When movie studios elect to bring a novel to the movie screen, the result is not always a success. In fact, many adaptations are not well received by audiences for one reason or another. The problems are usually in the adaptation process; not every novel is designed for film. Each year, however, there are several movies based on books that are released to an abundant fanfare.
Bringing Novels to Film
Novels are usually not created to be turned into movies. They are designed to entertain and inform audiences. When a novel is selected to become a movie, the studio buys the rights from the author and publisher. Then a screenwriter is hired to condense the novel into a two-hour film. Action, sexiness, story complications, and other details are added to make the novel more relatable to film audiences. In many cases, the film closely resembles the novel. However, film adaptations usually have their own appeal with audiences.
Every studio’s dream is to turn a novel series into a long-running and successful film series. Few have been more successful that the James Bond series. Written by Ian Fleming in 1953, the series is about a British spy with womanizing ways-a modernity that appealed to a wide audience. Fleming died in 1964, but films made from his book series live on, with releases slated through 2013. Four actors have played Bond over the years, along with a slew of sexy female love interests to accompany him.
The teen market is a ripe one for the book series adaptation. The “Twilight” book series raked in billions of dollars for Summit Films, while “The Hunger Games” trilogy is slated to bring just as much money or more into the box office. “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has spawned three blockbuster summer films that appeal to the tween market, while adults have made the “Bridget Jones Diary” series a success. There is also the “Chronicles of Narnia,” a children’s book series by C.S. Lewis that has appealed to audiences of all ages.
Not every movie announces its novel origins. Even some of the hits originating from books never really trumpeted their literary origins. Dennis Lehane’s books are an example. He wrote the novels that became “Mystic River” and ” Gone, Baby, Gone,” both films that were very popular with thriller fans. Elmore Leonard is another author with wildly popular novel-to-film adaptations and little acknowledgment. His works include “Out of Sight,” “Be Cool,” “Get Shorty,” “The Big Bounce,” “Bandits,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Jackie Brown” from the book “Rum Punch.” The famous “Brokeback Mountain” was a story by E. Annie Proulx. Even the Nicole Kidman Civil War flick “Cold Mountain” was a forgotten novel of the same name, by Charles Frazier. So many more novels suffer the same fate each year.
Novel to Movie Classics
Some of the most classic films to American film buffs were also rooted in novels. “Rambo” was a book series by David Morrell before becoming a classic vigilante film franchise. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is a classic teen film adapted from the novel written by Cameron Crowe. The domestic abuse dramatic classic “The Color Purple” is an Alice Walker novel turned film. “Girl Interrupted,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and “Munich” are classic films that have their roots in novels of the same name.
Graphic Novel Roots
A ripe source of movie material in the twenty-first century, graphic novels have spawned some very well-received films. Frank Miller is the most successful author with his novels “Sin City” and “The 300,” both of which became widely successful films. They join “Ronin,” “The Spirit,” and “Daredevil.” Alan Moore followed with “V for Vendetta” and “Watchmen,” both very well received by action audiences. Other successful graphic novel-to-film adaptations include “Constantine,” (a Moore novel), “Judge Dredd,” “Howard the Duck,” “The Crow,” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (another Moore creation), among others.
Taking the novel to the film screen is not a new thing nor is it a novel approach. Hollywood finds a lot of inspiration in the pages of some of the most popular novels and also in some of the most obscure. In many cases, the novel fans flock to the film, but the reverse is also true. So, the next time a great film graces the big screen, search the library for the book version.