On a list of movies that improved upon the book, I’d put The Green Mile right up top. It’s not that the book was a disappointment compared to the movie, which I saw years before I’d even given thought to reading it. The Green Mileis, as many claim, one of King’s best. It might even have landed near the top of that list for me as well if the order were switched and I saw the movie second.
What held The Green Mile back was its transcendent film adaptation. Compared to the pitch-perfect representations in the movie, King’s characters felt shallow, fake almost. This opinion might also change if the book had been first for me, but I couldn’t piece together a cast that would improve upon the one Frank Darabont assembled.
Outside of that, the differences between the two are negligible. There’s a reason I hold that Darabont should be in charge of every King adaptation from here on in, and that’s precisely it. Even when he makes more drastic changes, such as when he completely rewrote the ending of The Mist, even King himself can’t help but approve.
Adaptations don’t get much more faithful than Darabont’s. Nor do they get much better, all around. Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) may not have been as King pictured John Coffey, but I bet the movie had him thinking maybe it should’ve been.
That all said, I’m heavily biased, what with the movie all the way up at #38 for me all-time (The Shawshank Redemption’s #6). As a result, I suggest you do the opposite of me and read the book first. It’s usually best done that way, no matter the quality of the book and movie. And be sure to tell me if your experience differed, and how.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.