Great Expectations: How To Judge Book Adaptations

There is an internal struggle that all readers feel at some point in their lives; the desire to see a book they love made into a movie and the fear someone might actually do it.

I once hugged and apologized to my hardcover of The Count of Monte Cristo after watching its movie adaptation. How does this happen? Did they not read the book? Why would they do this?

A book and a movie are different kinds of media that don’t always convert well. Sacrifices made are because of running time, budget, or enjoyment in watching it. There is no way to make everyone happy.

John Green explained it best when discussing casting choices for The Fault in Our Stars, “Movie adaptations are not, and should not attempt to be, visualizations of a novel. They are movies. They need different kinds of structure, and different metaphors and different ways of expressing thoughts and ideas because you’re moving from text to the visible/audible world.”

Readers need to have a different set of expectations when going to see an adaptation of a book they have read. At some point, a friend or family member is going to ask you how it was. They will most likely have not read the book and will want your opinion.

I came up with a guide/scale to rate adaptions that I use when making comparisons. Here it is as an infographic:


My examples are all personal choices. There is a lot written about adaptations and it is more art than science when ranking these movies. It all goes back to what you value from the book and how it was translated to the screen.

Once again John Green explains, “The physical appearance of a character in a novel is not to me the most interesting or important facet of that character. So if you have a guy like Nat, who understands Isaac profoundly and has the ability to bring him to life but does not have blond hair, do you cast him over someone who will “look like” Isaac on a movie poster but not in fact be able to embody who Isaac is? I think not.”

Do you agree with the guide? Are there any good movies that were bad adaptions?

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