I love good movies and good books, and few things are better than finding a good book that is depicted well, and perhaps even improved upon, in a film adaptation. There are many great movies that could even be considered better than the novels from which they came: The Hunt for Red October (1990), Misery (1990), and The Shining (1980) are three examples of film adaptations of popular novels done well. The respective authors, Tom Clancy and Stephen King, usually get top-dollar film adaptations for their bestsellers. Other authors are not so lucky, and their bestsellers often get substandard treatment. Dean Koontz, for example, routinely has novels that become TV movies with lower-budgets and lower-wattage star power. Three TV movies, an original and two sequels, have been made from Koontz’ 1987 novel Watchers…and they were pretty bad.
A great example of one of my favorite movies to come from a novel is Jurassic Park (1993). Though the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton was top-notch, the movie actually improves upon print by simplifying the storyline. In the movie, the tropical island featuring the dinosaur preserve is down to a skeleton crew staff and a small group of visitors due to an evacuation of personnel just ahead of a powerful tropical storm, amplifying the “humans versus carnivorous monsters” tension. In the book, however, there appeared to be many more people around after the storm, adding complexity that hindered from the tension and action. Additionally, the movie did a fantastic job of bringing a complex and ambitious story to light: Putting realistic-looking dinosaurs on the big screen was no mean feat! By succeeding at difficult special-effects while keeping the story fast-paced and tense, Jurassic Park is one of the best book-to-movies transitions.
A great example of one of my favorite books being butchered by a film adaptation is exemplified by The Stand TV miniseries (1993). I was an avid fan of Stephen King’s 1990 re-write of his iconic novel, which modernized the storyline. Massive in scope, emotion, and nuance, The Stand was probably far too much novel to try to bring to the screen with its multiple subplots and broad spanse of action. For such a grand novel, the film production seemed cheap, poorly written, and featured bad special effects. Perhaps today’s technology could make a good adaptation of this novel but 1993 technology, combined with a seemingly minimal budget, ruined it.