Saturday, August 01, 2009

Movies better than the books?

It's a cliché that movies made from books are always worse than the book. But I do think there are exceptions. For instance,

I really enjoy the movie The World According to Garp, with Robin Williams (and transgendered John Lithgow!) from the early or mid 80s. It's a weird movie in that you can interpret it entirely differently depending on your mood at the time. Is it a comedy with some serious moments or a tragedy with a little quirk? It goes back and forth. But then I read the John Irving novel, and, well, I never even finished it. I think I gave up when the bears at the hotel jumped on unicycles. Or something.

And there's The Razor's Edge with Bill Murray. Another great movie that really challenges one's world view. Is it a tragedy or a Buddhist meditation on non-attachment or what? Many layers. I read M. Somerset Maugham's original, but it didn't live up to the movie.

The Jurassic Park movie was better than Crichton's novel, too. Crichton stretched the chaos theory metaphor far more than it could be stretched. When you've got dinosaurs running around eating people, it's hard to step back and worry about chaos.

One theme here is that I saw the movie first and read the novel later. But despite very well regarded authors (at least for what they do) in Irving, Maugham, and Crichton, I won't re-read these books, but I will see the movies again one day. I wonder if there are any books/movies where I read the book first, but liked the movie better. I'll have to stew on that.

How about you? Any movies from books where you like the movie better?


blogless troll said...

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was better than the books.

Precie said...

Fight Club (and, no, not just because Brad Pitt was in the movie). Maybe I just don't really "get" Palahniuk's writing style...but I felt the movie was more expressive and concrete than the book.

Robin S. said...

It must depend on the books, and whether you know the story, initially, from the movie or the books, or at least that's what I think.

Like BT, I think the Lord of the Rings movies are better than the books - the story came to life, but I freely admit I may not be the best person to say this, since I never got past maybe three pages of the first of those books. I really didn't like the prose.

I didn't like the movie Garp much- didn't hate it, but didn't love it (actually only saw it a few years ago for the first time) for the very typical reason that I figured it couldn't live up to the book, which I'd read and revered in the 80s. I also think tastes can wax and wane in lit, though. I revisited Garp (the novel) recently, after I finished (sorta) my novel, and I wasn't as in love with it. May have been a mood thing, though, as I have far less time to read these days, and feel always 'in a hurry'.

But sometimes there are 'boths' that are really satisfying. I'm thinking here of Dennis Lehane's book, Mystic River. I saw the movie first, which prompted me to read the book, and the book was rich and multi-layered AND dove deeper into the events of the movie, but the feeling of the movie and the book were the same. Maybe that's why I enjoyed both.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Followed you here from various places. Hi.

Agreed, Troll. And I couldn't get through Garp in print if my life depended on it.

I didn't know Fight Club was a book. I really enjoy Brad Pitt so I think I'll remain ignorant on that front and choose the film. :)

Sammy Jankis said...

I'll have to try to remember if I've read a book and then watched the movie, ending up liking the movie more. As far movie before book, Forest Gump was a far superior film than novel.

sylvia said...

ARGH No I totally disagree with EVERYONE!


I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy so many times my books fell to pieces. I did like the movies, the scenery was amazing and they stayed true to as much of the story as they could but the books are so so so so much more better.

I didn't see Garp because I knew it couldn't possibly come close to the book. I was clearly going to hate it so I didn't bother going (to be fair, I don't go to see movies very often so I miss 90% of releases anyway).

I liked the Jurassic Park book better than the movie - maybe because of the pacing and that I couldn't take a breath? Actually, I think it's just that the dinosaurs were much more horrible in my imagination.

I liked Gone with the Wind as a film better than the book but that could just be nostalgia.

There was a book that I made a point of not reading because I knew they were going to make a film of it and I wanted to enjoy the film unencumbered. I can't for the life of me remember what it was, though.

Silence of the Lambs and Flowers for Algernon were both very powerful as films because the actors really brought the characters to life for me.

Sammy Jankis said...

You disagreed with me on Forest Gump as well, Sylvia? Or you just left me out? ;-)

sylvia said...

I've neither seen the film nor read the book. Now I guess I better do both having stuck my foot in my mouth! ;)