Sunday, July 09, 2006


Movie vs Book

In the early years of cinema, getting anything on screen that moved was a miracle in and of itself. So when filmmakers started looking to literary sources for inspiration, liberal license was taken in adapting these books to the screen. As filmmaking and film acting matured, adaptations got closer to the source. Still, sometimes for no apparent reason, (and sometimes for very good ones), filmmakers would still change things along the way from book to screen. Take for example Frankenstein. The James Whale/Boris Karloff version was not the first attempt to bring this book to screen (Thomas Edison did that), nor was it certainly the last, but it is the best known version, although the film takes great liberties with the book -- including changing the name of Dr. Frankenstein himself, from Victor to Henry! More recently, when Coppola, Branagh and DeNiro tried to be more faithful to Mary Shelly's text, the film was a horrible dud. Probably one of the more famous examples of a book vs its movie adaptation is Stephen King's The Shining. The masterful director Stanley Kubrick made needed changes to bring King's more visceral work to the screen as a cerebral horror classic. Still, King hated it. And when he had the clout, he remade it, more faithful to his work, and it was a horrible dud. Clearly, film and books are different. What you can get away with in one, you can't in the other, and vice versa. Some authors, like Michael Crichton for example, write books as if they were movies. His books read like movies. And still, despite landmark special effects, Steven Spielberg's version of Jurassic Park was not as good as Crichton's original text. (The same holds true for the screen version of Crichton's Rising Sun. Great book. Bad film.) The debate will go on. Book or movie? Which was better? The answer can be "They both were great!" when a talented filmmaker is allowed to "adapt" the text to the new medium and a writer realizes that change is sometimes (but not always) good.

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