Fans of the original source material often get a sour taste once they see a movie adapt from their favorite book. Usually, they are right as the novel tends to beat out the Hollywood edition like some recent Stephen King adaptions. In rare cases like these, the film can reach the same level of quality or rise above the author’s creation.
Before anyone riots, this is based on what I have seen and read. If anything gets missed, it is because I only watched the movie and not read the book.
#4: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, adapted by David Fincher
David Fincher is a master at taking someone else’s work and making it his own while still being respectful to the author’s work. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is undoubtedly better than the movie by how it develops Nick and Amy as individuals and as a couple (played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). But the film reaches the bar by perfectly casting the already memorable characters, beautiful cinematography, and hitting all the right beats in the narrative.
If I had to choose my favorite adapted screenplay, this might get the award as I adore both the book and Fincher’s on-screen depiction.
#3: The Mist by Stephen King, adapted by Frank Darabont
I could pick a far better Stephen King novel that hit the big screen like the 2017 reboot of IT or the classic Shawshank Redemption, but I chose the sorely out of date 2007 flick. Sure, it has some painful CGI and could have plenty of other criticisms thrown at it. What puts Darabont’s film on the list is by how it matches up with what was written back in 1980 by the King of horror and its ending.
SPOILER: The ending of the book comes when the survivors escape by a car and run out of gas. Uncertain of death or rescue, they are trapped and must wait to see what happens. It ends with an ambiguous conclusion that felt too easy to be put on the paper.
The movie makes the protagonist, David (Thomas Jane) resort to shooting his son, and other survivors due to being stuck in the middle of the mist, surrounded by monsters. Then as he steps out of the vehicle to await his demise since he does not have a bullet for himself, the military arrives to save the day. It is heartbreaking and far more memorable than the bland end that King delivered.
#2: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, adapted by Mary Harron
Unpopular opinion, Mary Harron’s American Psycho reigns over the novel. I enjoyed Ellis’ writing, but the pacing was off, and the ending did not satisfy as much. Both share all of the same characteristics, but the film was given that extra push by better social commentary and Christian Bale’s stellar performance.
Ellis has too much psychopathic nonsense with Patrick Bateman without much substance. The filler hinders the actual plot and characters. When it starts to read well, it is brilliant and brutal, but the film tightens everything up so well.
#1: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, adapted as Let Me In by Matt Reeves
Sorry, I am not talking about the Swedish version that was directed by Tomas Alfredson. I only have seen Reeves’ Americanized adaption, so that is where we are going.
Lindqvist has the development of characters, a deeper narrative, and the violence to satisfy the horror fan in me. Reeves was able to take that to a more American audience by keeping the emotion and terror in this relationship between a boy and a vampire.
Reeves keeps it tighter, which in some ways hurts the film, but also enhances its experience. He makes it his own while maintaining the most essential ingredients to not step on Lindqvist’s masterpiece.
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Image via Lions Gate