Keeping it reel

Louise Wilson

Film Reel (Photo Credit: derrickcollins)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bookworm in possession of their favourite story must be in want of a good film adaptation. Sadly, though, most of us feel let down when our favourite books hit the big screen – they either leave too much out, the characters do not live up to our expectations, or the film just completely misses the whole point of the book.

However, there is a silver lining to this disappointing cloud. Difficult as it may be to believe, not every film is doomed to be worse than the book. Some are just as good, and some, dare I say it, are better. Here are five films that I believe were much better than the book they were based on.

Bringing Down The House

Robert Luketic’s ’21’ brought the largely unknown book ‘Bringing Down The House’ into the limelight back in 2008. The book is a great recollection of all the events of the MIT students who ‘took Vegas for millions’, but something about it just doesn’t flow. It’s written as though all the events aren’t connected, that they just happen independently of one another. The film manages to keep the plot going in an exciting way, keeping the audience thinking about it for days.. It also stars Kevin Spacey, which in my view will only ever be a positive.

P.S. I Love You

Whilst I wasn’t expecting a great work of fiction when I started reading Cecelia Ahern’s novel – it is chick lit after all – I was hoping for a little more than I received. The film, however, managed to tug on a few heart strings, leaving me in buckets but satisfied with the ending. In a word, it was great for catharsis, as with any soppy-but-sad romance film. How tear-jerking was the book? Not at at all. The only thing worth crying about might be the terrible writing. The premise of the book was great – a deceased lover leaving behind letters to help the protagonist move on –  but the way it was executed was so poor that I was surprised I actually managed to make it to the end. If you’ve not read the book yet, let me offer a word of advice – don’t.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

This one might prove controversial considering the love affair our school system has with Dickens and the number of people who adore his work. The book is based on an excellent idea, the writing isn’t poor and the ending is satisfying. So why is the book worse than this film adaptation? Quite simply because I hate Dickens. With a passion. This is definitely more of a personal gripe against the man’s sheer overwhelming use of description, but I really do struggle to get through a Dickens novel in one go. The Muppet Christmas Carol on the other hand takes all the best parts of one of the greatest Christmas stories, and creates a funny, light-hearted tale using childhood favourites. Maybe I feel so strongly about it  because I saw the movie as a kid and have watched it every year since, but either way, I would  definitely rate it highly.

The Lion King / Macbeth

Before I continue, Macbeth is great and I love Shakespeare generally. But let us remember that Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be performed, not read, and whilst I love going to watch a production by the RSC, it’s not always convenient. For many of us, ‘The Lion King’ will have been our first encounter with the Bard. The story encompasses the gripping tale of Hamlet and his uncle Claudius in child-friendly terms, proving Shakespeare is for everyone. In fact, even those who boldly claim they hate Shakespeare would be hard pushed to argue that they hate The Lion King too.


This might be considered heresy by comic book geeks the world over, as Neil Gaiman’s ‘Watchmen’ is one of the few graphic novels that gained noteworthy critical attention outside of Marvel and DC. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the graphic novel, but for me it had one fatal error: the ending. For those of you familiar with both the film and the book, you’ll know the endings are entirely different. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you, but suffice to say that the ending of the film just made more sense. The big reveal for the book seemed to come out of nowhere, and didn’t follow on from the rest of the plot. In fact, that’s probably the reason why the director opted to change it.



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