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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The Classics Book Tag!

This tag was created by Vienna at It’s a Book World, and you can find the original post here. I wasn’t tagged by anyone (I just wanted to do this for fun~ 🙂 ), but I first came across it on the youtube channel perpetualpages. Now onto the tag!

1) What’s an over-hyped classic that you didn’t like?

George Orwell//1984Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. I wouldn’t say that it was over-hyped, exactly, so much as just not really to my taste. It made its point very well, and it was certainly interesting, I just didn’t enjoy it all that much.

2) What’s your favourite time period to read about?

Probably Regency England, as that was the time period Jane Austen wrote about, but to be honest I don’t really have a favourite time period. With me, it’s always more about the story than the setting.

3) What’s your favourite fairytale?

Growing up, I was particularly attached to the The Swan Princess (a cartoon adaptation of Swan Lake, which was itself adapted from a Russian folk-tale, though it seems uncertain which one or ones), as well as the Disney version of Robin Hood (I didn’t read all that much when I was little). These days, I’m probably most fond of The Goose Girl and Beauty and the Beast

4) What classic are you most embarrassed not to have read yet?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, without a doubt. I’ve been meaning to read it for such a long time, and so many people have told me that it’s their favourite classic…

5) What are the top five classics that you would like to read soon?

Jane Austen//Persuasion Thomas Hardy//Tess of the D'Urbervilles Charlotte Brontë//Jane Eyre Bram Stoker//Dracula Sarah Grand//The Heavenly Twins

6) What’s your favourite modern book (or series) that’s based on a classic?

Marissa Meyer//Cinder(Having not read very many of these, I’ll be going back to fairytales for this question!) Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles are the first thing to come to mind, since they’re fantastic. The first three books in the series are based on, respectively, CinderellaLittle Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel.

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlPhilip Pullman’s I was a Rat! is another great take on Cinderella, as is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levigne, and Shannon Hale has also written a great series called The Books of Bayern, the first of which is based on the Brothers Grimm tale, The Goose Girl.

7) What’s your favourite film or TV adaptation of a classic?

Pride & Prejudice

Ehle & Firth as Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy.

There a several that I really love, but the one I always come back to is the 1995 BBC mini-series of Pride & Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

A couple of honourable mentions: The 2004 adaptation of North & South, with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, and the 1979 take on the Flambards series, with Christine McKenna.

8) What’s your least favourite film or TV adaptation?

Usually if I don’t like an adaptation, then I’ll stop watching it, so there aren’t really any that I can really say I hated, but what I saw of the 1975 version of North & South  (with Patrick Stewart) was so bad it was funny, and I also wasn’t a huge fan of the 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice (with Keira Knightly & Matthew Macfadyen) – the imagery was beautiful, but the story was far too rushed…

9) What editions do you/would you like to collect?

The Folio Society publishes beautiful editions of most classics, but they tend to be rather pricey, so...

The Folio Society publishes beautiful editions of most classics, but they tend to be rather pricey, so…

... I will often pick the Vintage Classics editions instead.

… I usually buy the (also very lovely) Vintage Classics editions instead.

10) What’s an under-hyped classic that you’d recommend to everyone?

Alison Uttley//A Traveller in TimeMost of my all-time favourites are very well-known (Pride & PrejudiceEmmaNorth & South, etc.), but one that I don’t often hear people talking about is Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time, which tells the story of a girl called Penelope who finds herself slipping back and forth between 1934 and the 16th century, where Mary, Queen of Scots is imprisoned in Chartley Castle. It’s a really wonderful book, and its a shame that not that many people seem to have read it…