Making Movie History: Oh The Book Is SO Much Better Than The Movie

There isn’t but one movie opening up in theatres today and it is based off of a novel. Oddly enough this is actually a novel that I’ve read before getting to see it turned into something for the big screen. Over the years I’ve read a few books here and there that had been turned into films, and sometimes read novels after seeing the film they were turned into. Is it true though that the book is always better then the film it is made into for all to view that are simply too damn lazy to pick up a copy? Or maybe the films are better and some people just think literacy is overrated.

I’m not the biggest reader in the world although I would like to admit to having read more books in my lifetime. Still there are a number of books that have been read from cover to cover and eventually I’d see those books turned into feature films and it would just make sense that they’d be seen by me. You all know the drill though and usually the films don’t even begin to live up to what the novel presented to you in written form. Everyone may enjoy the movies but they continue to throw out the same tired phrase over and over again:

“Ohhhh, the book is SO much better then the movie!”

But is that always the case? With Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons coming out today and considering it is based on the novel by Dan Brown; this is as good a time as any to dissect a small amount of movies that started out as books and see how they stack up to that age old adage people like to throw out.

Kind of funny that in order to discuss my view on some novels turned into films, I go by the written word. I mean I’m not entirely convinced that all books turned into films live by that quote that the books are always the better way of realizing the story at hand. Yet you folks must “read” my words in order to understand if some things are better left “seen.” Irrroonnnyyyyy!

Angels & Demons

People are not entirely up to date on what this film is all about, and even less know that is in some ways the prequel to Dan Brown’s first novel, “The Da Vinci Code.” Besides the fact that I’ve already had a conversation with a few people as to the whole issue of the terms “prequel” and “sequel” earlier this week; it’s difficult for me to say this film actually comes before Da Vinci. The thing here is that in reality it takes place before the events of Da Vinci and it does have a couple of the same characters running around (most notably Robert Langdon), but there is really nothing at all that connects the two storylines. Yet there are some similarities in that Langdon’s expertise is needed to solve a specific crime that has something to do with history and religion.

I still wouldn’t call it a prequel though.

One thing the film version of Angels & Demons needs to do is make sure not to lose its audience in the first half an hour. The novel is an excellent read and one I’d highly recommend anyone to check out, but make sure you have some patience. The first fifty or so pages of the book are really quite dull and tell a lot of history. History is one of my favorite subjects and background information is something I long for when it comes to hearing a story and learning about people or situations, but there’s a limit. My god the first fifty pages really dragged ass and there was even a moment or two when I put the book down, but instead I fledged forward and ended up being glad I did. Ron Howard needs to get the action started much faster in his film though.

Now, I actually have plans of checking this out sometime this weekend or next week and will get an accurate portrayal of how true to the book Opie truly gets. I don’t expect it to be perfect and overly the same, but I’d like to see the story stay virtually the same and at least keep things a little similar. Only time will tell now. Hopefully though it doesn’t suffer the same fate that Da Vinci did when it was adapted for the big screen.

Verdict: To Be Determined

The Da Vinci Code

Here is a prime example of me being a tad bit torn in the whole “the book is better then the movie” motto we have going on here. “The Da Vinci Code” is one of the first books I had read in a very long time when it found its way into my grubby little paws sometime during 2004. That’s just about a full two years before the film hit theatres and my anxiousness had been built to huge proportions. The book amazed me and thrilled me to no end getting me engrossed in the first book I had probably read in full since graduating from high school back in 1997. Anticipation continued to grow when it became open knowledge that the book would be made into my favorite medium…film.

Time to celebrate eh? Not so fast my friend.

Don’t get me wrong that Da Vinci isn’t a movie I liked, but it just left too much out for my liking. I know that not everything can be included in a film that is adapted from a novel because then each one would have like a four hundred page or bigger script. I just wasn’t fond of the little intricacies of the novel that were all left out of the movie making it not nearly as special as the words I had read not too long ago on so many pages. Some scenes seemed rushed while others were left out altogether and it just felt empty at times. A few moments here and there were pretty awesome, but there are far too many that just leave you hanging.

Verdict: Book is better then the movie!

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favorite movies and it is one of those that I could watch fifteen times in a row even though I know the script backwards and forwards. Tom Hanks (Damn he’s showing up a lot in this column) did a phenomenal job of being the slow (not retarded…WINK) and lovable Forrest Gump that did everything in life right even though no-one ever expected him to amount to anything. I cried, I laughed, I cried some more and then laughed a hell of a lot more. Hell, I even learned a good bit about our fair country throughout the course of the film.

High school English class brought about numerous opportunities for me to read some books that probably would never have graced my hands if not for my teachers. “Forrest Gump” was not one of the required readings though and only ended up in front of me because I loved the movie and had a “reader’s choice” book to pick for a report. The story of “Forrest Gump” when put into the written word brings about much of the same emotion and excitement and humor that the movie did, but there is a problem. Too much more is added in. The novel had been written in 1986 and wasn’t adapted into a feature-length film until 1994, and the filmmakers did a damn fine job of whittling it down to the amazing finished product.

The book just had things with Marilyn Monroe, a monkey, and even outer space that made me just roll my eyes and see the story of this amazing man go from awesome to ludicrous. It got to be too over the top and just way too unbelievable that it actually started to annoy me the further I got into the book and almost wanted to stop reading a few times. But my ambition got me through the whole thing and even though it had so much more then the movie showed, it was also missing some things that just didn’t make it as personal for me. This is one of those times when seeing the face of the actors, hearing the tones in their voice, and watching the events fold out in front of me made them hit home so much more then reading them as they happened.

Verdict: Movie trumps the book!

Jurassic Park

An awesome film about dinosaurs that will have you mesmerized by the incredible visuals and just awesomeness of the creatures we may never actually be able to witness in person. Never say never everyone.

The book is incredible in that there are some changes made to the film that the book presents very well and very believable. The only problem is (and I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t yet read it) that the movies couldn’t go with the same ending as the book or else a franchise of films never would have happened. Cough COUGHmoneyCOUGH…oh excuse me.

Jurassic Park is one of those movies I’ll always love and actually didn’t read the book until after originally watching it. Let me tell you that I was incredibly torn and realized I didn’t necessarily have to make a decision or determination if one was better then the other. Some people will continually argue with me that the book just totally outshines the movie but I myself don’t find that to be necessarily true. Both are equally god and have their ways of coming through the fog with lights shining and presenting themselves in excellent ways.

Verdict: Read the book and then sit on your ass and watch the film.

The Harry Potter Series

Ok, so some people may give me shit for this one but it’s the God’s honest truth. When it comes to the Harry Potter series of books and films, we haven’t yet gotten to the completion of the transition just yet. Seven books have been released and author J.K. Rowling says she is totally done and will never again write a story of the boy wizard. The movies are five down and two to go so that gives me a little bit of comparison so that I can support one or the other in terms of medium.

Or will I?

The books are simply phenomenal by no stretches of the imagination. Some people may insist that they are children’s books and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The first two books showcase these very young children in a wizardry school and going through some playful and youthful hijinks. Yes they have the villain to face, but you can still see their childish ways and even sort of recognize the writing that seems aimed more at younger readers. But starting with the third book (and my favorite), “Prisoner Of Azkaban,” things take a darker turn and eventually get to a point that may seem as if the books are written only for adults because they sort of become downright frightening. But they are easy reads and engrossed me like no other novel series in the history of books.

Movie wise, we are all waiting for Half-Blood Prince to come out this year meaning we still have that film and then the final Deathly Hallows to go. But the thing is that the movies are incredible and amazing. They are entertaining with tremendous special effects and keep so true to the books without ever seeming to take much out to fit time constraints. Yes not everything is left in, but the filmmakers do a damn fine job of leaving the biggest plot points and even smaller little things in the movies so that the avid readers will be happy and not bitch and complain. I look forward to every single film with great anticipation because the books are no longer new for me to great ready for.

One thing I’ll give those behind the creation of the movies is that they are taking the most important of the novels, “Deathly Hallows,” and splitting it up into two separate feature length films. It would be nearly impossible to fit in everything that needs to be finished up in that last novel in one movie even if it would last three hours. Bravo on that note.

Verdict: Read the books and then sit on your ass and watch the films.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is my view on how it is when books are made into movies. Sometimes the book really is better then the movie and needs to be read in order to get the full appreciation. But then there are other times when you just didn’t end up fond of the book and loved how the story was presented more when on the big screen. And hell, then there are times when both mediums are equally enjoyable.

Do yourself a favor though…pick up a damn book. Even if you enjoy the hell out of a movie or even if there isn’t a movie made from a novel; just pick up a book. Literacy is incredibly underrated.

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