There are dozens of book adaptations coming out this fall, both promising and ridiculous ("12 Years a Slave" and "Adore," respectively. How could they do that to Doris Lessing?).
Book lovers may be wary of heading to the theatre unless they've already at least thumbed through the original work, but we think this sentiment unwise. You'll have to forgive us. We're about to go Benedict Arnold (or, you know, Fredo Corleone) on you: we have to admit that some movies are better than the books they're based on.
Don't get us wrong. We're not undermining the quality of these books. We're just expressing our immense joy over movies that are as nuanced as the authors' writing:
"There Will Be Blood"
Paul Thomas Anderon's film is a very loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" While the former is a satire about green and the oil industry, the movie skirts the line between literal and absurd, making for a shocking watch.
The novel was a bestseller when it was published in 1990, but gained more acclaim after the movie came out. Spielberg's adaptation was groundbreaking for the industry, in an "Avatar" sort of way, as it was a revolutionary use of CGI and animatronics.
Oh, Bret Easton Ellis. His books, <a href="https://twitter.com/BretEastonEllis" target="_blank">not to mention his tweets</a>, can be gratuitously graphic. But director Mary Harron managed to morph his story into a terrifically transgressive story, lauded by both critics and academics. We think the casting may be to thank for this one.
This is an incredible book, with an equally incredible sequel (you can read an excerpt from "Doctor Sleep" here). But Jack Nicholson's performance, along with the eerie soundtrack and creepy-as-hell shots of identically-dressed children makes this film a <em>classic</em>. The book, on the other hand, is not King's most critically acclaimed.
Sapphire's book is inventive, to be sure: protagonist Precious begins writing when she's semi-illiterate, and uses phonetic spellings. But the film, co-produced by Tyler Perry and Oprah, was an excellent platform for Gabourey Sidibe's acting.
The neo-noir novel is great, but could get lost among a sea of other well-written pulp fiction books. The movie, on the other hand, is unique: It's at once campy and subtly touching. And, okay, it's also Ryan Gosling at his best.
"Silence of the Lambs"
This novel was critically acclaimed -- Roald Dahl called it, "subtle, horrific and splendid, the best book I have read in a long time," and David Foster Wallace used to assign it to his students. But Hannibal's eeriness is simply better conveyed on film.
Mario Puzo co-wrote the film version of his book, so he shouldn't take offense to this one. The movie is better if only because of the impact it's had on the way Americans view their individual nationalities and ethnicities. It doesn't hurt that it's widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, either.
Aside from the Hollywoodification of the story's ending, the movie stays true to the mood and dialogue of the book. Sure, the romantic ending may be a little sappy, but, oddly enough, author Chuck Palahniuk prefers it, <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/chat/transcripts/palahniuk.html" target="_blank">stating that the story is about a man reaching a point where he can commit to a relationship</a>.
The inventive children's story of a boy and his automaton is brought to life by Martin Scorsese, who made the film so that his young daughter could finally experience his work. Author Brian Selznick watched an array of '30s films in writing the book, and the story champions the magic of film, so it's only fitting that the movie is a total gem.
The book sold remarkably well when it was published, in spite of disputes over its title (both "The Stillness in the Water" and "The Jaws of Death" were considered by author Peter Benchley). Still, both Spielberg and a critic at "Rolling Stone" called the characters "unsympathetic."
"Children of Men"
Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation was an unfaithful one, but <a href="http://www.internetwritingjournal.com/p-d-james-pleased-with-film-version-of-children-108071" target="_blank">author P. D. James still enjoyed it</a>. We wonder if it's because the single-shot action sequences are breathtaking.