Book vs. The Movie/TV Show – You be the judge

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. Before I get to today’s topic, a few announcements:

  • The Scribes now have a Facebook Fan page (click here). Please stop by. We’d love it if you “liked” us!
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Now back to our show.

If your family and friends are anything like mine, you’ve had this conversation before. The book vs. the movie (or TV show) – which is better? Usually followed by passionate debate. The book readers tend to favor the book, mercilessly poking holes in the movie or TV version. The non-readers (who don’t have the book as reference) like the movie or show (unless the movie/show is bad and deserves the scorn).

For today’s discussion, let’s talk True Blood. Notice how I have used this opportunity to showcase the eye pleasing actor – Alexander Skarsgard. Yum. Okay, moving along…

Long before the show hit HBO and popular culture, I discovered a book by Charlaine Harris about a Louisiana barmaid who could read minds. The town of Bon Temp was populated with amazing and quirky denizens. In my head, I created mental images of all the characters. Sookie was Barbie doll pretty. Eric was tall, hot and hunky and Bill was dark and brooding. Sam was scruffy, yet cute. Jason was the typical jock, while Hoyt was a big loveable goofball.

When True Blood aired on HBO, I was pleasantly surprised by the casting. I love each of the actors and their portrayals. For me, they all pretty much match the image in my head of Charlaine Harris’ world. The only exception is Sookie. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Anna Paquin. She has the spunk and nerve of Sookie (just not the Barbie doll looks and that is okay!).

Storyline-wise – they have deviated from the books. And thank goodness, otherwise we wouldn’t have the spectacular Lafayette (as portrayed by the fabulous Nelsan Ellis) or Jessica (the fangtastic Deborah Ann Woll). To sustain a weekly TV program, the writers obviously had to stray from the original story. And in my opinion, they are doing an entertaining job.

There have been a couple of times when I thought the movie was better than the book. The two biggest are The Lord of The Rings and Stardust. There are so many book adaptations that have been horrid, that I can’t just pick one (okay, I lied – Percy Jackson – why did they have to do such a bad job!!).

Enough about what I think. What are your favorite adaptations? Which ones did you loathe? Debate and discuss!

21 thoughts on “Book vs. The Movie/TV Show – You be the judge”

  1. I thought that the HBO series GAME OF THRONES did an excellent job, especially with the casting.

    The all time worst casting of a movie adaptation has to be THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffith were rising stars, so some movie producer decided that their box office appeal would override the fact that they were terrible for the role. The movie tanked, deservedly.

    Runner up in bad casting of an adaptation has to be the ill-fated SyFy Series based on THE DRESDEN FILES, in which a short, sophisticated Brit was cast in the role of the rough-hewn, six-foot-six Marlboro man who wears a long leather duster.

    Movie adaptations of Stephen King novels swing from the truly awful (CUJO, PET SEMETARY) to the brilliant (STAND BY ME, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GREEN MILE).

    And I love THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, too, although I take some umbrage with the compression of the timeline. Moviegoers would never guess that seventeen years passed between Bilbo’s disappearance and the time when Frodo (at age 50) took off on his quest. They also combined two characters into one (do you know which two?) and eliminated the chapters involving Tom Bombadil. Although, on reflection, that might actually have been a GOOD thing…

  2. Omigosh – The Dresden Files was so bad, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Bob the skull was even more disappointing than Paul Blackstone’s casting as Harry. Seriously, Bob is not an uptight British ghost with white hair and a suit. He’s a rude, snarky skull!!

    And – Lord of The Rings – totally agree that Tom Bombadil needed to go. I actually skip that part in the books now. For the combined characters – I’m thinking the elf Glorfindel was replaced by Arwen and later on Legolas (who I thought showed up after the council meeting). It’s been a while since I’ve re-read the books. Am I close?

  3. I think the most popular adaptations are The Harry Potter franchise. Although the last movie was certainly the best inasmuchas camera tricks and computerized special effects, but to me the book was a million times better. The director in my brain sometimes sees things so differently than what is portrayed on film and, of course, the movie industry has to cut out so much in order to make the movie version, lest we sit in a dark theatre for 6 hours. To me, the book is always better, but I’m glad Hollywood keeps trying.

    1. Agree. I enjoyed the movies as movies. And they did leave a lot out from the books. I think those of us who read the books were “in the know” and had that extra layer of understanding. My husband and youngest son (non-readers – gasp!)still enjoyed and followed the movies. My older son and I would often chuckle at some of the story questions like did Snape really kill Dumbledore? We’d just sigh and say “read the book!”

  4. Casey, thanks for the oh-so-casual, not-quite-gratuitous placing of Eric on the page today! It’s been a long time since I read LOTR, so I’ll just have to wait till somebody tells me which characters were combined in the movies, which I loved. Tom Bombadil . . . wasn’t he the human, hippie-like guy living out in the forest foraging for hallucinogenic mushrooms? Or did I just make that up? Agree with Toni about the Stephen King books/movies and with Casey about Percy Jackson. Disappointing. I loved The Hunger Games and The Help and I’m looking forward to the movies coming out. As for True Blood, I enjoy the show more than I enjoyed the books, though I’ll continue reading them through to the end. And let’s not forget about Pride and Prejudice. The BBC adaptation with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (sigh!) and Jennifer Ehles as Elizabeth is about as perfect as it gets. Love that movie and the book equally and passionately.

    1. How could I forget P&P? There have been so many adaptations. My favorite for the longest time was the BBC version. Then when I saw the Kyra Knightly version, I really enjoyed that one too and it supplanted the other one as my favorite. I still love Colin Firth – he will always be the number Mister Darcy both the Jane Austen versions and in Bridget Jones.

  5. I thought the movie The Firm was better than the book, and I like A Time To Kill (the movie) WAY better than the book. I loved the Harry Potter movies, but I thought that as you got to the longer books, the story in the movies almost didn’t hold together if you hadn’t read the books.

    You know what books I’d love to see as movies: The Velvet series by Jude Deveraux and the For the Roses series by Julie Garwood. Truth be told, I don’t think Hollywood makes anywhere near enough period romances…

  6. First time reader, first post! I think, for me, it all depends on what type of book is being adapted. LOTR and HP are huge, dense books with a cast of thousands. I watched those movies expecting that there would be scenes cut, characters merged, with a condensed timeline. Which scenes are cut and how the characters are changed are what makes the difference as to whether I love (LOTR), like (HP), or despise (Tim Burton’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory/Alice in Wonderland) an adaptation. I expect a movie like Eat, Pray, Love to have a more faithful adaptation just because the story is smaller and more intimate (I haven’t read the book yet, btw, so I’m just guessing). I’m looking forward to seeing what Peter Jackson does with Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon.

    1. Hi Debra, welcome to our blog! I had no idea that Peter Jackson is turning Naomi Novik’s books into movies. I will have to watch for those. Hopefully he won’t take ten years to make them (like The Hobbit – though alot of that was not his fault!). Another recent book adaptation that I really enjoyed was Whip it (Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore – the roller derby movie). The author, Shawna Cross wrote the screenplay and did a great job of bringing her story to the big screen. It’s a fun movie and the book is enjoyable too.

      1. Thanks for the welcome, Casey. My understanding is that Peter Jackson has bought an option for Naomi Novik’s first book in the series. My best hope is that he’ll not only produce it, but direct as well.

  7. I love the Sookie Stackhouse series, but am not happy with some of the TV storylines. I know it’s Hollywood, and they have to keep things moving, but they are going to have to catch up or scamble when it comes to the later books. I do think they did a great job with casting. One series that I was concerned about re actors was the Tudors–Jonathan Rhys Meyers in no way resembled Henry the Eighth. But I was more than pleasantly surprised at how well he did in the role–he had the character, if not exactly the looks.

    1. It will be interesting to see how True Blood wraps back into the books’ main storyline. If they do at all. They seem to be on a totally different trajectory. I enjoyed the Tudors as well. I tried to like the Borgias, but I just didn’t care about the characters the way I did with the Tudors.

  8. Game of Thrones is the best adaptation and the best casting I’ve ever, ever seen. Perfection. I like the casting in True Blood, and I’m glad Lafayette is still alive (great character), and I think Jessica is a brilliant addition, but I’m not enamored of the other changes. Too many characters, too far from the original story, too many storylines.

  9. I have to be honest, I have not read the Song of Fire and Ice books. I’m afraid to start a series that will derail me from writing (cause I’ve been known to do that before!). I did enjoy the HBO version.
    Time will tell what happens with True Blood. This year in particular, I feel like I’m watching characters I know but not the story anymore (though I’m still enjoying the show). Alan Ball has said in interviews that they are deviating on purpose to keep us fans enticed. We’ll see how that plays out – enticed vs. confounded.

  10. Hi Casey, looks like this blog created a great deal of interest. My best movie vs book is the classic “Gone with the Wind.” Scarlet depicted in the book is Scarlet on the screen. I read the book ions ago, at the tender age of 19, on the subway, on the way to work downtown Brooklyn. I saw the movie, can’t remember when it came out, and repeated same within the last 2 years. Talk about powerful women … Scarlet, especially when it was written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936, women finally had the vote. We know what the author’s dreams were, wouldn’t you say? Her dreams came true, we politic and we do get paid same as the male population … at least in women’s tennis. Quite a saga this “Gone with the Wind.

    1. I didn’t see Gone With the Wind until I was out of college. But I am so glad I waited because I saw in a movie theater and it was a fantastic experience. There are some scenes that could only be amazing on the big screen like the wounded soldiers on the railroad tracks and the burning of Atlanta. Later, I read the book. I enjoyed both.

  11. A few of the books and movie adaptations that I have enjoyed include: Chocolat; Like Water for Chocolate; The House of the Spirits; Dolores Claiborne; Secret Window, Secret Garden; Howards End; the Harry Potter Series, The Shipping News, and GoodFellas (it is a Scorsese’s masterpiece based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy as told by mobster Henry Hill). Some of the books that were good but the movies not, in my opinion included: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; The Bonfire Of The Vanities; Bicentennial Man; The Hours; The Great Gatsby and The Quiet American (the older version) to only name a few. And last but not least, the movies that I thought were enjoyable while the books were not something that I could appreciate as much include: The Graduate; The Godfather; Casablanca (Everybody Comes to Rick’s); and GoodFellas (though both the book and movie are great, the movie somehow was made better by Scorsese’s efforts). You can’t tell but I enjoyed this blog. I love thinking about things like this because I am forced to contemplate what makes a book good and why. Sometimes I guess that it is just by reflecting on what you see on the screen and reading the counterpart with a writer’s eyes, that you can come up with the choices that you need to make in order to create a great work and not one that is “run-of-the-mill.” Thanks.

    Debralee Mede

    1. Thank for stopping by and commenting Debralee. Speaking if Scorcese, one of my favorite movies is The Age of Innocence. It’s a visual feast for the eyes and brought a depth to the story that I didn’t get from reading the book alone. I never get tired of watching the elaborate sets, period costumes and social interactions of the gilded age.

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