the end of the novel where the Cullen Family, now including Bella as a newly minted vamp, square off against the all powerful vampire coven the Volturi. The book has this moment highlight Bella’s power and also show how her friendship with the Quillet wolf pack pays big dividends by gaining her new family some impressive allies. But Bella’s powers are all defensive; the scene is one where talking – and a minimal show of powers – wins the battle.

While many changes were made to the film the only one that truly affected the quality of the movie was the one surrounding this scene. It added a much needed action sequence to what was almost too much sweetness. I remember the response in the theater – the mutters of anger at the change, the cries of anguish as beloved characters fates were changed before our eyes. The director handled this with such finesse that in the end I was delighted by the changes. I watched that particular scene three times in a row after purchasing the DVD.

It reminded me of other times when I was delighted with the changes made to a book to enhance the move. John Grisham’s The Firm was one such book-movie combo where I felt the movie actually improved portions of the story. I loved the movie Enigma but the novel of the same name by Robert Harris lacked the warmth of the film.
It’s rare for book people to love a movie more than a book or even like it at least as much. When has it happened for you?

-Maggie AAR

5 thoughts on “Movies That Meet (or Exceed) the Book

  1. Rosario

    I completely agree about Breaking Dawn. In fact, I thought all 5 of the movies were better than the respective books, but none more than the last.

    The other example I can think of is the film of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I saw the original Swedish version, not the American remake). It fixed the pacing problems in the book (the book basically finishes 150 pages before the end, IMO, and starts much too slowly!), and hugely improves the main character, Mikael Blomkvist. In the film, he’s much less of a male wish fulfilment figure, wanted by every single woman who sees him, and thus much more interesting. His relationship with Lisbeth also becomes a lot more nuanced.

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  2. Caz

    That’s a toughie. In general, where there are films that are as good as the book are the ones that manage to retain the spirit of the original, even though they might not always follow the plot doggedly.

    I remember thinking that the movie version of “L.A Confidential” as as good as the book, despite the changes that were made towards the end.

    I thought the film of “Emma” starring Gwynneth Paltrow was well-done (not better than the book of course!) but given it was a 2-hour film and that Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor were seriously miscast, it covered the story quite well and managed to retain the spirit of the original.

    “The Shawshank Redemption” was only a novella, but what a great movie! One of my all-time favourites.

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  3. chris booklover

    The Godfather is the best example of this. I actually liked the novel, although even Mario Puzo agrees that it could have been written better. The film, however, and its first sequel, The Godfather Part II, rank among the best ever made.

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  4. Jim Leinweber

    The Princess Bride movie is, I think, better than the book. But it’s atypical to start from a book written by an award-winning screenwriter, who then adapts the screenplay himself.

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