by Alex Castiglione
Books have been made into movies, well, since movies really came into the limelight (pun intended). Gone With The Wind comes immediately to mind. But some of them, well let’s be real, the vast majority of them, are way worse than the book. Some are better, some are just as good. Here’s my list, agree or disagree – and I’m purposefully omitting the page turners like Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, tween sensations like Harry Potter books, and of course, the bane of all things literature, the Twilight series. As good as the book (save for a part here or there)
- Mystic River – the book and screen adaptations are pretty close, save for Laurence Fishburne’s character who is a grizzled Irish cop in the book. Other than that – it’s pretty true to the text.
- Fight Club – almost a shot for shot remake, my only qualm is how he met Tyler in the book is not the same as the movie. Admittedly, the scene in the book is almost unfilmable without giving away the end.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – maybe it’s because Johnny Depp and Hunter S Thompson were buddies, but he nailed his role in this movie. He virtually became Gonzo himself, and if you read the book as watched the movie – it follows almost exactly the same; hallucinations and suitcase-full-o-drugs included.
- The Ruins – this novel by Scott Smith was pretty good, not great, but not horrible. The movie was the same. Suspenseful, edgy, and well thought out, but not the best. This author also wrote A Simple Plan – another book that made it to the big screen starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton.
- Factotum – This movie, like the above, was about as good as the Bukowski novel it was adapted from. Nothing spectacular, but the movie was true to the text, and I think Matt Dillon was a great choice for the protagonist. Likeable, but kind of a dick.
- Life of Pi – this one is a wash, they both had their merits. The book was very well written, the movie was exceptionally well made with great effects.
- I Am Legend – although it was based on a short story, this one is a wash too. I like the humanistic story of the movie more than the one told in the book, but I like the narrator’s voice in the book more: he’s more broken, more cynical, the way one would be after an apocalypse. And the short story makes the title make sense, the movie kind of glosses over it.
The book was better (said in your best condescending hipster voice)
- Requiem For A Dream – Hubert Selby Jr’s gritty novel about drug addicts in New York, the book had so many more layers to it than the movie. Don’t get me wrong, Darren Aronofsky made an awesome flick – but the book was much more complex and deeper. Also, the characters in the book you start to loathe, as they become thieves and liars, and find yourself muttering “…junkies” – when in the movie, I think the director wanted you to connect and empathize with them more.
- Lone Survivor – Great movie, but the book, save for the whole “Texas, God & Country” spiel in the exposition, was fantastic. Written by the actual SEAL that went through the harrowing tale, Marcus Luttrell delves into not only the training he underwent and the ordeal itself, but gives the reader some background on Pashtunwali – a code of honor the people of the Afghan mountain regions abide by, and have done so for thousands of years. A full, well composed text all around.
- The Beach – The book by Alex Garland, (who also wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later in case the name looks familiar) was not only darker and more intricate, you really got to know the characters, and the main character Richard’s (played by DiCaprio) descent into Lord-Of-The-Flies-esque madness, was delineated much better in the book. It was close, until you got to the end. The end in the book was dark. I mean dark.
- Shutter Island – Being a huge Scorsese fan, I was pumped for this movie. In fact, I read the book a couple of days before it came out, because I’m kind of a dork like that. The book was fantastic – a crime thriller – which really isn’t my cup of tea, so to speak. An intricate thread pervaded the entire text, weaving this amazingly crafted story, so complex that it blew my mind at the end. Despite being a media steeped 20-something, I didn’t see the end coming. And even when I got to it, I expected another twist. The whole time I watched the movie, in the theater, I was wondering how they were going to weave all the pieces together. They didn’t, they only got a fraction of them, which is why I say the book is better. Admittedly, the book would have taken 5 hours to film shot for shot.
The Movie Was Better
- Odd Thomas – A Dean Koontz serial, the movie blew me away. I found it on Netflix, and randomly watched it with my girlfriend, and was so enamored with the characters and the story that I barely moved; I was “riveted to my seat” as the old-school movie critics liked to say. The story was so out there and complex, I knew it had to be based on a book. Low and behold, we get to the end, and there it was – “Based on the novel by Dean Koontz.” I had to read it. And I was disappointed. The book version had a lot of holes in it, and was not nearly as believable as the movie – and even that’s a stretch since it was a supernatural thriller.
- The Mothman Prophecies – The Richard Gere movie, although not at all an adaptation of the book by John Keel, was much better, in my opinion. It was unnerving and spooky, and the book, while it evoked the same qualities, was more of a chronology and compilation of encounters with the Mothman, Beelzebub, or whatever nomenclature you want to use.
- Jarhead – the movie was a great tale of what Gulf War Marines went through, and in that respect, the scales tip toward the movie; simply because the story and plot was better. However, the book lets you into the psyche and thinking of a fighting Marine – their brawling attitude, the machismo. The book is much more complex, but the movie is more entertaining; both are equally insightful.