Monday, 23 September 2013

Top Ten | Book to Movie Adaptations (Part One)

Lately in the film world it seems as though there have been more film adaptations of books than films which have been written as just films. Film adaptations aren't just a recent phenomenon, however, they've been around for a long, long time; there are plenty of terribles ones (*cough*Eragon*cough*) but every so often a film is adapted so perfectly, or so uniquely, that it pleases readers of the book and even introduces film buffs to the original source material.
     So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the first five of my personal top ten book to movie adaptations!

Holes, dir. Andrew Davis (2003)
Based on Holes by Louis Sachar

As it was a book I was assigned to read in school, Holes was a book I was certain I wasn't going to like. Oh how wrong I was. Holes follows the story of Stanley Yelnats IV who, after a severe case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is accused and found guilty of a crime he didn't commit and sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention and correction facility where the 'inmates' are made to dig holes in the desert to build their character. But all at Camp Green Lake is not as it seems. The story includes a family curse, a doomed love story, a teacher-turned-outlaw, a hunt for treasure, yellow-spotted lizards and some onions. This story is not to be missed.
     I enjoyed Holes immensely and, luckily for my class, we were able to watch the movie adaptation in school too; we'd read a section, and then see how it had been adapted, and while there are some differences, as there always are in movie adaptations, I personally think it's very true to the book. The core feeling of the story is there, so whether you've read the book or not this is a film you simply have to see. But if you haven't read the book, what are you waiting for?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2004)
Based on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

As probably the most famous book series and film franchise out there, a Harry Potter book-turned-film just had to be on this list. In this third installment of the series the threat against Harry's life is not coming from Voldemort but from notorious criminal Sirius Black, who is not quite what everyone thinks and who is much closer to Harry than anyone could possibly imagine.
     Amongst Harry Potter fans, such as myself, this film is often considered one of the best adaptations in the franchise; it's very true to the book, stylistically beautiful and - this is very important! - Harry's hair is perfect. The Prisoner of Azkaban focuses much more on giving Harry a sense of home and family, and giving him a connection to his deceased parents, which is just what he needs given the amount of crap he's going to go through in his fourth year. I love this adaptation.

A Little Princess, dir. Alfonso Cuarón (1995)
Based on A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This film has a special place in my heart, alongside other childhood classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Swan Princess, and Tom's Midnight Garden. I watched this film a lot as a little girl. A lot. And as I grew older its simple message that: 'All girls are princesses; it is our right' would easily cheer me up if I was feeling glum, because let's face it every little girl wants to believe she's a princess.
A Little Princess follows the young Sara Crewe, the only daughter of a wealthy widower, who is sent away to Miss Minchin's boarding school in America from her beloved home in India when her father goes to war. When her father is killed in action Sara is left penniless, and she is forced to work as a serving girl for the cruel Miss Minchin. 
     In the original text, Sara is sent to a boarding school in England because she's at the age where wealthy little girls are sent to boarding school. Rather than being called to war, her father instead dies of jungle fever, and leaves Sara penniless after investing all of his money into diamond mines. Like in the film, Sara must earn her keep at the boarding school as a servant girl. Despite the differences, this adaptation is beautiful and very true to the message in the original story.
     Whether you approach the story through the book or the film - or both! - it's a hopeful tale for the princess in all of us.

Treasure Planet, dir. Ron Clements and John Musker (2002)
Based on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

If you thought the changes made to A Little Princess were severe then you obviously weren't anticipating Disney's take on Robert Louis Stevenson's swashbuckling adventure story. While the title has had a bit of a tweak, the only major difference between Treasure Island and Treasure Planet is the setting; while the former takes place on the seven seas, the latter takes place in space. Pretty cool, right?
When young delinquent Jim Hawkins finds himself in possession of the map to the infamous Captain Flint's treasure, he sets out on a quest to find the fortune that will solve all his problems, and along the way he befriends a cyborg cook who's missing a leg...
     If nothing else this adaptation is a lot of fun; seeing such a classic story re-told with a steampunk/sci-fi twist brings it to life in a whole new way for a whole new generation. Don't knock it 'til you try it!

The Silence of the Lambs, dir. Jonathan Demme (1991)
Based on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

"Buffalo Bill" has been murdering and skinning young women, and the FBI need to stop him before he strikes again. Clarice Starling is pulled from training at the FBI Academy to interview the dangerous and charismatic Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, in the hope that his knowledge may prove useful in the FBI's pursuit of "Buffalo Bill". Clarice and Dr Lecter begin to develop a peculiar relationship in which Clarice trades personal information, mostly involving the premature death of her beloved father, for Lecter's insight. Time is of the essence, particularly when the daughter of a US Senate goes missing.
     Only two words are needed to explain why this adaptation is on my list: Anthony Hopkins. In 1991 both he and Jodie Foster won Oscars for their leading roles in this film, which is amazing when, altogether, Hopkins is in the film for just over 16 minutes in total. A 16 minute Oscar winning performance, do you need any other reason to watch the film?

So there we have it, the first half of my top ten favourite book to movie adaptations. Check back next Monday to see the final half of my list!

Thanks for reading! J.

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