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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No, Not Every Book is Better Than the Movie

I don't know how many times someone has told me, the movie is good, but the book is better. I often wonder whether this is just a default sentiment, a thought that has become so ingrained in popular culture that few have ever considered straying from it. But I can think of a few books I've read off the top of my head that after which I thought, the movie was so much better. Here are six of them:

LITTLE CHILDREN by Tom Perrotta: While the book is fairly close to the movie, Ronnie J. McGorvey (played by Jackie Earle Haley) was far creepier in the movie, thus enveloping the story with an overwhelming sense of eeriness amid the forbidden love affair between Sarah and Brad (Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson).

JAWS by Peter Benchley: The movie is actually horrifying; the book is not. Benchley wrote in the foreword that he is fascinated by marine biology and the great white shark, and seemed to have created Jaws as a romantic ode to the mammal. As a result, the book is often a commentary about the treatment of these sharks. The death scenes aren't even graphic. It's very PG.

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks: Truthfully, I have problems with both the book and the movie. (You can look back at my review of the movie here). But ultimately, I think both stories (which share very little in regards to storyline), suffer from over-extension in commentary. They're both just trying to do too much. The movie is more entertaining, the book is more cohesive but less engaging.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER by Lois Duncan: Most people don't even realize this was a book before the Jennifer Love Hewitt-led franchise. But the movie and the book are almost completely unrelated. There is a chain letter in both, and a crazy lunatic. There's no man with a hook in the book, which is more pre-teen mystery than anything else. The movie is more gripping.

CAPE FEAR by John D. MacDonald: For so long people considered this book as one of the most suspenseful books of all time, and I spent most of the time reading it waiting for something to happen. Brilliant suspense could be found in Stephen King's The Shining, not this book. The 1991 movie with Robert De Niro is way scarier.

AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis: If you're going to create a vile character like Patrick Bateman, as the author you should at least care enough about him to find some kind of humanity in him. Ellis did not; he made a one-dimensional villain that had no meaning. On the other hand, director and co-writer of the film version, Mary Harron, stripped down some of the extra nonsense in the book character to deliver an accessible, entertaining villain that better embodied the themes Ellis attempted to present in the book.

Which movies do you think are better than their books?


Anonymous said...

Oh NO!!! Little Children and especially American Psycho were SO MUCH BETTER on the printed page, although I really liked Little Children, the movie. LOL, but it really all comes down to personal perspective, so I totally applaud your list. I haven't read Jaws, but I heard that the movie was way better than the book.

Sideways, for me, is a perfect example of a movie gutting out the dumb crap from a horrible book and rewriting it perfectly. That book was utterly AWFUL, but the movie was a delight.

Anonymous said...

American Psycho is a better book if i'm honest i think My Sisters Keeper was a better movie than book

Brittani Burnham said...

I agree with you on American Psycho being a better movie. The book felt so tedious with all of the things Patrick said. It flowed better on screen.

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