Differently Great

(OR: ADAPTATIONS THAT CHANGE THINGS UP
WITHOUT SUFFERING FOR IT.)

When books are adapted for the screen, I tend to shove them into one of two categories, “faithful” or “rubbish”, and I suspect that this is a common trait among book lovers. After all, if I love a book enough to want to consume it as more than one form of media, I’m not likely to be happy about significant changes to the plot or characters (or even aesthetic, though that’s more forgivable, I think, as no two people are going to imagine something exactly the same, however well it’s described)… Of course, not all writing translates well to the screen, so changes sometimes really do need to be made – but this can often sour the opinions of the books’ biggest fans.

I’ve been thinking about adaptations quite a bit lately, as the release of the new Mortal Engines film inches closer and closer; it’s one of my childhood favourites, and so far I’m feeling optimistic about the adaptation (which I will absolutely be seeing at the earliest opportunity!), even if they do end up making some changes… So I thought I’d share with you some films (and a TV series) that I thought bucked the trend, and managed to be great in their own way, despite diversions from their source material. 😊

1) How to Train Your Dragon

More inspired by Cressida Cowell’s series of novels than actually based on it, this film retains the heart and main character of its source material, but changes basically everything else. I can’t think of anything specific in the books that would make these changes strictly necessary, but since the result was so fantastic, I don’t really mind… The two are different enough that it’s easy to think of them as entirely unrelated, to be honest, but it’s absolutely worth reading/watching both.

2) The Little Prince

The 2015 adaptation (available on Netflix, if you couldn’t tell from the thumbnail!) of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s classic novel is actually remarkably faithful, but the original story only takes up about half of the film. A new storyline, where the book’s narrator is befriended by a new protagonist (a little girl who is rather more grown-up than one would expect from a child her age) plays out alongside the old one, to make a story-within-a-story that is incredibly well-executed. I couldn’t recommend this film more. 💕

3) Howl’s Moving Castle

Contrary-wise, fans of Studio Ghibli’s interpretation of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel (of the same name) might be surprised to know that parts of the book are set not in the fantasy world of Ingary, but in 1980s Wales, and that Howl is actually a Welshman called Howell, as this detail was cut entirely from the film. There are other (quite significant) changes as well, from the war that Miyazaki invented, to the modified roles of many of the supporting characters, and even the different aesthetic of Howl’s castle itself (described as a wizard’s tower in the book, but a beautiful steampunk monstrosity in the film) – but both versions are absolutely wonderful.

4) The 100

The CW version of Kass Morgan’s post-apocalyptic series The 100, is perhaps a slightly dubious addition to this post, as I found the books enjoyable, but not great. So I was very much in favour of almost all the changes that the TV series’ writers and directors made… and I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if die-hard fans of the books were less impressed by the adaptation. These changes, needless to say, are too numerous to list, but I did write a whole discussion post about them a little while ago, as I found it quite interesting spotting what changes were – and weren’t – made. You can find it here, but beware of (minor) spoilers.

5) Ella Enchanted

This last one  – which is a loose adaptation of Gail Carson Levigne’s Cinderella-retelling – is one that some people may argue against, as I know that the film of Ella Enchanted isn’t the most popular… but I really enjoyed it. It’s a much more light-hearted take on Levigne’s original story, and misses out a lot of important story moments, but is still great fun. It will likely appeal to a much narrower age range than the book, however.

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