Movie Adaptations of Books

I’ve never written a novel or a movie script, but I’ve sure consumed a lot of both and enjoy both. I’ve always been excited when a book I have read becomes a movie. Validation of a sort I guess – I like something popular! But really it’s a chance to see it. Yet I’m almost always disappointed in the movies. I realize that some parts of books don’t translate to the screen well and there are time limits. Most of the time the movie only bears passing resemblance to the book, just using the name for marketing. I remember one where they changed the name of the dog! A minor character in the plot, but why change that?

You’ve probably never read Man on Fire by AJ Quinnell. It was written in the mid 80’s and is about a mercenary who has become an alcoholic. His best friend gets him a job as a bodyguard, a job that is for show – something to pay the bills. But the child gets to him and he starts to drink less. Then the child is kidnapped and killed. What follows is about redemption, revenge, and an interesting plot. I watched the 2004 version with Denzel Washington when it came out and parts of it were good – the darkness of the character, the trusted friend, and parts were horrible – how did it move from Italy to Mexico and why change the ending? Just this past week I watched the 1987 version with Scott Glenn and parts were good – the bonding with the child, sort of the ending, and it was at least in Italy, but it lacked the fire and the strategy of the book. The Wikipedia entry for it has this in it:

At one point, when A. J. Quinnell read the film script, he inquired about a line that was different from the book’s text. The writers of the script responded, “You mean, there’s a book…?”

I’m sure it’s hard. Harder than I think. Makes me want to write a novel good enough to be a movie and then write the movie just the same.