The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Sometimes the Movie Really is Better

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

ImageThis may be a bad thing to say, being the dedicated Book Editor that I am, but sometimes…I just like the movie better.

I know, I know, that’s not exactly the politically correct thing to say.  After all, the book is always supposed to be better, correct?  But there have been times—and more of them that I’d like to admit—that I’ve liked the movie better than the book.

I think the best example, for me, was The Cider House Rules.  I saw the 1999 cinematic version with Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire and absolutely loved it.  Then when I read the book by John Irving, I was…underwhelmed, to say the least.  The thing about John Irving is that he’s awfully hard on his characters; to emerge as sympathetic in a John Irving novel is a remarkable thing.  Whereas the cinematic version was a coming-of-age story about a sweet young man who falls in love with a woman who’s already in love with someone else, the book stretches the same basic story out over about 20 years.  The result is that characters that were both likeable and sympathetic in the film become much less so in the book.  Strangely enough, Irving also wrote the screenplay for the movie version, so I have to wonder if he realized that the book and the movie conveyed completely different messages.  (Maybe this was his intention.  Who knows?  I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Irving.)

I also must confess that overall, I like the Harry Potter films more than the books.  Now, this does not mean that I liked every Potter film more than every Potter book.  But I was in high school when the books first came out, so reading about 11-year-old wizards was not exactly on my short list of things to do.  In fact, Pottermania didn’t even hit my cultural radar until 2001, when I was in college and working as a teacher’s assistant for a 4th grade class in New York City.  Right before Christmas, we took the kids on a field trip to see the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  There I was, with almost no previous exposure to the series, watching the movie surrounded by a bunch of excitable nine-year-olds clinging to buckets of popcorn bigger than their heads.  And I was entranced.  I love the sense of wonder and excitement that the movie conveyed.  I was enraptured by the young stars.  And I remember leaving the theater feeling just as exhilarated as the kids were.  So when I finally read the book about two and a half years later, it’s no wonder it felt like a little bit of a letdown.

But that reasoning resonates on a totally personal level for me.  The truth is, even when I try to look at the Potter books objectively, they do not always compare favorably to the movies.  Rowling’s writing tends to be a little bit self-indulgent; in some of the later books, pages upon pages are dedicated to things that have absolutely nothing to do with the story.  And while some of the movies, in an attempt to condense the story into two-and-a-half hours, skimp a little too much on detail (The Order of the Phoenix film being the best example there), most of them have managed to cut out the fat of the Potter tales without sacrificing their spirit.  And given that the Potter books are already fun, exciting reads, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And finally—and I feel like a traitor even admitting this—there was Stardust.  Maybe it has something to do with whether I read the book or saw the movie first: with Stardust—like the other examples I mentioned here—I saw the movie long before I read the book.  And I really liked the book, and I will remain forever grateful to it for beginning my literary love affair with Neil Gaiman.  But I just liked the ending of the movie better than the ending of the book.  Without giving too much away here, the book’s ending could be considered a little depressing.  On the other hand, the movie’s ending is totally uplifting and happy—and there’s nothing I like better in a film than a happy ending.

So where is this all coming from, you ask?  Recently, I saw the “Meet Jacob Black” trailer for the upcoming Twilight film, New Moon.

When I saw the first trailer (the one that debuted at the MTV Movie Awards), I was not impressed.  However, when I saw this one, I had to resist the urge to giggle like a schoolgirl.  Maybe it’s because I always liked the Jacob character in the books better than Edward.  Maybe it’s because Taylor Lautner is really growing on me.  (Seriously.  Every time I see him in an interview, I think, “Now, here’s somebody I could actually hang out with.”)  Or maybe it’s because the craptastic ending that was Breaking Dawn completely ruined the book series for me.  But when I saw this trailer, my first reaction was, “Holy shit, I think I might end up liking this more than the book!”

Granted, Stephenie Meyer isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but still…it would prove the old adage wrong.


Selected Book Releases, August 24-30

August 24

Alex Cross’s Trial by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

August 25

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

Even Money by Dick and Felix Francis

The Scoop by Fern Michaels

God Ain’t Blind by Mary Monroe

Supercorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Notorious by Kiki Swinson

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

The Final Detail by Harlan Coben

The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia

The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons

Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder 

August 26

Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World by Rafe Esquith