Movies vs the Books

Movies never seem to satisfy a genre in the same way a book does. “The book was better,” is a consistent theme touted after a movie is made based on said book. Examples of this abound.

We don’t always say that the movie in question was bad, although that does happen. We just say that the book was better.

Of course it was. Try cramming hours of reading into a 2 to 2 ½ hour movie. Much is lost. A lot is lost. Sometimes the movie doesn’t share anything with the source material other than the title and the names of a few characters, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. And as close as they try to make it, sometimes a book’s plot or descriptions just do not translate well to a movie format.

One great example of a book being very different from the movie is Starship Troopers. The book written by legend Robert A Heinlein vs the movie directed by Paul Verhoeven. Both are great. In fact, I would put this as an example where the movie is better, but for very different reasons.

Both titles follow the exploits of Juan “Jonny” Rico as the human race fights against the onslaught of the bugs… but that’s about where they start and end.

For example, **SPOILERS AHEAD** Diz dies fairly early on in the book, and was a guy. In the movie, Diz becomes one of Jonny’s major love interests and follows him through the Mobile Infantry, dying much later on.

Carmen Ibanez was THE primary love interest in both medias, but in the movie played a much heavier role. And there wasn’t the double love triangle as seen in the movie.

The movie was a satire. It was 90210 in space (someone else’s description, not mine, although I do not recall the source). It was brilliant. Fun. Energetic. Funny.

The book was a political commentary. It was thick. Slow. Serious. Very different. If they made the movie like the book, I’d’ve probably still liked it, but not nearly as much.

A movie adaptation that went completely the other direction? Timeline, based off Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name. This is the same author whose books brought great, well done (although in some cases very different) adaptations such as the Jurassic Park franchise, Sphere, Congo, Eaters of the Dead (aka the 13th Warrior), Rising Sun, and Disclosure. And even the most recent, HBO’s series Westworld. (Although that wasn’t a novel to start, so maybe that doesn’t count?)

Now, I LOVED the book. Timeline was an amazing story about time travel (a plot trope I usually despise…). It was an adventure through Medieval times by academics as they end up tangled in a corporate plot trying to clean up its own mess after trying to capitalize on time travel technology. It was a great adventure. When they announced the movie, I was stoked.

And so disappointed when I finally saw it. No wonder it flopped.

What spawned this post though was my wife reading Harry Potter to our son. It still amazes me the sheer differences between the books and the movies. There is so much lost in the translation that it can be almost sickening as a hard-core fan of the books. But then again, I love the movies. Parts of them continue to give me chills, even knowing what is coming. So why is that?

I believe it is because they got the emotion right. They didn’t try to cram every blessed detail into the movie, rather focusing on ensuring that they were getting the emotional direction correct. As good as the books? Nope. Not really even in the same field of play. But they are still good.

Then again, does it really matter as long as we enjoy it?

Any book to movie adaptations you’d like to note that might not be as good, but you still enjoyed?

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