The Book Was Better

Marvin‘s F5, a day late and a few dollars short:

“The movie isn’t as good as the book,” is a phrase we hear a lot. Describe five movie moments?in movies adapted from books, plays, or stories?that could or should have been done better, in your humble opinion.

Oh boy. THis is a tough question, because, well, I usually don’t read books upon which movies have been based. You see, I’m an incredibly slow reader, and so I have a huge backlog of books I want to read. When a “classic story” shows up as a movie, I often see the movie without having read the book. I know, that’s pathetic for a so-called writer. But it’s the truth.

Sometimes it makes me want to read the book, but since I’m quite a new-plot-addict, I often tend to read a book which I’ve not seen in movie form, first. So, it might be hard for me to come up with five examples. However, I can list of tons of movie moments which could have been better, so I might fill out the list with some of those.

  1. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. My favorite part of the trilogy (in print form) was when the hobbits got back to Hobbiton to find it, too, was a shambles. This, to me, framed the whole narrative in a way that completely changed it. Wickedness is not something “out there”, it’s available everywhere, it has its place even in one’s own idyllic abode. While I knew that it would be left out of the movies, to me it is absolutely definitive of the story and belongs in. I wish it’d been in the extended version of the movie, but I suppose that would mean another installment in the series. Again, it’s just something that maybe couldn’t be done in the movie, and could only be done in print. Brilliant ending, though it took me a while to warm up to it. I wish I could have seen that realized competently onscreen. The movie trilogy was good, don’t get me wrong: the elf-dwarf thing was a little too cutesy, and there were some other problems, but really my main complaint was missing an ending that most people wouldn’t appreciate, but which makes the book what it is.
  2. Orlando. The Sally Potter adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is (as many commenters have agreed) a wonderful piece of film, and very much a film. There are things that could not be done in print which are done in this movie, and on its own, it’s an amazing piece of work. And yet, the original novel has so many things in it which could not be done on film. The neat switched-ending of the movie is good, is damned fine, but the ending of the novel is better, in its way. Or, perhaps, they’re both glorious and simply untranslatable. If you’ve not seen the movie, you should try.
  3. Dangerous Liasons/Valmont. As everyone knows, these are both adaptations from the novel Les liasons dangereuses, by some person named Choderlos de Laclos. It’s been ages since I’ve seen either movie, though a Korean remake has been released and that’s why it’s still fresh in my mind. In any case, I remember thinking that Valmont was a superior film, but that there were elements in each which were superior to the others’ rendition. I haven’t read the book, but I think a combination of the two films would be the best representation of the story, novel or no.
  4. The Passion of Christ. This film sucked shit, and if the director had cared to, you know, include any of the meaningful philosophy involved, it might have been less of a snuff film and more of a meaningful remake of a film that’s been done many times before, better. The Bible was not, all in all, a horror movie. Anyway, using the rest of the story might have helped some, I think. Something other than just the mentions of torutre, the trial, and the crucifixion. I’m not even linking this movie, since it’s such a piece of garbage.
  5. Dune. Sorry, this might be heresy, but the special effects were trash and the acting wasn’t all that hot. The remedy for the perception that SF is juvenile is not to make it look juvenile and meet expectations, you know. Why make it all dreamy and druggy when you could instead be more minimalist? Don’t try to do something: do it, or don’t do it. And Sting never was an actor. Never. Good singer, okay musician. Not at actor. Oh, but there was a BBC miniseries, 6 hours long, and that version of Dune was much better.

5 thoughts on “The Book Was Better

  1. Hate movies based on books. Really hated LOTR movies, which completely mashed the stories and put in elements that are not in the books ( all that shit with Aragorn and Arwen…I ask you!!?)

  2. Huh… goes to show you how bad my memory is. Read LOTR for the first time only a couple of years ago, but I could have sworn that failed romance of Arwen’s was in the book… or was it someone else? There was one case where a woman wanted to wed Aragorn, but he wouldn’t have her, wasn’t there?

  3. yup it was Theodens niece, Eowin. That was mentioned. And the Arwen/Aragorn story was certainly a big part of the back plot, but not completely central, and she didnt have such an active part in Tolkeins story. Im sure that Peter JAckson has jsutified his playing around with the story in some directors commentary on some dvd, but it still took alot away from the story. I actually cried out alous in the cinema when Frodo, Sam and Gollum ended up in Osgiliath after the had been captured/rescued by Faramir.

  4. Yeah, right, Eowyn.

    Osgiliath? Okay, I don’t remember it all that well. Hmm. Maybe in a few years I’ll read it again. But there are so many other books for me to read first.

    (Looks around flat at the massive number of books accumulated on trips.)

    Sooooo many to read first.

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