Friday Favourites – TV/Movie Adaptation

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one”

George R. R. Martin

I’ve always enjoyed the collaborative nature of writing in this format, the inspiration of others to inspire is always a fascinating and rewarding experience to witness both for the positivity and challenge that often occurs. In the last nine months of writing on occasion I have been both inspired and challenged on occasion, at times feeling motivated to write a rebuttal or personal take and find this can be a positive inspiration to articulate my points in a concise fashion. I have avoided to a degree expanding into favourite lists, dabbling somewhat over the Christmas period with film music and game scores although they were both composed to reflect a personal perspective not a response to another point. However, the allure of the collaborative writing aspect is a tempting and welcome one and as such I decided to expand my approach and take the mantle. Prompted by A Reading Brit’s take on their favourite fictional world as part of the wider proposal set forth by Something of the Books’s Friday Favourite the objective is fairly straight-forward, this Friday on the 26th to discuss TV and Movie Adaptations ostensibly as part of a ‘Favourite Friday’ theme but one having read and enjoyed a number of original novels over the years that have been adapted to varying degrees of success one I felt I could contribute towards the discussion.

Without any pre-defined constraints, generally when I’m writing about media in any form of list based format I do put certain restrictions or factors in place to curtail the impulse to simply compile a list of my favourite subject matter at the objective cost of writing a balanced article. With this topic, I decided to focus only on books that were adapted specifically into television or movie format, that pre-existed before the final form was realised as opposed to the novelization of media which is perhaps another discussion entirely. The tone and dialogue on the screen tends to change fundamentally to the written word which allows a deeper and often more indulgent exploration of the characters motivations and thought process for example. A valid conceit needs to be made you may come to an adapted series after they have been released historically, new readers may enjoy the Aliens novelization from Alan Dean Foster before seeing the xenomorph on the big screen. This is entirely my own personal constraint and thought process, I tend to find novelizations often expand in small detail the visual presentation as opposed to the original source novel which is condensed to a manageable viewing. Often, as part of the writing process the novels can occur concurrently and with alterations in the edit suite can often result in certain divergences or cut scenes, two that spring to mind were the skydive scene included in the Star Trek Generations adaptation and the original opening to Hadleys Hope in Aliens which were either restored or included in future releases but initially were cut for editing constraints. For the most part then these five books were written well before they saw the silver screen treatment, the exception whose adaptation differed due to creative differences and became a series of extraordinary books in their own right independent of the film franchise.

The Godfather

Author: Mario Puzio

Published: 1969

Adapted: 1972

When I first begun to consider this article my first inclusion and candidate was the adaptation of a crime fiction novel first released in 1969 but gaining significant prominence and notoriety with the release of the movie baring the same name in 1972, The Godfather by American author Mario Puzio. Having read a number of novelization over the years of different franchises and qualities, I approached this novel having first seen the film, given the age of both mediums its understandable given the renown and prestige garnered towards the original trilogy of films they would be your first experience of the Godfather. 20190422_091401Returning to that later, as a singular experience the movie followed the main narrative faithfully, some content not included but generally a good adaptation of this single novel which were later expanded on by another writer continuing the plot narrative in the later years of the Corleone family. As a reader, the slight disconnect or change was the more linear focus of the novel focusing on the early and formative years of the family as depicted with the movie series during the films sequel with the young Vito Corleone featuring prominently there. I enjoyed the novel when I first read it and continue to recommend it as a title to those curious about the novels impact on society with the introduction of certain terminology and the cultural impact of the Mafia concept on in further Western society beyond Italian shores with the mass migration into American society around the early 20th century. In a short space of time a movie adaptation seemed inevitable given the enduring success of the novel certainly from a sales and chart perspectiveGF pic and so it passed with the release of the titular The Godfather movie starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino with De Niro joining the family and playing a younger version of Brando’s character in its sequel. As a faithful interpretation of the adaptations I have read and enjoyed this is certainly one of the closest with a great deal of the back story later developed and incorporated into the sequel films, there exists one iteration in the cultural zeitgeist of its time of the Godfather saga that reformatted the films into their chronological sequence and included a great deal of the De Niro scenes into an all-encompassing experience. For me as a reader I enjoyed both versions of the material, the novel a fleshed out and genuinely eye-opening read on this culture alien to my own and as a movie a well crafted and formated piece. Does it resonate to the same degree today? perhaps not but certainly there is an arguable question about whether the lessons of respect and tradition are as relevant and prevalent today and required in a younger generation devoid of the familial lessons of the past.

Lone Survivor

Author: Marcus Luttrell/ Patrick Robinson

Published: 2007

Adapted: 2013

I was curious to the story of Marcus Luttrell having read and enjoyed a number of special forces novels over the years and the more recent predication of dictated features and accounts of the soldiers where once a veil of secrecy had been prevalent but now with a greater cry for transparency some of those same stories beginning to see the light of day. The story of Marcus as supported by the author Patrick Robinson, himself an accomplished military author in his own right is a fascinating insight into a special forces operation gone wrong from the perspective of a trained and competent Navy Seals team who were ambushed by the Taliban during their military presence in Afghanistan. 20190422_091350Whatever your political persuasion and support for military operations and the war following the terrorist attacks in 2001, the service and comradery of the special forces, especially that ingrained in the American troops is so humbling to read. Why I wanted to read and learn about the story of Luttrell was very much to learn for myself about the bonds of brotherhood formed through BUD/S training, the journey to being an operator in the SEALs team and then the sensation of loss and perseverance when you loose your brothers on the battle field and find yourself alone and in a relatively alien environment. These sensations of facing this type of challenge of course have been explored over the years to varying degree both in literature and on film however, for me I guess subjectively its the authenticity of the account from the operator, framed from the perspective of a US soldier of course, that adds a certain believability and wonderment at an individual surviving the injuries and trauma he did on that mountain top and continuing to live despite the trauma. ls picIn a society, supposedly overwhelmed with a notion of ‘victimhood’ where individuals take no accountability for their actions based on perceived attacks or challenges against them as individuals, it’s always refreshing to read these type of accounts of people, soldiers, citizens who have faced very real tangible challenges in their lives and overcome them to live relatively ordinary existences afterwards. The movie, with a relatively modest budget and production value in a similar vein to Tears of the Sun is a competent adaptation with some high impact combat scenes and a satisfactory conclusion. Subjectively, perhaps it doesn’t capture the ‘fear’ factor of the Luttrell as described in the novel where he was alone and injured for great periods of time on the mountain side before his rescue by the villagers, in contrast to how swiftly this aspect is resolved in the film. I enjoyed the cast members used, Wahlberg effectively plays the same beats and tropes of his usual acting range and is somewhat different from the Texas born SEAL you read about and live through but is perfectly passable. I enjoyed the movie, it didn’t reframe from the more melancholy and forlorn notes nor lift these soldiers into super hero status, it could have pushed more into this territory as described in the book but as a stand alone piece and adaptation it did a good job.

Sharpe’s Tiger

Author: Bernard Cornwell

Published: 1997

Adapted: 2006

Changing focus to the small screen and a more, small-scale adaptation which in truth could be viewed as a body of work but in this example a specific novel the book Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell which was originally written in 1997 as a prequel to the opening title Sharpe’s Rifles and the Sharpe series of books telling the adventures of a British Army officer during the Napoleonic war. The two prequel novels of which we’ll discuss the first here, changes focus and location switching from the French war to that of the English rule of India and the civil war that raged there during the occupation. 20190422_091339The novel itself, reflects the confidence in the character and description of the period as found during the later stages of the release of the books, a number of these were written originally as novels in themselves, otherwise with the knowledge they would be adapted into the television series. Narratively, at a certain juncture, characters that had been introduced in the television series appeared in the books, it was an intriguing and somewhat fluidic process to follow. These early prequels, seemingly were intended as an introduction to the character but were never intended to be filmed due to the age difference implied as a young soldier and the actors appearance by the end of Waterloo, the final televised adaptation. Over a decade later these novels were commissioned for an adaptation taking the basic story thread and changing them into a sequel allowing the same actor to return to continue playing the same character once more. For fans of the series and these books in particular it was a welcome treat to see Sean Bean return and continue the adventures of Richard Sharpe sc imagewith the title now as ‘Sharpe’s Challenge’, with the sensibilities and demands of modern audiences there was a high cost to making these drama’s and given the viewing figures of a diminished audience besides the two books commissioned didn’t continue further. As a strict adaptation it didn’t follow the exact same narrative of the book but this was a looser approximation of the story taking place after his service during the Napoleonic conflicts, allowing the inclusion of his friend Harper and paying service to a decade of friendship as seen during the show. I enjoyed the return of the character, having read these novels previously I was curious to see how faithfully they would follow the main narrative and found the changes acceptable, certainly it missed other aspects such as the character of Hakeswill as played by the late Pete Postlethwaite who was a memorable recurring villain in the early chapters of Sharpe. Perhaps the feeling again of helplessness is somewhat reduced, in the novels following orders as a private in contrast to the adaptation where he is retired and under obligation to be there, thematically there are differences but as a close approximation I enjoyed both the episodes and book.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Published: 1968

Adapted: 1968

The one title alluded in my opening description that was written concurrently to the motion picture it inspired and was based on, the novel of 2001 was a fascinating book to read from acclaimed author Arthur C Clarke that had a much more structured and scientific approach than the final realised picture which in itself at the time had a lauded and praised approach to its grounded approach to the portrayal of space in science fiction. 20190422_091324Given the scope and nature of the film and the multitude of themes and concepts discussed and covered it was the relative grounded nature of space travel and exploration after the reveal of the monoliths in the dawn of history that intrigued me and to an extent had an influence on my fictional writing style. I’ve always enjoyed the more grounded and normalised portrayal of space exploration, enjoying Star Trek to a greater extent than Star Wars despite arguably as many conceits and fantastical contraptions in both shows. In 2001 as you follow first Floyd on a commercial flight to the moon and then Bowman on the voyage of the Discovery in each instance the world and environment feel very much a functional and grounded place to be despite the fantastical setting implied and described. In contrast the movie, whilst maintaining a certain level of a grounded narrative certainly opted to pursue and portray a visually stunning and amazing version of space, quite literally light years beyond anything being offered and making similar series such as the original Star Trek episodes look cheap and amateur in contrast. In changed the nature and acceptance for how space could be shown and seen in television and cinematic media, gone the acceptance of ships on strings and planets 2001 picmade of paper and cardboard, it set the bar visually for which a great many movies owed their acceptance and renown, and as a result differed from the grounded work environment of the novel. Kubrick films have always tended to veer towards the spectacle and visual, in a setting and story such as this it’s entirely understandable the desire to show this realised version of space however tonally, it breaks from the theme of the novel and certainly as someone who appreciates the grounded worlds of science fiction was a difference to note. That said, despite minor changes towards the end and indeed how you would come to visualise the space between stars it has to be said as a movie its a landmark motion picture, as a novel a different perspective, allowing the reader to enjoy and pick up on more of the grounded lore and legacy of the world on-screen but each a strength in their own merits. Certainly a movie than benefits from reading the novel and as such a worthy adaptation.

Clear and Present Danger

Author: Tom Clancy

Published: 1989

Adapted: 1994

Having discussed in great detail my love and appreciation of this as a movie, quite possibly one of my favourites or certainly in the top five, this was always going to feature as an adaptation of a movie I saw and enjoyed first before reading the book and coming to appreciate the political writings of Tom Clancy and arguably a pioneer in a connected and shared universe long before it became the new fashion. Certainly the novel itself is a deep and intricate political thriller much in keeping with many of Clancy’s novels, at the time of the release of the movie Clancy had a certain degree of animosity towards the 20190422_091441adaptation and having read the novel you do realise just how much of the nuance was omitted in the name of spectacle and grandeur in contrast to the more tight and personal structure of Patriot Games. I enjoyed the novel, I enjoy the style of the author and the universe he created that continues to flourish and influence long after his passing. Clear and Present Danger certainly represented a slight change in his writing style with a continuation and growth of the Jack Ryan character that had been the focus in Patriot Games and Hunt for Red October but equally served no role in Without Remorse or Red Storm Rising. I enjoyed his return but by the time the narrative reached the Debt of Honor novel and his presidential elevation you had started to question whether one individual could make that elevation from case worker to leader of the free world. That said, this book was certainly of its time and reflective of the atmosphere and anger towards the drug cartels and impact on American culture from south of the border. The movie had a similar core narrative with many of the events capd imageoccurring but where there was a greater focus on the wider picture in the novel, the film instead opted to focus a lot more tightly on Jack Ryan with the focus largely from his perspective. As an incidental recurring character that grew in prominence over the course of the novels he certainly was interesting to follow, I’ll always champion Harrison Ford and his role as Jack Ryan and certainly enjoyed the movie immensely with him in. That being said, the Clancy novels had opted to build these worlds somewhat independently of each other, Clarke for example featuring prominently in Without Remorse and again in Rainbow 6 with the returning Chavez. Having read this novel, there was a far greater prominence of Ryan in the film adaptation, understandable given having Ford return and star, whether this makes it a faithful adaptation is another matter but certainly one of my greater literary and filmatic experiences.

These were my choices to write about, an interesting topic to consider and explore and as such the enjoyment will come from reading of others adaptations I hadn’t considered or chosen. Certainly there was a temptation to opt for more known choices such as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, I chose instead a more personal assortment of titles to explore, let me know your choices and decisions.

book shelf

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2 thoughts on “Friday Favourites – TV/Movie Adaptation

    1. To be fair I think a lot of people do and I certainly came to it after seeing the movies so not a book purist myself but is interesting to read the novel and then watch the adaptation afterwards and pick up the changes and differences. A fairly faithful adaptation IMO.

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