How many times have you read a great book, only to watch it get destroyed by a sub-par movie? Plenty of times, I am sure. But how about things going in the other direction? How many times have you thoroughly enjoyed a movie or a television series, and yet you finished the show feeling like something was missing — maybe you simply wished you’d had a little more back-story on the characters?
One of the best examples of a great series that has been adapted from a book to a show is Dexter, a long-running Showtime series (season 6 starts October 2!) that is very loosely based on the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsey. This is one of the few instances where I can definitively say that a show is as good or better than the book it was based upon, but it is an example of what happens when the process works well.
In the case of Dexter it’s easy to figure out the book that got it all started, as each show mentions Darkly Dreaming Dexter*; but what about movies or shows that aren’t quite as obvious?
Did you know that movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was based on the book Q & A: A Novel*, by Vikas Swarup? Or that the movie ’21’ was based on the book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas*, by Ben Mezrich? Or how about the movie ‘Million Dollar Baby’, which was based on the book ROPE BURNS: Stories from the Corner*, by F. X. Toole? And did you know that the movie ‘There Will Be Blood’ was based on the book Oil!*, by Upton Sinclair? These movies and their book title correlations might not be as obvious unless, like me, you habitually scan film credits for just such a listing.
I’ll usually check IMDB to see if it lists a book as a movie’s basis, but it doesn’t always. I’ve found a site that can help you locate the book that movies are based upon; granted, it’s not 100% complete, but it is a great start. The site is Based on the Book, and it is maintained by Mid Continent Public Library. ‘Based on the Book’ is set up so that you can sort by movie title, book title, movie release year and author; I have found it to be a great tool when watching movies that seem to be based on a book I read years before — a title that I just can’t quite place my finger upon.
Speaking of which, I’m looking forward to the new movie Contagion, which is based on Robin Cook’s book … wait for it … Contagion*. I sure hope they don’t mess it up, but since it has been at least 15 years since I read the book. I might not remember the details if they’ve gone wildly astray! =P
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UPDATE: I just received an email from Deborah Benoit, and found (to my disappointment) that Contagion is not based on the book as I had read previously. Bummer! =P