Given the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series both on the page and when it was adapted to the big screen, yesterday’s Chicago Tribune examined other book to film adaptations to see how they measured up against the Harry Potter series, which has hit what Chicago Tribune reporter Julia Keller calls “the pop-culture jackpot.”
Keller is right to state that “The Potter franchise marks an exceptional moment in pop culture-an unlikely trifecta of high-quality literature, high-quality films and hefty profits for all.” The article equates the triple threat of Harry Potter to other successful adaptations like The Wizard of Oz (1939) and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) based of course of the novels by Frank Baum and Harper Lee respectively. The article is also right to say that “Excellent books often are turned into lousy movies…Bad books become fine films. And great films can bomb at the box office, just as trite books have been known to scale the bestseller lists with depressing speed.”
To drive home this point, the article mentions several books that have been turned into films or a series of films like The Twilight Saga by author Stephenie Meyer which of course stars Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, and Robert Pattinson. The article seems to imply that the films were better than the books, although legions of fans may disagree. In addition to Twilight, the article also mentions The Bourne Identity series based on books by Robert Ludlum and starring Matt Damon, The Road based on Cormac McCarthy’s book, and starring Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings fame. (There’s another example that perhaps should have been included in this article). And finally Keller mentions Jaws adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel and starring Roy Scheider, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adapted to film starring Robert Downey Jr, and Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County starring the great Meryl Streep.
The point of all these comparisons seems to bring home the general rule that books are most often better than films. Occasionally one finds a film that is equally as good as or better than a book, but to both as in the case with Harry Potter is quite rare indeed.