Making a movie of a much-loved book is no mean feat, because directors and producers know that fans of the book will be extremely critical if it doesn’t meet expectations. Nevertheless, there have been occasions when the movie is actually better than the book, or is at least just as good. In 2011, there were five movies that deserve the title of best book-to-movie adaptations.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
With the last in the series of the much-loved franchise written by J.K. Rowling arriving on movie screens, it really was necessary for director David Yates to deliver something special. He managed that by making, in this viewer’s opinion, the best film of the series and, perhaps because some of the clumsy detail of the book had to be missed out, it is even better than the book. The usual crew played by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson battle their way through the film, which had some fantastic special effects, to bring an end to Voldemort. At 130 minutes, it should have been a struggle to sit through, but it was pure joy from beginning to end. It is hard to imagine it ever being re-made to the same level of success.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Only just released in the UK a few days before the end of 2011, David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has been much awaited. The original Swedish film was a huge success, so in the minds of some, it was hard to understand why there had to be a re-make so soon. Nevertheless, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara have done a superb job of portraying the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Mara is exceptional as a character who is multi-layered and whose quirks are slowly brought to the fore during the course of the film. Best of all, this is a great mystery and the viewer will be on tenterhooks from beginning to end. There is a lot of violence, but then the original book has a lot too. This is an exceptional piece of work by David Fincher.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John le Carre’s hugely popular book has already been turned into a successful TV series, starring the great Alec Guinness as George Smiley. He was always going to be hard to beat, but Gary Oldman certainly gave him a run for his money in the 2011 film version. In the much-loved story, Smiley is forced out of retirement to find a Russian mole in MI6. Director Tomas Alfredson manages to make the story new and fresh without deviating too far from the original story. Best of all is the superb supporting cast, which includes Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Toby Jones and Colin Firth. This adaptation proves that the British acting community is still way up there with the best – just in case there was ever any doubt.
Taking on a much-loved book such as Jane Eyre, published by Charlotte Bronte back in 1847, was a brave thing for director Cary Fukunaga to do. The book has been converted into many movies and television episodes already, so viewers were all too aware that Fukunaga needed to pull out all the stops. He did so by creating a highly atmospheric version of the story, starring Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre and Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester. Although two hours is not long for such an involved story, Fukunaga managed to fit it all in by beginning the story towards the end of the story and then filling in information with flashbacks. It works well and is therefore a must-see whether viewers are a fan of the original book or not.
The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Based on the comic book series of the Belgian Charles Prosper Remi, better known as Hergé, there have been previous film, television and radio adaptations of Tin Tin. However, with the help of technological progress, Steven Spielberg’s 2011 version is undoubtedly the best yet. Using motion capture 3D technology, the characters are brought to life in a way never seen before. The story, involving Tin Tin’s adventure to find out why the model ship he bought, called The Unicorn, is so important to certain people. Of course, the movie is a cartoon, albeit a wonderfully high-tech one, but the voices of Jamie Bell as Tin Tin, Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock and Daniel Craig as Mr Sakharine really add a lot to its success. This is a beautifully executed movie; a must-see for both fans of Tin Tin and anyone who appreciates quality movies in general.
There are undoubtedly many more excellent book-to-movie adaptations made in 2011, but for this author, the five above are by far and away the best.