Literary Transformations: From the page to the screen

What are your thoughts when a book you love is being adapted for film or TV?

Trepidation? Excitement? Terror? Exhilaration?

I am not a snob, in fact I absolutely love film and probably watch too much TV. And I probably also watch things which are literary adaptations without even being aware of it/really caring.

However, for me when a beloved book is announced as being adapted, I normally feel pretty worried.

So with that in mind, which have I loved/hated? And which am I anticipating with nothing but a vague feeling of nausea.


Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

Oh where to begin!?

Colin Firth, obviously, oh you beautiful man, but of course looks are not everything. He just perfectly embodies Darcy to me, no one else will ever come close to his portrayal. In fact overall casting was perfect, it was pretty damn faithful to the source, and let’s face it the source remains as great today as the day it was published!


Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Collins, Wickham, I really cannot think of someone who was not entirely perfectly cast, of course this is my opinion, but to me they were exactly what I has always imagined them to be.

And, Elizabeth, the linchpin which holds it all together, perfectly portraying the prejudice’s she feels, and the emotions she experiences as she learns the errors of these judgments…on her way to her very own happy ending.


The Golden Compass 

This was an absolute, complete, and utter travesty of a film. I have made no secret of the fact that I utterly adore Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and I was genuinely excited it was getting a cinematic outing.

I think that this film is single-handedly the reason that I am now terrified whenever I hear of a book adaptation in the pipe-line. I am a lover of words, but I cannot put into words how strong the hatred I feel for this abomination is.

Lyra, beloved wonderful Lyra, now I do not hold the young actress to blame, child actor’s are rarely great (looking at you Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint in HP 1-3, dire!!). But, she wasn’t Lyra.

But for me I think it was all about casting. I admit I was already definitely not a fan but Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, ARE YOU KIDDING ME! No. Just. No. And whilst I had no preconceived notions of his acting Daniel Craig most definitely was not right as Lord Asriel either.

Maybe, I was just too excited, or maybe it really was as awful as I remember? I’ve avoided it ever since. Perhaps I am being too harsh.

But the biggest problem, and I do understand that they need to change things, but it entirely lost the feel of the books for me. Content and feel were just not there. There was no magic. It was all lost.

Positives? Can I say none?! I guess it was pretty!

Fifty Shades of Grey

So, I mean, it isn’t as though the source material was so strong that it was ever going to be an oscar winner, but I mean, dear lord it is poor!

Firstly, I DID read it, I read all three, (what a confession). Sadly, I most definitely suffer FOMO (that’s the fear of missing out) with regard to books. And, eventually gave in and had to read them. They were awful. So awful. The dialogue and inner monologue of the lead character are absolutely shockingly bad.

But I felt there was hope, Bret Easton Ellis expressed interest in producing the screenplay, wow this could be OK after all! But it was not to be. E.L.James held tight on the reigns of her material (which is of course her prerogative) but that meant she insisted the abysmal dialogue be lifted, verbatim, into the the screenplay. With a strong writer, I think the story might have had potential but alas we will never know what could have been!

In 3 sessions, attempted watching, I got a full 3rd of the way through. If reading the dialogue was horrid, watching some poor (not normally particularly bad) actors saying it, was excruciating!


Positives? Again…struggling…maybe the positives come later in the film.

Somewhere in between

Harry Potter film series

As previously mentioned, the lead trio in the first 3 films were not what you would call great actors, but they were young so this was forgivable. I enjoy these films, and have seen all 8 multiple times, but there are things I both love and hate.

There is a lot missing from the books, which I understand in film is to keep the story moving, but there are characters and plot-lines I’d have loved to have seen. Rik Mayall filmed scenes as Peeves, and I personally think his character, whether played by the glorious Mayall (I basically imagine Drop Dead Fred as a ghost) or someone else, would have been a welcome addition to the films.

Also, again I know it wasn’t key, but Hermione and the S.P.E.W storyline is definitely something I would have loved to see.

Things I loved, Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman. These are two of my favourite actors ever, and I will watch anything at all should they be starring in it. They were exactly as I’d imagined they would be, and made the characters come to life. Others were close (David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane) and definitely in this category, but these two will forever be my favourites.

I could go on forever with both positives and negatives throughout the series, so this is definitely an in between, for me!

Oh, wait! One more for the things I loved. Dame Maggie Smith. Perfection. No more can be said on that.


The Rivers of London

If you have read any of my previous posts it is likely you might have seen mention of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London urban fantasy series. I cannot quite say why, but I adore this series of books.


Whether it will happen or not I am not sure, but there have most definitely rumors about a television adaptation. And I am horrified. They may do it well, they may do it wonderfully. But I have such vivid images of these characters in my head, and am so attached to them, that no matter how good they are, they won’t be good enough for me. They will not match the visions in my head.

Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, would be of particular worry for me, old, very old, wise, but looking young. Some of the names I have seen touted (admittedly by hopeful fans not casting directors!) have in no way come up to scratch on what I have pictured!

And PC Lesley May – How would they deal with that after say…the first book!? It would need careful handling…

There are of course, many more I could put into all categories, where do you land? Would you prefer it to stay on the page? Are you happy to hear your favourite is making its way to the screen…? Which have you loved/hated?


3 thoughts on “Literary Transformations: From the page to the screen

    • I have not read or seen! Will make sure to read first, thanks for the heads up! I know, the books were bad, but I just could not get through it, so so so bad!

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