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Best Novel to Movie Adaptations- is the Silver Screen Worth the Page This Time?

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I have a rule in my life—I never watch the movie before reading the book on which it was based. This is because if the book isn’t incredible, there is an 85% chance that the movie will be a fiasco, since movies almost never live up to the book. If I find the book to be spectacular, only then do I go and spend my time on the movie or show based on it.

The problem with adaptations is that they can never appeal to everyone. This is because when somebody reads a book, they imagine a completely different world for the characters than somebody else who has also read the book. When they see the movie, which will be the same for both, it will surely be a closer match to one of the person’s imaginative world than the other’s. Then sometimes, the movie might be completely different than both of their interpretations or might turn out to be a better rendering of the book for one of them. There are a million possibilities as to how a person will react to a movie based or adapted from a book.

The film industry is really odd—most of the time they don’t think of their own films, but just take the penned words of an author and turn those into something that doesn’t capture the essence of the carefully crafted words of the author. But thankfully, not all films adapted from books are like Ginny Weasley in the movies. Here are five of the best novel-to-movie adaptations.

Little Women (2019)

I am in love with the book. I have read Little Women more than 16 times, and Jo March is everything I have ever wanted to be. And Greta Gerwig’s rendition of Alcott’s story is just the freshest adaptation ever. Gerwig took a one hundred and fifty year old piece of feminist literature, added a modern tone to it, and brought it out to the world at the perfect time. The chaos of the overlapping personalities of the March sisters, the subtle prominence of female strength, and the motherly, warm atmosphere of the entire book are all perfectly captured in the movie.

Jo March, the reason Little Woman became a phenomenon and is cherished by readers after all these years, is portrayed in an unparalleled way by Saoirse Ronan, and her chaotic and tumultuous energy is brought by her in the best way possible. Timothée Chalamet perfectly captured Laurie’s headstrong personality and I love how Gerwig didn’t show Amy as the bratty youngest sister, but gave her a raucous and mercurial personality, rivalling Jo’s own. The coolest part of the movie is that it was shot in and around Concord, where Alcott and her family lived!

A group of women standing in a roomDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

I'm a huge Potterhead. I am completely obsessed with The Wizarding World, and if you don’t think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best movie out of all 7 (not counting Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts), you are either kidding yourself or you’re a humbug. Other than the fact that everybody hits puberty in the movie, it perfectly captures the time when Harry and his friends transition from kids to teenagers. Daniel Radcliffe is just at his peak here, and he just gets into his character, portraying Harry’s anger splendidly. We get to see some of the most iconic moments of the whole series, including Hermione punching Malfoy (you go, girl!), the Time-Turner, and Harry’s stag. We are also blessed with brilliant performances from Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman (R.I.P), and David Thewlis as Sirius, Snape, and Remus. Not to mention, Gambon is at his best playing Dumbledore in this movie. Bonus point of this HP movie? No zero personality movie Ginny!

Ready Player One (2018)

Although I won’t say that this was Spielberg’s best work, Ready Player One is not his worst work either. It's a good film not because of the storytelling, which was kind of unfulfilling and empty, but because of the way the film merges reality and the virtual world together. The film itself is thrilling, chock full of action sequences and big explosions, and it is the film to watch with friends and family for a fun time. Though not a film that you would want to watch more than once, like others of Spielberg’s creation, Ready Player One has some great lessons to learn, like finding a purpose in life (though how it is visualised in the film wasn’t the best), so there is no sudden urge to escape from reality because it is hard. The only thing I would say about this movie is that it is the best possible version that could have been made from the material, because in my opinion, video game movies don’t work that well. This was a commendable effort, and I don’t think anyone other than Spielberg could have pulled it off.

The Life of Pi (2012)

This movie is a miracle. Everyone thought that this book was unfilmable. A boy on a raft with a lion and random animals? How do you stretch that into a 2 hour movie? But somehow, Ang Lee created a poetic masterpiece out of the bestselling book. The movie shows that Lee has spiritual and visual mastery, and his awesomeness shines through the movie.

The movie is more than a raft in the middle of the sea, it is a whole journey, the journey of how a human can be resourceful and learn to live with others, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Even if there is a possible danger to our life, we can learn how to turn the potential danger into something harmless, and even helpful to us.

Although most of the scenes of Richard Parker, the tiger, were CGI, Sundar Sharma, who played Pi, gave a remarkable performance, as he grows wiser and learns how to survive. Men and animals regard each other with incomprehension. We don’t understand each other, and therefore, we believe that the other one is a threat to us. The movie shows us that this can change when one spends enough time trying to understand. During the course of 227 days, the man and the tiger come to the realization that neither one is the master, or a victim of the other, but another being, just a mortal treading the earth like countless others. The movie shows this in a simplistic way, one which we can try to comprehend.

Matilda (1996)

“I'm smart, you’re dumb, it doesn’t matter if you’re forty years older.” That’s the main theme of Matilda, and it is constantly proved by the child protagonist of the book, Matilda Wormwood, a child prodigy with lazy, obnoxious, and stupid parents who don’t feel that she is worthy of their attention. Danny DeVito, the director, has an impish sense of humour, and it shines through the movie. Matilda the movie is as magical as Matilda the book. It seemed as if Roald Dahl himself casted the actors, because each one of them was absolutely splendid in their roles. Mara Wilson, who played Matilda, shone in the performance. From her mannerisms to her soft voice, Wilson was Matilda herself.

The movie is, at its core, a dark family comedy that is suited for older children, but all ages can watch it and love it. It shows how neglect of a child can lead to severe consequences, but it is shown in a way that leaves one with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Matilda doesn’t condescend to children, and shows that age is not a barrier. It is an amazing adaptation, one worth watching.

Sarah Bisht
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Sarah is a 14 year old podcaster, blogger, writer, and producer. She founded a media production company called TriPod Media in 2020, which currently produces two podcasts, Word Affinity, and Storytime With Kabeer. She also founded a podcast, and a blog, both which are named Word Affinity. Other than writing and podcasting, Sarah likes reading classic and dystopian novels, participating in MUNs, listening to podcasts about science, and perusing books about investing and managing money.