Posted by: Yona Williams | September 30, 2008

Books Versus Film Adaptations

Books Versus Film Adaptations – What Makes for a Better Experience?

Instead of watching my usual episode of “Wife Swap” while on the elliptical, I decided to use this time more constructively by cracking open my copy of “Hannibal” by Thomas Harris. Yes, this is the same book that was turned into a movie starring Julianne Moore – a sequel to “Silence of the Lambs.” I’ve finished the first six chapters and started thinking:

What enhances the literary journey more? Reading a book before watching a movie or watching an adaptation, and then deciding to read the book?

I’ve been on both sides of the coin before and I’d have to say – it could go either way. Let’s take “The Stand” by Stephen King for example. This mammoth post-apocalyptic horror/science fiction book full of vivid detail and unforgettable characters is one of my favorites.

I remember reading around 1,300 pages when I first picked up the book, which I devoured in high school. However, going over a profile to ‘refresh’ my memory on certain details, it states that the book is only 823 pages long. Maybe when I was younger, it felt like 1,300 pages. Nonetheless – I never wanted it to end.

When they announced a mini-series for “The Stand, I was thrilled! Unfortunately, I never watched the whole thing. The weak attempt to recreate the character development and plot was just too disappointing. Despite having a cast that consisted of Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis, and Ed Harris – there were just too many key points and important images omitted for the sake of moving along the storyline. 366 minutes is not long enough to master “The Stand.”

However, sometimes watching a movie creates unbridled enthusiasm and excitement for turning pages of the ‘real thing.’ This was the case in Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.” The heartfelt humor of Idgie and Ruth unfolding across the screen persuaded me to pick up the book. Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson did a superb job at bringing to life the characters, so much so – it greatly enhanced my reading experience, as I could fully envision Flagg’s artistic exploration of human relationships.

So far, watching “Hannibal” before reading the paperback is not turning out as well as I had planned. Perhaps, it’s because it’s a thriller with a plot and ending most likely duplicated by the movie. I’m finding it hard to connect with the characters. I wanted to read this book so now I’m stuck with it – all 546 pages of it. I’m hoping the reviews come true, such as:

A magnificently gory page-turner” – Detroit Press

…but hopefully long before USA Today’s Larry King’s assessment:

“…the last 100 pages are the best I’ve ever read in the thriller genre.

Now, it’s your turn.

Share with us your favorite or not-so-favorite film adaptations…



  1. Ah I’ve had this discussion many-a-time even if no one is listening.

    The Bourne Identity (by Robert Ludlum) is a fabulous book and I couldn’t put it down, however the movie doesn’t do it any justice. Speaking to my friends who have only seen the movie, they would disagree. The Bourne Identity I suppose is a good movie if you’ve never read the books – but the truth is that the movie is based on a novel and yet it’s so far from it. Main characters are missing, they changed Bourne’s past and all things that make this story what it is.

    On the flip side, A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks is a stellar movie, very cute and romantic. The book – mediocre

  2. Ohhhhh – I have always and will always say that the books should be read AFTER you’ve seen the movies. If you read the books first, you will almost always be disappointed by the movies. In fact, if a movie is made from a book that I’ve loved – I am extreeeeeemely nervous to see it.

    I thought ‘The DaVinci Code’ (movie) was pretty good, though. With every other movie that I’ve seen after reading a book – I was disappointed. I love the idea of this post! Great job.

  3. Sorry to say – I was unable to complete ‘Hannibal’ – the book just ‘wasn’t doing it for me.’

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