is the book really better than the movie?

over the years, several literary works have been adapted for the big (or small) screen. some have remained faithful to the author’s vision, while others have deviated somewhat to appeal to wider audiences. Chetana Divya Vasudev, a reporter for The New Indian Express, examines this question in a recent article regarding book-to-film adaptations. obviously, it is recommended to read some books prior to watching the film versions…case in point, Lord Of The Rings. three books, countless characters, and several words that are in a completely different language are enough to intimidate even the most avid movie-goer if they have little to no previous knowledge of what happened in the print format. (confession: i mostly skimmed the books before 2001, and the majority of my Tolkien knowledge in the pre-Peter Jackson days came from repeated viewings of the Rankin/Bass cartoons on the Disney Channel before they became a money-making machine. but i knew who was who, and what was going on. i have redeemed myself since then. i read The Hobbit in 3rd grade and still own the same copy, which is now valued at a ridiculous amount because it’s the rare coffee-table style book with the Rankin/Bass animation…by the way, i am a huge Tolkien fan so the images below are meant in good clean fun).

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Lord Of The Rings is just one example of an adapted screenplay that might require already existing knowledge. it is also one of the more successful transitions from paper to moving image. two of my favorite books were made into feature films some time ago: The Hunger (1983) and The Never-Ending Story (1984). the former was written by Whitley Strieber in 1981 and the latter by Michael Ende in 1979. both seem to have some inconsistencies in their celluloid form (spoiler alerts!); in Strieber’s book, there is more of a back story in regards to the Blaylocks’ 200-year marriage, as well as Miriam’s lineage. onscreen, the story jumps very quickly from the pair’s romantically idyllic life to John’s rapid physical deterioration, and then to Miriam’s seduction of Dr. Roberts. the film has some obvious selling points, notably David Bowie in the role of John Blaylock and the opening sequence in the nightclub featuring Bauhaus performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” but without reading the book, it might get confusing.

in Ende’s book, Bastian is a pudgy oaf yet onscreen he’s a scrawny but cute kid suffering from a bad 80’s haircut. the film was shot in Germany, but it looks more like New York City. also, some of the book’s more disturbing elements (including the giant spider-like creature Ygrammul) were cut out since the studio felt it might alienate kids. the ending was messed up as well…in the book, Bastian is reunited with his father after returning from Fantasia. in the movie, the last we see of Bastian’s dad is 5 minutes in at the breakfast table, bugging him about the upcoming math test (oh no!). although the film is loved by many, this is another instance (at least in my opinion) where the book is better. Falkor favors the original ending, too.

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One Response to “is the book really better than the movie?”

  1. Nice! I was always a big fan of the Fight Club adaptation… the book and the movie were different, but they were different with direction of the author.

    The book hit on two solid themes but emphasized one much more heavily than the other … so the author took part in making the movie and opted to hit the other theme more heavily. Both book and movie were amazing in similar but unique ways.

    .. and I never new Never Ending Story was from a book… I’m totally amazonning that.

    -V

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