Thursday 20 June 2019

Should you really read the book before the movie release?

With more and more book adaptations hitting cinema screens, Darragh McManus helps you decide between the novel and film

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the big-screen adaptation of Gone Girl.
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the big-screen adaptation of Gone Girl.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Gone Girl, released tomorrow, is another of those movies that are almost guaranteed to be a smash-hit, mainly because they’re based on a bestselling book. While the Ben Affleck vehicle has got positive reviews so far, it’s more often the case that film adaptations miss the point completely. In other words, you’d be better off just reading the original book.

With a raft of page-to-screen adaptations on the way, we try and predict whether the movie will be better than the book…


Laura Hillenbrand

Release date: December 26.

The story looks fascinating: Louis Zamperini is a 1930s athletics star who fought in World War II and was shot down over the Pacific, is  then taken prisoner by the Japanese. But it’s directed by Angelina Jolie, who has little experience in the role.

Verdict: Book.

Mockingjay Part 1,

Suzanne Collins

Release date: November 21.

A single book gets divided into two money-devouring movies — a trick also used by Twilight and Harry Potter. In this instalment of the Hunger Games series, Katniss fights against the corrupt Capitol. They’ve been very good so far: cracking action, decent characterisation and powerful performances from Jennifer Lawrence. And the books, while exciting, lack finesse.

Verdict: Movie.

The Best of Me,

Nicholas Sparks

Release date: October 15.

High school sweethearts, Dawson and Amanda, reunite years later, on returning to their hometown. Sounds both icky and clichéd — haven’t we seen this before about a million times? But lead Michelle Monaghan is lovely, and anything’s better than actually reading a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Verdict: Movie.

The Hobbit,

JRR Tolkien

Release date: December 12.

This seemingly infinite prequel to The Lord of the Rings finally comes to an end in the laboriously titled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Bilbo Baggins, the wizard chap and some dwarves — all of them, annoyingly, played by non-dwarves — reach the end of their quest. Peter Jackson has completely done the dog on this, dragging three epic-length films out of one 200-page children’s book. But Tolkien’s novel remains wonderful.

Verdict: Book.

Where Rainbows End,

Cecelia Ahern

Release date: October 24.

This film version is called Love, Rosie for some reason, but presumably tells the same tale as the novel: childhood pals are separated by emigration and later fall in love. Doesn’t sound majorly enticing, but Sam Claflin and Lily Collins are an appealing lead couple.

Verdict: Movie


Ron Rash

Release date: October 24.

J-Law and Bradley Cooper pair up again in this 1920s-set story of a money-making and murder. The unfortunately named Ron Rash is also a pretty fine author — and literary novels tend to make flat, dreary, overly reverential films — so you’re probably better off sticking to the original.

Verdict: Book.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,

Judith Viorst

Release date: October 24.

Jennifer Garner is in this, which is good. Steve Carell is too, which isn’t so good. And shouldn’t we be encouraging children to develop their own imaginations with books, rather than staring goggle-eyed at a glowing screen?

Verdict: Book.

Inherent Vice,

Thomas Pynchon

Release date: January 30, 2015.

Pynchon’s unusual among the great old men of American letters, in that his novels are enjoyable, funny and original — the sort of thing that translates well to film. Inherent Vice is a story of private eyes and criminal shenanigans in 1970s Los Angeles. Paul Thomas Anderson is a brilliant director, and here he has a whopper of a cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro. It sounds like, and should be, a blast.

Verdict: Movie.

One film that was better

The Godfather

Mario Puzo’s original novel was poor enough fare. It told a rattling story, right enough, but the prose was clunky and the characterisation was slight. Francis Ford Coppola took this base metal and transmuted it into gold: The Godfather (Parts I and II are considered to be one film) is possibly the greatest work of cinema ever made.

Opera and theatre, love and death, hate and obsession… life and everything it encompasses. It’s all in there, brought to memorable life by legendary performances from Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton and a stellar supporting cast.

The Godfather was criticised for glamorising Mafia violence, but it’s only a gangster story on the surface. Look deeper, and you’ll find an almost Shakespearean narrative, tackling the big themes of existence.

And what about that endless supply of endlessly quotable lines? The Godfather really is an offer you can’t refuse.

Irish Independent

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