Sunday, April 29, 2007

Actually, the movie was better

Ever since I ran across that British list of books, I've been thinking about the connection between good books and their movie versions. The book is almost always better for obvious reasons. You can share in the thoughts of the characters. There is more time to expand the themes. You're not distracted by bewildering hair choices.
There are some exceptions of course. Sometimes forcing a full length book into a two/three hour time slot cleans up the story. Sometimes an actor can bring something to life that the written work just couldn't. Or it could be that the added visuals and musical score are striking enough that they carry the day. Some examples?
  • The Shawshank Redemption - based on a Stephen King novella. The original here is very good. It adds some texture that the movie couldn't quite get to, my favorite being a list of other escape stories. What made the movie better was the acting of Morgan Freeman. He embodies Red in such a way that you completely fall into the movie. The scene where he fears Andy has killed himself is a classic.
  • Jurassic Park - based on a Michael Crichton novel. The storyline here is much the same and Crichton clearly knows how to write novels that move like an action movie. The movie simplifies (and in some cases animates) complex section of the book and makes it more digestable. Plus, the theater audience doesn't have to sit through pages and pages of Taoist exposition.
  • Cliffhanger - based on who knows what. Only kidding.
  • The English Patient - based on a Michael Ondaatje novel. The books is quite good in this case but the movie is a great one. It improved the product by cleaning up the storylines. Plus Juliette Binoche is heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.
I thought of including the Lord of the Rings movies but I can't forgive the last half hour/decade of 'Return of the King'. I understand that the book doesn't end right after the climax either but at least you can put it down early without worrying that you'll miss the blooper reel during the credits.
What did I miss? Am I the only one that's run into this phenomenon?


Sarah said...

I liked Jurassic Park better in book form. I hated the kids and while I used to have a weird crush on Jeff Goldbloom many years ago, I felt he wasn't right for the part. The movie just felt cheesy compared to the book.

That is the only one you listed that I have read.

MamaD4 said...

I was thinking "English Patient" before I read that part. The book is super-confusing. The movie helps understand the past-present back and forth of the story (which I really love, the flashbacks). I remember realizing that Catherine is dead in the first scene of the movie, in the plane. Anyway, I love the twists and turns and questions that get answered in the end, etc. I still listen to the soundtrack on a regular basis. But I doubt I will ever crack open the book again. Now they're doing "The Time Traveler's Wife" and I'm very afraid, as it's one of my all-time favorites.

carrster said...

I think the newest version of PRIDE & PREJUDICE has at LEAST done the book justice, if not making it more palatable for society/time right now. I love the book, I loved the BBC Mini-series, but the "new" film is just outstanding.

That's all I can think of right now.

-Peder said...

I suppose you could throw a bunch of Shakespeare in there too. The language barrier is more easily overcome with action to follow.
Rach, I'm reading 'Time Traveler's Wife' right now and enjoying it. I can see a film version but I hope they're very careful.
Carrie, I've heard great things about the latest 'Pride and Prejudice'. Will have to put that on the Netflix list.

carrster said...

I absolutely adore The Time Traveler's Wife - I hope they don't muck it up!