::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Movie vs. Novel
10 Movies that will make you rip up your Library Card

It’s a rarity.

Because – and let’s be honest here people – the vast majority of the time, the book is simply better than the movie. Movies are limited in scope – they’re abridged versions of novels and most of the time abridged versions are severely lacking. And the big advantage, of course, is that the novel is the novelist’s idea. The movie is an adaptation of that idea.

It’s also the nature of the mediums. Books are more in-depth – epic. The characters are richer and there’s more of an opportunity for a novelist to create and explore personality through action, dialogue, and internal monologue. Novelists have the luxury of back story, multiple sub-plots, and the additions of more supporting characters (there’s a reason why movie characters usually only have one or two friends – anymore and its just too complicated).

Directors, on the other hand, are ruled by action. They need scenes that require the movement and that propel the plot forward. Characters are mostly built through action and dialogue. In order to keep a film manageable, directors need to eliminate sub-plots, pare down the number of characters, and eliminate “quiet” scenes.

But there are occasions where the movie trumps the book. Sometimes – the stories just call out for the Silver Screen. DaRK PaRTY presents “10 Movies that Beat Down the Book.”

Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk’s overrated novel simply lacks the punch of the film. Palahniuk writes in a visual style, which can’t compete against the real thing. This story has found its home on film. While the novel wants to be “underground” it feels too slick for the distinction, yet somehow the movie (with the likes of Brad Pitt) manages to pull of the anarchist look and feel more successfully.

The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper’s famous and overwrought novel is one of the worst written books with a “classics” distinction ever penned in American literature (It was notoriously panned by none other than Mark Twain). Yet in the hands of director Michael Mann, Cooper’s novel comes to vivid life. The film is visually stunning, packed with action, and dripping with cinematic chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe. One of the best action romances of the last two decades.

About a Boy
Nick Hornby is a writer that I want to like – but can’t. His novels are chick-lit written for sensitive guys. The characters never quite get off the ground. It’s the same with “About a Boy,” which falls horribly flat. So imagine my surprise at how well the novel translated into a movie. Damn, if the film isn’t hilarious. Hugh Grant was born to play a middle-aged adolescence and was rightly nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. A fine soundtrack from Badly Drawn Boy is also a plus.

Lord of the Rings
A sacrilege, no doubt. Tolkien fans will probably want to egg my house, but the films just capture Middle Earth better than the books. Tolkien had difficulty with action scenes and was much more comfortable with mythology and back story. So while the books can feel dusty and antiquated, the movie captures the magic and violence of the story and makes it feel young. Director Peter Jackson has made the greatest film trilogy of all time.

The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris wrote an interesting, middle-of-the-road thriller that was a great read while you were stuck in an airport. But Jonathan Demme’s movie became a phenomenon that redefined the genre and ushered in a darker era of thriller/horror movies like “Seven” and “Kiss the Girls.” It also won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Forrest Gump
Not many people even realize that the movie was based on a Winston Groom novel of the same name. The novel garnered raves (and even comparisons with “Huckleberry Finn”) when it was first published, yet it still falls short of this quirky, likable film starring Tom Hanks. The movie went on to collect six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Blade Runner
This movie is based on the Philip K. Dick’s underground science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Dick had one of the most stunning imaginations in literature, but his novel isn’t as fully realized as the movie adaptation by Director Ridley Scott. The movie is dark, mysteriously and surprisingly philosophical. It’s better than the book, but overrated as well.

The Shawshank Redemption
Stephen King wrote a novella called “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” in his collection “Different Seasons.” King has always been underrated as a writer (who writes better horror stories than King?). But the story can’t live up to one of the most beloved films of all time (ranked number 2 in popularity at the Internet Movie Database).

One-hit wonder Peter Benchley wrote a scary novel about a man-eating shark that became one of the greatest summer blockbusters of all-time. It was also the movie that put Director Steven Spielberg on the map. So damn terrifying that it continues to make millions of people afraid to swim out over their heads in the ocean – 30 years later.

Maltese Falcon
This is a close one. The novel by Dashiell Hammett is fantastic and remains a great read to this day. But the movie narrowly edges out the novel by a hair for one reason: Humphrey Bogart.

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