Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Book Was Better

There's a reason people say, "The book was better."

When we who love to read get involved in a story we see things a certain way, we experience the book individually. I've heard that the same book is never the same to various readers, and I believe that. Reading is a unique, usually solitary experience and the reader finds herself living that book in her own way until she discusses it with others and broadens her perspective on it. Maybe she'll agree with other opinions, maybe she won't, but she comes away from the book with her own feelings about it.

J.K. Rowling once said that a young girl standing in a signing line was a little upset that there were so many other people there, that she felt Harry Potter was her book. I love that! And it's one of the reasons that I sometimes have a hard time with audio versions- it's like the reader is intruding on my experience or something. I know, weird.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was thinking the other day about one of my very favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the movie version that came out in 2002. I have loved the book for ages. I suggested it for my local book club, we read it, and then went and saw the movie together. (Should have seen us all, a bunch of married Mormon women, staring at the screen with our mouths agape at James Caviezel).

But other than the eye candy, I was really unhappy with the way the story had been totally altered.

I mean completely.

Why does it have to be that way? Monte Cristo gets a happy ending in the book! Why couldn't Hollywood have stayed true to the story?

It's funny to listen to my kids say, "That didn't happen in the book," when they watch movies. And one of my favorite memories along those lines was when I was first married and my husband had read John Grisham's The Firm. When the movie came out, we sat in the theater with him muttering the that-didn't-happen litany through the whole of it. The reason I was so tickled by this is because my husband isn't a reader.

So, I'd have to say that overall, the book is better than the movie. My Junior English Seminar teacher at Ogden High School once told us that this was true for every movie she'd seen except for the movie adaptation of A Separate Peace. I hated both the book and the movie, so I can't say I agree with her.

What about you? Can you think of any movies out there that are better than the books? Have you seen a movie adaptation that made your blood boil because it was such a shame they slaughtered your favorite book so much?


Amy said...

I had never thought of it that way, but you are so right.
About 4 years ago a new version of Where the Red Fern Grows came out on video starring one of my favorite musicians, Dave Matthews.I was so excited to watch it but I made myself read the book first. Of course, the movie was not very good and they changed the ending. ha ha Dave Matthews was great though! :)

KarinB said...

Agreed, Count of Monte Cristo SUCKED! The movie, not the book. Now if they had cast Edward Norton instead of Jim Caveziel, then yum.

Sue said...

I really agree about Gone With The Wind. I was so disappointed when I saw it the first time because there was no way it could measure up to the movie I'd already filmed in my head.

The third Anne of Green Gables movie makes me want to hurt people. HERESY.

(I left the same comment over at the V blog by the way. Yes, I'm terribly original.)

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Sue- I blogged the same thing over at the V! I'm not very original either. ;-)

Karin, too funny about Edward Norton. He kind of creeps me out.

Now, as for moody and wonderful, I'd have to pick the 1992 version of Wuthering Heights with Ralph Fiennes.

Amy, I bet Dave Matthews was great. I never pictured him in that story, though! How funny!

TRIBE'S said...

Can I just say in my head eveyone is better looking and taller. I don't know who picks the actors for these movies but I often wonder if they have read the book. I was so excited to see The Notebook because I loved the book but ugly people and they missed the whole love story of when they were old. But I love Pride & Prejudice, book, movie, don't care just love it.

David G. Woolley said...

Slogging diet Coke? Do we need to talk Nancy?

Kirk L. Shaw said...

I have the same problem with book vs. audio/video derivatives. You picture how a certain character looks, how his or her voice sounds, and then a movie comes along and spoils it with a poorly casted (according to you) character. ("He looks nothing like I imagined Frodo!!")

In fact I'm having that very problem right now with the last book of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series. The movie is coming out, and Brandon Frasier has been severely intruding on the perception I had had of the hero of the story.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Oh, how funny, Kirk. I'll forever see Brandon Frasier as Encino Man. Wasn't that him? Or George of the Jungle.