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From Novels to Movies: Are They Ever as Good as the Original?

By Emma White

Pre the upcoming release of ‘Little Women’, I have been reasoning the successes and

downfalls of taking beloved literature and giving it a moment on the big screen.

The likes of J.K.Rowling found an unprecedented amount of success (her net worth is a very

healthy one billion dollars), she transformed the entire world, by showing that books still

have the power to captivate audiences and touched the hearts of millions globally. The

Harry Potter series is quintessentially the most successful series of films (and of course

books) of all time and, to name some further successes, Tolkien’s classics The Lord of the

Rings also became an epic fantasy saga for its readers and later, its viewers. The Hunger

Games, The Girl on the Train and Jurassic Park, the list is almost endless… but why did they

succeed when other literature clearly fumbles and flops at the hands of directors and script-


Literature lovers face apprehension upon the discovery of their favourite novel’s will

become a major motion picture. Will the actress capture the passion and bad-assery of

Katniss Everdeen? The heartbreak of Hazel Grace Lancaster? Will the director capture the

subtly haunting nature of Stephen King’s ‘IT’? Essentially, casting and characterisation are

key. How can one actor resemble a character whom each, and every one of us, have built in

our minds, how can they narrow the image to fit with readers expectations? Inevitably in

regard to the actual physical appearance of the character it would be nearly impossible to

please every reader, in that regard. However as long as it’s executed well, the differences in

physical perception become somewhat irrelevant. It is the spirit and persona of the

character which must be captured in its entirety, which is a difficult feat to achieve when

every reader has a differing view on their character and their favourite aspects of the

character, which could be lost in some interpretations. When done well and have captured

the embodiment of the essence of the character and novel, the production may face less


Is it every writers dream for their stories to be told through film on a global stage? Or is it

enough to be recognised as an author? For some, this is more than enough, and for others,

a film adaptation may have been a dream one never thought to even be possible. The social

media app, ‘Wattpad’, gave life to the new (ish) Netflix motion picture, ‘After’. Written by

Anna Todd as what is coined as a ‘fanfiction’, ‘After’ gave Todd a platform (albeit years later)

on a global stage to share her story. Although it has since faced heavy criticism, some due to

the characterisation of the lead male, her success is no doubt profound and somewhat


We can also find adaptions of novels through everyday television. In fact, many series on

the likes of Netflix and Sky were taken, at least to some extent, from the idea of an author.

The likes of Game of Thrones is an obvious example of unprecedented success- apart from

the rather disputable ending that caused a global uproar. A key element of the shows

failure, was that the final few seasons, were not based on the literary works they were

based, as George R.R.Martin had not finished authoring the concluding novel and so the

producers of the show decided to trust the writers to finish the tale. Obviously, this did not

work and largely ruined one of television’s greatest achievements. It will also be interesting

to see if in the future, Martin does ever finish his series, how he will choose to end it, and

whether this will satisfy fans. Creating a surprising and emotive ending to close a series

which spans many years of people’s lives is unsurprisingly a difficult task. Fans will go to any

length to defend their beloved characters; Pretty Little Liars also fell short as the final ‘A’

reveal disappointed millions. No matter what the conclusion, someone, somewhere will be

unhappy with character progression, the authenticity of the script or the casting.

Nonetheless, we must always find considerable triumphs throughout film pieces which are

in themselves, pieces of art.

One will always find some fault in an adaptation of a novel so treasured in society, no

matter how large or small. As a literary classic, it is exciting to see whether Little Women will

fulfil the expectations of eagerly awaiting readers. The casting of A-listers Emma Watson

and Saoirse Ronan may do just that! As this is the first time the tale has been adapted since

the TimesUp movement began, and due to both Watson, and the director Greta Gerwig’s

involvement audiences are expecting a fresh, feisty, and more feminist interpretation than

ever before.

To see if it lives up to such high expectations, go check out Little Women when it is released

in the UK on the 27th December.

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