While in many instances, comparing films adaptations to their books is often a fools errand (as comparing media is like comparing apples and elephants) it’s interesting to see how a film can own the premise that a book presents and seemingly keep it as its own. These films are no longer considered “adaptations,” and probably haven’t been since before their release. Though they are of course, adapted works, they have so resolutely defined themselves outside of the context of the source material that they might as well be independent works.
This may come across as an implicit slam of the novels’ authors, seeing as how theei work has been eclipsed. Make no mistake, their work HAS been eclipsed, but I happen to view them as partial authors of a bigger story, one that couldn’t be told as well without the stirring visuals that a film production can provide. Though, the fact that I had read all of these books after seeing the movies surely taints that perception.
This list stems from consideration of the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation by David Fincher, who I find to be a director capable of owning his movies, whatever the source. While no one will ever argue that the book is an all-time great, Fincher always preserves the possibility that it could be the foundation for an all-time great film.
I’ve always felt if you’ve read one Chuck Palahniuk book, you’ve read them all. Perhaps I felt this way because I read about four over a two week span, getting all the details confused and conflated. Fight Club is hardly a distinct work in Palahniuk’s catalog, but it’s a testament to David Fincher and the cast to see just how insulated they make the nihilistic tale feel. Fincher has a way of making the unremarkable remarkable, as he recently did with The Social Network. Stories of internet startups aren’t supposed to be that captivating.
To see someone build on a writer’s irreverence and creativity, see Fight Club. To see them do nothing with it, watch Choke, a limp adaptation of a later Palahniuk work.
Sure, Stephen King did a great job with this haunting tale, killing an entire forest of trees to craft the chilling story of a family in isolation, trying to save themselves. However, it’s Stanley Kubrick’s touch, his ability to use dialog as sparingly as it’s used in real life, to terrify us as much as the family in the Overlook hotel. I feel it no slight against Stephen King to say that it is much easier to describe the ominous hotel than it is to show us. Considering how many iconic images there are from the movie (from the reveal of Jack Torrance’s “novel” to his breaking through the door, to the elevator doors unleashing a sea of blood down the hallway), this great book was clearly turned into a legendary movie.