Should books really be made into movies?

Holidays are the perfect time for going to the movies and I’ve certainly seen my fair share of them lately.  There does seem to be a bit of a glut at the moment of movies based on books – Lovely Bones, Where the Wild Things Are, and Sherlock Holmes, just to name a few.  There seems to be a fine line between getting a movie adaptation right and hashing it up completely, and even then the success of the movie in your eyes comes down to how you imagined the characters, setting and message of the book.

In my opinion, Spike Jonze did a great job of making the movie of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  Although he transformed a picture book into a 2 hour movie, I think the essence of the book was definitely there and the boy that played Max (who is also called Max) was fantastic.  A lot of parents took their children along thinking this was a children’s movie but was more a movie about childhood and what it means to be a kid.  I’d love to know what children actually thought of the movie.

Another movie adaptation that is a children’s story but will appeal more to an adult sense of humour is Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox.  It’s directed by Wes Anderson whose movies are usually great but I thought this one fell flat.  I really liked the animation though and it was good to see an animated movie that wasn’t CGI like so many children’s movies lately.  Unfortunately a lot of the humour in the movie would go straight over the heads of the children in the audience.

One movie that was relatively faithful to its literary origin was Stieg Larsson’s  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I had literally just finished reading the book an hour before I saw the movie so the story was fresh in my mind.  I totally loved the book and still can’t get it out of my head, so I was a little reluctant to watch the movie but went knowing that it had been made in Stieg Larsson’s native Sweden, not in Hollywood.  As with any movie they missed out lots of little details but overall it stuck to the story quite closely and the actors and scenery were amazing.  It’s definitely one of those stories though that you want to read the book before you see the movie so you can enjoy both in their own right.

Do you have a favourite movie adaptation and did it live up to your expectations?

It’s elementary – you can find your favourite book of the year on 31 December

Every year the best books of the year list start popping up in November. Or earlier. But 2009 was a bit of a strange one for me – I think my favourite book of the year was one I started reading on 31 December.

The elements : a visual exploration of every known atom in the universe by Theodore Gray:

Based on five years of research and photography, the pictures in this book make up the most complete, and visually arresting, representation available to the naked eye of every atom in the universe. Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-colour photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form.

This would make a wonderful coffee table book for even the least scientifically inclined amongst us. You can dip into each element. Gray’s prose style is laid back, and he has an eye for the intriguing detail that you’d expect from such an ardent collector:

  • Thallium was used in a few murders.
  • Element 112 Ununbium and onwards have placeholders – they have been discovered but need to be independently verified before a name is officially assigned.
  • It is more prestigious to have an element named after you than to get a Nobel Prize. Rutherford has Rutherfordium. Apparently a big exercise on element naming was a bit of a tetchy exercise, more politically tricky than the United Nations.
  • Fiestaware (ceramic tableware) is radioactive, uranium gave it that lovely orangey red shade.

Read the book, and also check out his web site for more fascinating elemental facts.