6 book-to-film adaptations

Stories so good they made it to the big screen

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

This week sees the release of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at cinemas. Now, forgive us when we say a film based on a textbook doesn’t sound like our cup of tea. However, this is no ordinary textbook, no sir, this one’s about Magizoology, the study of magical creatures (duh). Harry Potter himself couldn’t put the book down during his days at Hogwarts. The film is of course a prequel to the blockbuster Harry Potter film series, and it’s also JK Rowling’s screenwriting debut. Potter fans around the world are expected to lap up the adaptation. After all, sales from the novel raised over £17 million (of which 80% went to charity). That said, a top-selling novel doesn’t automatically equal a success at the box office. We’ve looked at some other recent books-to-film adaptations, but did they capture the magic of the original or did Hollywood go and ruin it all?

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

After struggling to come-to-terms with her recent divorce, and her ex’s new life (don’t you hate it when that happens) a woman spots something fishy going on with a couple she sees on her daily commute. Rachel, played by the brilliant Emily Blunt, begins watching the pair, who live in her old neighborhood, to take her mind off her ex-husband, who now lives with his new wife and child. Megan and Scott Hipwell live the perfect life – in Rachel’s head at least – until one day she’s convinced she sees something shocking happening in a dark tunnel. The following day Megan is reported missing and Rachel has woken up covered in cuts and bruises, with no recollection of the night before. When it was released in 2015 Paula Hawkins’ novel broke records, topping the hardback charts for 20 weeks.

DOES IT WORK?

When a book sells over three million copies the film version almost has too much to live up to. While Blunt does a sterling job, the glamorization of events and moving the story from London do New York left most fans disappointed.

VERDICT: Read the book

THE BFG by Roald Dahl

Steven Spielberg was given the mammoth task of adapting one of the all time classic children’s novels for the big screen. As the story goes, a young girl named Sophie becomes friends with a big friendly giant (known as the BFG funnily enough) after he plucks her from her bedroom. After initially being scared of the giant, Sophie’s nerves are calmed when the BFG explains how he captures children’s dreams to them make them come true, while destroying all nightmares. Fans of the 1982 book weren’t pleased with some of the differences in the film which dumbed-down the film. Notably, in the original novel the nasty giants eat children, which is not once shown in the film adaptation.

DOES IT WORK?

The world is a different place from when the BFG originally came out in the early eighties and a lot of the story’s magic is lost in the film. If anything, Spielberg has played it too safe in making it more family-friendly.

VERDICT: Read the book 

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child
Tom Cruise returns as former U.S. army major Jack Reacher. This time, Reacher is taken into custody for crimes he’s said to of committed during his army days. To complicate things, he may also have a child he’s never met. The first adaptation of Lee Child’s popular franchise – entitled Jack Reacher - did okay at cinemas, and well enough with DVD/home-viewing sales to help push through the making of this second flick. Child has released over 20 books thus far and Reacher has a cult following so, Cruise still has a lot to do to win over the novels’ die-hards.

DOES IT WORK?
Critics labeled Tom Cruise, too good-looking, too short and too dull after his first stab at playing Jack Reacher. Our hunch is fans will never prefer the films.

VERDICT: Read the book

THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling
Disney’s recent release is arguably the best CGI on screen since Avatar. The film is an adaptation of the 1967 version of Rudyard Kipling’s all-time favourite children’s tales. The film’s stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba, do a great job of bringing the story to life. Raised by wolves, a bear and a panther, young Mowgli has to return to his village when Shere Khan, a ferocious tiger is on his case. The up-beat songs from the cartoon animation are gone and the film is darker and more adult than you’d expect.

DOES IT WORK?
In a word, yes. It’s worth seeing just for the blistering animation alone. While it’s not an exceedingly good movie, it’s one Mr. Kipling would be proud of, we’re sure.

VERDICT: Watch the film

THE CIRCLE – by Dave Eggers

Filming began last month on the upcoming sci-fi adventure, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. The novel centers on Mae Holland, played by Watson, who lands a job at The Circle, a big-shot Internet firm. To begin with Holland loves her new job, but after agreeing to test SeeChange, a new camera prototype which films your every movement, which are watched by your virtual followers, things soon get out of control. Holland’s willingness to be ‘transparent’ ultimately leads to jealously, stress and tragedy. The adaptation is due out in the early part of next year.

DOES IT WORK?

Any film with, take a breath… Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton, as the stars surely can’t be a flop.

VERDICT: There’s time to read the book and see the film!

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE by Diane Ackerman

Based on a true story, the film adaptation, recounts events during World War II, where Zookeepers Jan and Antonia Żabiński, saved 300 Jews by hiding them in animal cages. The book has been described as groundbreaking by critics and reached number 13 on the New York Times best-seller list. Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain plays Antonia, while Johan Heldenbergh plays the role of Jan. If the book’s anything to go by, the film adaptation will be a heart-wrenchingly real account of life in Poland following the Nazi invasion.

DOES IT WORK?

If done well, which we expect, only the heartless will be able to watch this film without feeling emotionally involved.

VERDICT: Watch the film