Lowell Reading Club: Books Made Into Movies Edition

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Ask many book lovers and they will tell you movie adaptions can’t hold a candle to the story found between the pages. And yet, there is something magical about seeing a story you love brought to life — assuming the filmmaker does it justice. For this month’s reading club, we decided to take a closer look at some book-to-movie adaptions.

Amanda’s Picks

The Martian by Andy Weir
4 stars out of 5

I saw the movie before reading the book. I think seeing the movie first actually helped me more easily visualize some of the more technical aspects being described in the book. I also heard Matt Damon’s voice in my head reading all of Mark Watney’s elements! I think the book and movie both were in line with each other. Much of the dialogue from the movie came directly from the book. The plot overall remained the same in the movie compared to the book. Even though I knew what was going to happen while reading the book I still enjoyed it. A synopsis follows for those who still may not have read the book (or watched the movie).

Mark Watney is part of a team spending about a month on Mars to do research. About a week into the being on Mars part of the mission there’s a storm that forces the team to abort the mission and head home early because their mode of transportation off Mars wouldn’t have survived the storm. As the team is assessing their issues and waiting for official word that they need to leave, Mark is hit with part of an antenna. He goes down and his computer shows no signs of life. The rest of the team assumes he is dead and leaves, heading back to Earth.

It turns out that Mark is alive and survived the storm. He has to assess his situation, including how to survive alone, communicate with Earth, and whether it’s possible for him to be rescued. I enjoyed Mark’s sarcastic and sometimes witty sense of humor throughout the book. He has several challenges he has to overcome and even then his survival isn’t guaranteed.

(Note: Maryalene picked The Martian as her sci-fi pick in May, and you can read her review here.)

Holes by Louis Sachar
4 stars out of 5

This is a middle-grade book that one of my kids read. Then my husband read it. I decided to read it as well. I read the book before seeing the movie version. The book and movie also follow each other pretty closely. Although where I envisioned a red truck my husband saw a white one and our son didn’t see a color but the style was that of an old pickup with wooden sides in the back. We also pictured the looks of the various characters differently as well. It was fun to talk about the differences in what we pictured in our minds vs what the movie version showed.

Stanley Yelnats and his family feel like they’re under a curse that started generations ago. He has been sent to a juvenile detention “camp” to build character, a choice made so that he wouldn’t have to go to jail for stealing a star basketball player’s smelly shoes. While at camp Stanley has to deal with the group of boys he’s put with, Mr. Sir who is in charge of them, the group’s doctor and the warden.

All camp members have to dig one hole a day that’s five feet across and five feet deep. If they find anything of interest they need to alert an adult. Stanley wonders why these holes need to be dug. There are also flashbacks to what was going on in the area where the holes are being dug. Even as an adult reading the book I enjoyed it (and the movie version). My 10-year-old said he really liked the book and that it’s one of his favorites.


Maryalene’s Pick

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
4-5 out of 5 stars 

When we decided that this month would be books that were turned into movies, I had big plans to finally sit down and watch some movie adaptations I wanted to see — Silence, The Dry, The Hate U Give, among others — but alas, I got distracted by Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championships.

So I am falling back on the book-to-movie adaption that may be the most popular one from recent years: Harry Potter.

I was in college by the time the first book came out so I didn’t partake in that initial rush of Potter-mania. I never read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in grade school or waited breathlessly for the next book to arrive at Borders bookstore. However, when the movies started coming out, I did go to see those.  And they were good — not spectacular, but good enough that I decided to read the books. While I saw many of the movies before reading the books, by the time we reached Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was reading the books first.

If you aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter series, it follows the story of a boy in England whose parents have died and he is sent to live with a cruel uncle, aunt and cousin. On his 11th birthday, he discovers he is actually from a magical family, and he is invited to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, he makes great friends (and a few enemies), learns the truth behind his parents’ death and, over the course of seven novels, must save civilization multiple times.

I think I enjoyed the first movies more than the later ones, probably because I hadn’t read the books yet. While the first movies are fairly faithful to the books, the later ones leave out so much of the story. However, given the size of books like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it’s understandable that they needed to streamline the plot.

It’s hard to say whether I liked the books or movies more. I think the first time around, I liked the movies best. However, I recently re-read the books and decided they were better. Still, I’m glad I saw the movies originally or I would have had no idea how to pronounce the name Hermione.

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