I have to admit — Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane got me.  The twists of the conspiracy vs insanity plot played out on a hurricane lashed island/mental hospital didn’t disappoint.   I love a suspenseful, unexpected ending that brings all the details together in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.   But what about the upcoming movie?  Scheduled to be released spring 2010, can the movie really be as good as the book?

Let’s consider I Am Legend.  In the movie, Will Smith’s character becomes “legend” for saving humanity rather than being the last of his kind as in the Matheson story, completely changing that “ah-ha” moment of clarity that the title implied to a Hollywood happy ending. Needless to say, the movie let down many readers, including me.  Disappointment would be putting it mildly for those who saw My Sister’s Keeper after reading the Jodi Picoult novel.  The blanket disclaimer “based on the book” may provide the author a hefty paycheck, but doesn’t forgive the hatchet job that happened to the plot. The librarian in me loved the marketing provided to the book, but at the same time wanted to scream, “What’d you mean she dies! I just sat through an hour and a half of this movie and you kill the wrong person!”

But then, what better way than a movie to convey the action or sheer magic contained in some stories?  I can’t imagine the white-knuckle ride of Ludlum’s Bourne series or the intimacy of Ambrose’s Band of Brothers being adequately put into words.  And bless Kenneth Branagh for allowing a house containing three males to experience the beauty of Shakespeare’s language with understanding and laughter through his version of  Much Ado About Nothing.

So, I’ll probably skip Shutter Island in the theater. Why ruin a good book? Besides I already know the ending….

Click here to see a list of books made into movies.

What’s the worst—or best—book made into a movie you’ve seen?

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8 Responses

  • Erica Posted November 4th, 2009

    I know people will probably hate me for saying this, but I thought Twilight was a much better movie than the book. The movie does a nice job of condensing boring, overworked areas of the plot and also, the movie makes Edward seem much more romantic and affectionate. In the book, I found him to be (at times) creepy and stalker-ish.

  • Tony Posted November 4th, 2009

    I’m not a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy’s writing, but I loved No Country for Old Men. The adaptation was faithful to the plot of the book, but the script writers also added their own touch to the story.

  • Monica Posted November 4th, 2009

    Although I’m in general agreement with you on the movie vs book debate, I think that when its done right…the movie can really hit home. Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” is such a thrilling mystery that I loved solving on the page, but I think the movie is in great hands. Some of my favorite movies from the past decade like “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” have been adapted from Dennis Lehane mysteries.

  • lk Posted November 5th, 2009

    One great book/movie adaptation was Atonement. The movie did a nice job of paralleling a really complex book. Although, I’m not sure that people would enjoy the movie if they didn’t first read the book… it’s kind of cryptic. A terrible adaptation was The Grinch Who Stole Christmas movie (with Jim Carey). Ugh. I’ll take the cartoon version over that any day.

  • Caroline Posted November 5th, 2009

    Erica, you are right about one thing, people WILL hate you for that comment! I think the Twilight movie makes both Edward and Bella seem annoying and whiny. The fact that Edward is slightly creepy/stalker-ish makes his character more interesting. Some of the parts that were left out of the movie were crucial to the development of both characters and their relationship. The movie comes off as a lot more teen angst and a lot less love story. And I must point out for all those fans on Team Edward that Edward would NEVER say “Hold on tight, Spider Monkey”!

  • Rachel Posted November 6th, 2009

    I love the movie Apocalypse Now, loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which was a painful-to-read novella that I had to write a paper on in college (ugh). Great music, imagery, and an insane Marlon Brando make the film head and shoulders above the book. On the other hand, even though I enjoy the movies, none of the Harry Potter films hold that same magic that the books do–I’d much rather curl up with the book.

  • Lisa Posted November 10th, 2009

    I think that the movie The Shining is far better than the book. I read the book after seeing the movie and was disappointed by the lack of creepiness and sheer terror. The plot was actually a little strange, even for Stephen King, who I normally love.

  • Joshua Posted November 29th, 2009

    Where my greatest author has had the majority of his novels turned into movies or optioned to be done so, the majority of them have been rather good. Except for Timeline, I am talking about Michael Crichton and personally Timeline was the worst movie adaptation of a book that I have seen in a long time. I am a big fan of Cormac McCarthy’s the Road and I can’t wait to see that movie especially from what I have been hearing that it is very similar to the book.