Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Book Was Better! by Nancy Campbell Allen

There's a reason people say, "The book was better."

When we who love to read get involved in a story we see things a certain way, we experience the book individually. I've heard that the same book is never the same to various readers, and I believe that. Reading is a unique, usually solitary experience and the reader finds herself living that book in her own way until she discusses it with others and broadens her perspective on it. Maybe she'll agree with other opinions, maybe she won't, but she comes away from the book with her own feelings about it.

J.K. Rowling once said that a young girl standing in a signing line was a little upset that there were so many other people there, that she felt Harry Potter was her book. I love that! And it's one of the reasons that I sometimes have a hard time with audio versions- it's like the reader is intruding on my experience or something. I know, weird.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was thinking the other day about one of my very favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the movie version that came out in 2002. I have loved the book for ages. I suggested it for my local book club, we read it, and then went and saw the movie together. (Should have seen us all, a bunch of married Mormon women, staring at the screen with our mouths agape at James Caviezel).

But other than the eye candy, I was really unhappy with the way the story had been totally altered.

I mean completely.

Why does it have to be that way? Monte Cristo gets a happy ending in the book! Why couldn't Hollywood have stayed true to the story?

It's funny to listen to my kids say, "That didn't happen in the book," when they watch movies. And one of my favorite memories along those lines was when I was first married and my husband had read John Grisham's The Firm. When the movie came out, we sat in the theater with him muttering the that-didn't-happen litany through the whole of it. The reason I was so tickled by this is because my husband isn't a reader.

So, I'd have to say that overall, the book is better than the movie. My Junior English Seminar teacher at Ogden High School once told us that this was true for every movie she'd seen except for the movie adaptation of A Separate Peace. I hated both the book and the movie, so I can't say I agree with her.

What about you? Can you think of any movies out there that are better than the books? Have you seen a movie adaptation that made your blood boil because it was such a shame they slaughtered your favorite book so much?


Cheri J. Crane said...

Clive Cussler's "Sahara." I loved the movie. Then I read the book and liked it better. The movie makers left out a ton of stuff and changed a few things.

(Incidentally, I've read a lot of Clive Cussler books. They're usually a lot of fun. I just hadn't read Sahara until after the movie came out. So I guess I did things backwards. Story of my life, but I digress . . .)

Great blog, Nancy.

Annette Lyon said...

My two oldest kids are reading Harry Potter and they're debating whether to read #6 before the movie comes out or not.

My son insists that he'll hate the movie if he reads the book first because books are always better.

His sister insists that she hates the fact that she's seen the first five movies and now the books are ruined for her because she already knows what's going to happen--even though there's tons in them that's not in the movies.

Interesting discussion to listen to. :)

A lot of times when movies from books, I just have to compartmentalize them as different pieces altogether and not compare them. The second Anne movie is an example--cute movie IF you don't compare it to the books. Compare it, and you'll want to tear your hair out! (I won't even get into the third movie, which HAS no book it was made from and totally destroyed the series, but I digress. :D)

Stephanie Black said...

Gone With the Wind. Sure, it's a classic movie and all, but it doesn't even come close to the book.

And it is interesting how in books, we all picture things our own way. As a writer, I still find it a little unsettling that my readers aren't picturing the story the exact way I pictured it when I wrote it. Characters will look different in their minds; settings will look different.

Jennie said...

There's only one movie (made for TV I think)that I liked better than the book and that was The Christmas Box. Most of my favorite books that have been made into movies were slaughtered. I agree with Stephanie about Gone With the Wind; the movie version just didn't measure up to the book. I'm usually pretty careful to avoid movie versions of my favorite books. After Hollywood got through with Faulkner, I pretty much lost interest in movies.

Jeri Gilchrist said...

Nicolas Sparks, A Walk To Remember and Note Book. Both cases the book was better than the movie. Yet everyone loved the movies. I saw the trailer for A Walk To Remember and then read the book. When my sister and I saw the movie we were so confused. The movie took place in a whole different time era, practically the whole storyline had changed except for what led to the end result. I really liked the movie, but oh yeah, the book was better. :) great blog, Nancy!

Michele Ashman Bell said...

I agree completely. Which is why I'm nervous to see "Twilight". Keeping expectations low, might be the best way to approach that movie. Then, we might be pleasantly surprised.

I talked to someone the other day who said she liked the Lord of the Rings movies better than the book, which was interesting.

Bottom line, nothing beats the intimate connection a reader has with a book.

Sue said...

I really agree about Gone With The Wind. I was so disappointed when I saw it the first time because there was no way it could measure up to the movie I'd already filmed in my head.

The third Anne of Green Gables movie makes me want to hurt people. HERESY.

Gale Sears said...

Very interesting blog, Nancy! A movie that did honor the book for me was The Age of Innocence. I also agree with Annette that you almost have to treat them as two different animals.(books & movies) One thing though...a movie is over in two hours. A book takes you to that wondrous place for days!