I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love Spike Jonze’s movie Where the Wild Things Are. But I also feel the pain of a commenter on this site who expressed dismay at the idea of Maurice Sendak’s book being adapted at all. “Children’s books are wonderful because books allow kids to use their imagination,” this poster explained. These stories are amazing just as they are, they do not need to be made into movies.” I know just how the writer feels. The more I love a book (whether Horton Hears a Who or Blindness), the more protective I feel about it; I’m sure Harry Potter readers feel the same way. (For the record, I loved the movie version of Horton; Blindness, on the other hand, was a bust.)
Since the world spins forward and pop culture feeds on itself, I don’t think there’s much chance of stopping the great march of literature-into-cinema. (Well, probably J.D.Salinger can put the brakes on a project.) Of course, you can choose not to mess with your imagination, and skip the movie version. (Too bad, because then you’d miss the movie-screen glories of Rebecca, Gone With the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, and even Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.) But if you choose to go, not only to Wild Things but to any movie made from a book you love, ask yourself this: Does the movie do justice to the spirit and tone of the original, if not the details? Does the movie have a…well, soul? A coherence, an aesthetic integrity of its own? I haven’t seen the movie version of The Road yet, the one starring Viggo Mortensen, but I know it’s got a lot to live up to, since Cormac McCarthy’s book was bleak almost beyond picturing….
So let me ask you this: What good movie has been made out of a book you love? And for that matter, what movie has gotten a beloved book all wrong?