Monday, January 23, 2006

So, what should come first: The novel or the movie?

It is no great secret that Hollywood loves to turn a good book (and sometimes a bad one!) into a movie. And why not—the story already has buy-in from readers, the script practically writes itself, plug in a few big stars, and you’ve got yourself a money maker. Plus there’s all the extra marketing that can go along with a book-into-movie deal: books rereleased with movie-art covers, books about the making of the movie, bound copies of the movie script.

When Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released, there were no fewer than 32 different book tie-ins with the movie. If you walked into any commercial book store, you were bound to find displays with Narnia movie art, and various Narnia books in a prominent place amidst the “ordinary” books.

All of that leads me to ask—how does any savvy book bitch approach the “movie based on book” question? Do we read the book first and then see the film, or see the film first and then read the book?

It is my humble (or, perhaps, not-so-humble) opinion that most movies based on books are crap. Total crap. Notable recent exceptions being, of course, Peter Jackson’s luminous The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the aforementioned Narnia. But did anyone see that piece of junk the studios tried to pass off as Bridges of Madison County? Or what about The English Patient? An amazing book, but it was never going to work as a movie.

The problem is, in books, one has soooo much more time to explore the characters, to let things happen, to allow emotional connections to be made. In movies, you’ve got (maybe) 2 hours. That’s it. In order for a book to become a good movie, you need someone who is a complete visionary to do the work of translating the written word into the visual medium of film. And visionaries do not grow on trees.

Of course, the opposite can happen. A book can suck, while the movie based upon it is awesome. Take, for example, Possession, one of my all-time favourite films. I saw the movie first, and then read the book. The book—by A.S. Byatt—was a massive disappointment. The characters I loved in the movie were lame or wishy-washy in the book. The romance that captivated me on the screen paled in comparison. The poets who came across as great writers, were undone by pages of Byatt’s verbal masturbation. (Seriously, give us a taste of the fictional poet’s poetry. Not pages and pages of drivel so that the reader comes to hate the poet and wish they would simply shut up.)

Perhaps there is not hard-and-fast (Bawdy Babe, stop thinking about BOB!) rule. Except I like hard and fast rules. So here is mine: No one should ever read the book before seeing the movie. That way lies disappointment and frustration. The only reason I actually like some movies based upon books is that I’ve made it a rule to see the film first and then discover the book.

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19 comment(s):

Anonymous Ann said...

I have rarely liked a movie if I've read the book first. I get a visual of what the characters are like then tend to be disappointed by the 'star' who plays the character's part. It's frustrating. I did like Bridget Jones, the movie, after reading the books. Although I thought the first was better than Edge of Reason. The cast was really well matched for the book. IMO.
As for some movies like Narnia. On the plus side to them making these books a movie, it tends to draw interest from children. Maybe make them interested in reading. Could be a plus!
But overall, I agree, see a movie then read a book.
By the way. Is Malicious Strumpet new or have I missed her?

1/23/2006 09:45:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Hey Ann,

Malicious Strumpet is our special guest writer. :D She's great!

Okay, i have to agree with the LOTR movies. Even jsut for the sexy Aragorn, sigh, that trilogy is definitely awesome. But have to say i thought Narnia was a bad film. Yikes. LOL I saw this movie with BF and finished it just because i dragged him into seeing it. Of course had to lie too afterwards and told him i loved it. LOL Love Aslan though.

About Possession, HATED that movie! Sorry. :S Hated Paltrow's fake accent, and her chemistry with Eckhart was just bad. :S LOL

1/23/2006 10:21:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

Which one was Posession?

And Yes, Malicious Strumpet is great.
I'm very nosey and of course had to ask about her.

1/23/2006 11:18:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Hey Ann!

THe one by AS Byatt. The only thing i liked about that movie was when Ash saw her daughter in the end. LOL

1/23/2006 11:31:00 AM  

Anonymous ann said...

Thanks, Harlot! Yes, I do remember seeing that. GP and that guy are looking for info on the two authors.
Who were the actors who played the two authors they were researching? I liked them.

1/23/2006 12:01:00 PM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

Hey Malicious, couldn't agree more. Imagine my response to seeing Ashley for the first time in GWTW. I imagined a Robert Redford type, not that pasty faced middle aged old guy Yuck and euw.

Plus, movie left out so many characters and two of Scarlet's kids. Still a good movie though.

1/24/2006 05:29:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some potential exceptions:

Clockwork Orange
The French Lieutenent's Wife
Charlie and Chocolate Factory (#1)
Barry Lyndon
and Fear and Loathing was different from the book, but I wouldn't say worse.

There's more, but I can't think of them right now... it's interesting to think about why the film or book might be more rewarding.

1/25/2006 02:32:00 AM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

Thank you for feed back and discussion, ladies! There are definite exceptions to the rule, but I still find I tend to enjoy the movie better if I see it before reading the book. Then I don't have ideas about what characters look like, or I don't have a favorite line or scene that doesn't make it into the movie.

Ann: I'm on the godess SEP's site...thought it might be fun for you to try to figure out who I am.

Harlot: We will agree to disagree about Posession. I thought the chemistry was lovely between GP and AE. And I love, love, love, love, love Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the Victorian Poets. I'm a sucker for tragedy, and I love the fact that they never get back together. So sad.

1/25/2006 11:40:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

Malicious Strumpet, Do I get a hint?

1/25/2006 06:12:00 PM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

Hee hee. I suppose I should give you one, but anything I've thought of is completely obvious. Goodness. Will have to consult with the bitches and see if they have any ideas on a good hint I could pass on.

1/25/2006 11:16:00 PM  

Anonymous Ann said...

You could always just post an "Attn. Ann it's me! I'm Malicious Strumpet" on SEP BB
Oh, wait, that could be too easy. Hmmm. Now it's bugging me, I have to figure it out so give me one small hint. Although, I do have a guess but I'm gonna hang on it a bit.

1/26/2006 12:51:00 AM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

Okay. Very tiny hint. I'm not in the USA, I'm an international poster. Perhaps that's not too obvious.

1/26/2006 11:09:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

That took care of my first guess. Because I hate to be wrong I was going to go to bb and try to figure this out but I didn't have time for that. So I am throwing out a guess.
Sanna?
Do I get more than one?

1/26/2006 08:29:00 PM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

Sure you can guess more than once. There are no rules here! :D

I'm not Sanna, though. Check out some of my previous responses to posts here. There's a HUGE hint in one of them...

1/26/2006 10:58:00 PM  

Anonymous Ann said...

Aha!!

Your're RiC!
And I swear to you that you crossed my mind from the start but I re-thought it. Grrr. I know you probably don't believe me now.
I should really learn to trust my instincts.
Tell me I'm right!
Now, I'm just being cocky, I could still be wrong.

1/27/2006 09:31:00 AM  

Blogger Malicious Strumpet said...

You're right. :D I figured if you saw that other hint, you'd get it right away.

I'm excercising my naughty side on this site! :)

1/27/2006 10:42:00 AM  

Anonymous Ann said...

And see, that naughty side is where you threw me.
I love it! We all need a naughty side. Thanks for letting me figure it out. This is a great blog and I look forward to more of you guest appearances.

1/27/2006 10:49:00 AM  

Blogger Bawdy Babe said...

I just saw IN HER SHOES on dvd. Yawn. Great book/so so movie. The only movie in history, imo, that far surpassed the book, is The Godfather. The GF is a terrible book.

1/31/2006 08:32:00 AM  

Blogger Latin's Lady said...

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2/17/2006 12:06:00 PM