Friday Movie Talk – Are some books just too long to be good movies?

I love last week’s discussion about Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.  There is an overwhelming dislike for this casting and I’m happy to be validated on at least one of my choices for a recast.  Several of you thought Hugh Jackman could pull it off and two of you were on board with Shemar Moore.  Any other suggestions for the perfect Jack Reacher?

Over the past week Jason and I have watched War & Peace – all 209 minutes of it.  I had planned to do a book vs. movie post about it, but even just thinking about comparing the two gave me a headache.  War and Peace by Tolstoy is a powerhouse of a book.  It takes time, reflection, some notes, and a great deal of concentration.  It’s a worthwhile endeavor and one best tackled with a friend (thanks Molly!).  The movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda is fine, but surely a watered down version of the novel. It was good, but not a powerhouse by any means.  Jason hasn’t read the book but he still enjoyed the movie, especially the war parts 🙂

What I’m wondering is if some books are just too long and involved to make good movies.  I checked out Pillars of the Earth the miniseries from the library and am thinking that a miniseries has a better chance of being faithful to at least the spirit of the book.   As much as I love the Outlander series by Gabaldon I can see it failing as a movie.  Same for Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

Any other books that are just too long or complex to make a good movie?

16 thoughts on “Friday Movie Talk – Are some books just too long to be good movies?

  1. Lloyd Russell says:

    I read Pillars long before I saw the miniseries. But I have to say that I thought the miniseries was really well done. And speaking of Pillars, wasn’t that a great book? I read 60-70 books a year and have done that for many years. Pillars of the Earth is one of my three favorite novels of all time (along with Shogun by James Clavell and The Source by James Michener). My wife counts it as her favorite of all time.
    P.S. The sequel to Pillars, World without End, is in my top 25.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I really liked Pillars when I read it years ago and think my husband would like it so I go the miniseries. He’ll never take the time to read it 🙂 I’m glad to hear it is well done. I still need to read World Without End!

  2. Adam says:

    A lot of individual books can work as movies, but there are definitely some series that would never work. The best example of this is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. The series is huge, the 14th (and final) book is due out next year, and the shortest book is about 680 pages in paperback. The only way a series like that could be translated to the screen is by making each book into a season of the show, like what HBO is doing with A Game of Thrones.

    All books lose something when they’re converted to movies. They’re two completely different mediums, both with good and bad aspects. The length of a book really shouldn’t matter if you’re going to convert it to a movie. Look at the Lord of the Rings movies, they’re all 3 1/2 hours long and they’re very well done, mostly because Peter Jackson cared about doing it right.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I love the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. One of my favorites. But I think the reason it worked is because the books aren’t SO long and the movies are overly so. I only read The Fellowship of the Ring and was really pleased at the adaptation. Good points, Adam!
      It seems like a TV series might be the best way to do these beloved series.

  3. Mary says:

    I read Pillars of the Earth years ago (before Oprah even 😉 ). Still haven’t watched the miniseries. I’m glad to see Lloyd (first comment) gives it a thumbs up! I’ve only read the first in the Outlander series and I worry it would be ruined Hollywood. I’m ok to have my own vision of that book. I’d like to see Trinity as a movie but maybe I should just reread it.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I really liked Pillars and am excited about the miniseries because I think Jason should like it. Not sure if I can convince him to start such an undertaking so soon after W&P though 🙂

  4. thebumbles says:

    I agree w/Kathy on GWTW – excellent in book and movie forms. In keeping with the Civil War theme, I also read Andersonville and later watched the mini-series. Both were well done. In general, I prefer my epics in mini-series form so that the production doesn’t have to compromise key plot details. Take The Count of Monte Cristo for example – intricate and elaborate plot in written form. Movie form required such trimming that the result was an entirely different story- bummer.

  5. boardinginmyforties says:

    I will haven’t read War and Peace. It sits near the top of my list of books that I am ashamed to have not read. I actually think The Stand will be tough one for Ben Affleck to pull off. We’ll see how he does with it.

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