It happens almost every time a movie comes out; “The book was better.” Often the change from one medium to another is at best mixed, and even more often lackluster. This is understandable, books go into far more depth and spend far more time building characters and plots and some of that is simply lost when it moves to film. Occasionally though, some films manage to not only provide a solid adaptation but actually go and one-up their source material. What follows is a list of five movies that did just that. Unlike most of these list you find out there, ours only contains one film from earlier than the mid-nineties, a long time favorite of Ms. Silver Screen’s (which is why I let her write about it). So without further delay, five movies that are actually better than the books they were based on:
Children of men is the story of a world not too far off in the future where, for reasons unknown, women simply can’t seem to get pregnant anymore. This “epidemic” has been going long enough now that schools are empty, and the youngest person alive is a known celebrity. The UK is in a state of martial law as society begins to fall apart both in the UK and around the world. A small bit of hope arrives in the form of a young girl who is pregnant and almost due. The film’s most gripping scene, where a full out war between military and militants comes to a complete halt at the sound of the first child crying in over a decade is one of the most powerful moments I’ve seen on screen in a long time. So why is the film better? Because that last scene doesn’t even happen in the book. More over, the book is radically different and to be honestly, boring and with a completely unsatisfying ending. They took many liberties with the film’s screenplay and I’m glad they did, as this literary dud became a fantastic film.
Starship Troopers is another film that took many liberties with the source material. Fan’s of Heinleins’ classic novel about militant societies may scuff at the notion the film was better, but the film managed to do what the book tried to do in significantly less time and made it a lot more fun and accessible. Starship Troopers was a very… cold book, for lack of better words, lacking in almost any character or emotional development; so the choice to cast the film with a bunch of not-all-that-great actors performing almost soap opera levels was really quite brilliant. Not to mention the propaganda parts that everyone loves. Undoubtedly the film took a very different approach to the subject than the book, and while not as cerebral, it was a hell of a lot more entertaining.
As I stated before, Jaw’s is one of Ms. Silver Screen’s favorite films so I thought it fitting to let her write about it:
Jaws is regarded as one of the best movies in cinematic history. Movies are meant to evoke something within the viewer. Whether it’s happiness, sorrow, or in this case, fear. Beachgoers are still apprehensive to journey into the mysterious waters of the ocean to this day. Chilling images of a great white shark looming nearby are still painted in the memories of the Jaws loving audience. Without Peter Benchley’s novel, Jaws, the world may have never known the movie. Benchley based the novel off of real-life occurrences involving great whites being caught off of Long Island and the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. The novel is essentially the same as the film. So what makes the film so much better than the book? They both take place in the fictional town of Amity and they both follow the story of three men who mean to kill a shark that is terrorizing the good people of Amity. The difference here is simple and quite obvious. The film allows us to see the shark with our own eyes. It is no longer trapped within the limited space of our imagination. It somehow becomes real and continues to scare swimmers 36 years later. Benchley is to thank for the story. The actors who brought the story to life, the shark that was always broken during filming, and the wicked mind of Steven Spielberg are to thank for the fact that I can’t even go swimming in a pool without envisioning a cloudy gray mass with rows of razor sharp teeth swimming towards me. – Ms. Silver Screen
This is another film/book franchise that I might catch some flak for including. Fans of Tolkien view him as a literary god, most everyone else finds his writing far to dense; I’m part of the latter group. The fantastic story that the three films covers is told with an insane degree of detail in the books, so much so that I often found myself reading, and then re-reading whole paragraphs because I honestly forgot what the hell he was talking about mid-way through. That isn’t to say the books are bad, but they are imposing reads and I would say the actual act of reading them is not nearly as pleasant as the story told. Additionally there is no denying that the massive battles that take place in Lord of the Rings is the kind of moments cinema was made for, even if they had no idea when they first switched on a camera many years ago. No amount of text can make The Battle of Helm’s Deep anywhere near as epic as the film can simply show it to be; it just works better in this medium.
It pains me to admit this one because Fight Club is one of my favorite books. If I were to keep track as the movie and book move along I would more-often than not side with the book. It has far more of Tylder Durden, his sayings and ideas, and explores the concepts behind Fight Club far more than the film does, that said, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are terrific in their roles and the ending of the film is just better. Significantly better even. In fact, I found myself saying, “wait, what?” at the end of the book because it just didn’t rise to the same level as the rest of the story where as the film’s ending felt like it had struck the right note. Ideally the best way to experience Fight Club would be to read the book almost to the end and then watch the ending of the film, but since that is just weird I have to ultimately go with the movie; the ending is just that much better.
So there you have it, five movies that actually managed to take their source material and rise above it. Any other films you would include on the list? Disagree with one of the above? Let us know!