We have all heard it. “The book is always better than the movie,” or “The movie just left too much out.” To be honest I do agree with this sentiment. The vast majority of the time, the movie fails to capture the essence of the film, leaves to many important things out, or just plain disappoints. Sometimes they are disrespectful enough to just take the title and have nothing to do with the story.
However, despite what some people will tell you, there are instances when the movie does exceed the book. These are rare I will admit, but they do exist. When I tell people this, I always get the same reaction: give me one example. Therefore, I decided to write this blog to give people the examples I have come across in my lifetime.
A little background first. They are in no particular order. I could not do this as a top ten list because well, I could not really think of ten. (I do believe I said these were rare instances.) In all instances, I have at least read the book, or seen the movie. In most cases I did both.
So hear they are in no particular order:
The Wizard of Oz
Let’s be honest. Sometimes Hollywood does cut out the right parts. The original story by Frank Baum was a great children’s story in its day but it missed the mark in many ways. It was just one big conglomerate of Dorothy and friends having a bunch of adventures that made little to no sense. The witch was only a minor character in the book rather than the main antagonist and there was a lot of unnecessary filler.
The movie on the other hand is a timeless classic. It is a lot more focused due to the need to keep it under two hours. The witch is a much better antagonist than any villain in the book is. The movie is memorable and has spawned some of the most memorable songs in movies. “Over the rainbow,” and “Follow the Yellow brick road” are two good examples. I do not know too many people who read the book. I do not know anybody who has not seen the movie.
The ironic thing about this choice is that so many things went wrong in the making of this movie it was a wonder it got finished let alone become the cultural icon that it did. The best example was the shark itself. The production team had so much trouble getting the thing to work that they could not show it for most of the movie. What was the result? The suspense of not seeing the shark made the movie even scarier, which is what the movie was going for.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Jaws? The first thing that pops into my mind is that music. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s see you swim in the ocean after listening to that for ten minutes.
The book got off track by actually introducing a love triangle. Now I’m not here to spew venom at the concept of love triangles. If done right, and put into a story that it can enhance rather than derail, it can work. It does not work when your title is Jaws. It’s about the shark people. All this thing does is swim, eats, and makes little sharks…
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I know I may catch heat for this one, but keep in mind this is my blog. I tried to read this series, honestly. I could not get past the heavy-handed writing style, the useless characters, and the feeling that the main characters did not want to be in the story, not just the situation mind you, the story itself.
Peter Jackson in my mind did brilliantly. Not only did he manage to bring this saga to life beautifully, but also he was innovative in ways to save money. He shot all three films at once, reducing the cost and keeping the audience’s attention easier by allowing them to come out in three consecutive years. After the movie came out, everyone was quoting Golem. There’s one thing you cannot say about the books.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
This time I am not talking about the series as a whole but just this one book. I have seen several adaptations of this story. I can clearly say that the 2005 movie was my favorite. The characters looked good, they captured all the important parts of the story, and the battle scenes were just epic. I know people have an aversion to C.G.I., but you have to admit a phoenix bursting into flame midair and leaving a wall of flame, cutting off the enemy army is pretty cool.
The book, while charming and well written was written for small children. While there is nothing wrong with a children’s story, it does not have the mass appeal of the movie. When I read the book, I never got the feeling of the epic battles, the opposing armies facing each other, or anything that would make it bigger than it was. Overall, the movie has much more appeal to it.
Those of you who read my review of the book may remember my sentiments about this book. For the rest of you here is the nutshell: The story belongs in a museum. Only authors and English majors should read this, and the rest of you just watch the movie. Now I have experience both versions of this story and I know they did not follow the book to the letter. In fact, they added a couple twists that pretty much altered the essence of the story. In my opinion, this is usually and insult, but not this time.
Not only do I like the alterations of the story, but also how it is told. I can get over the old language used in the book but personally, I don’t see why Beowulf has to keep bringing up the fact that he killed Grendel throughout the entire book. Yes, that is what he is best known for, but the entire event barely takes up a whole page. Moreover, he has things more important ahead of him. You have to kill his mother now. Get over yourself!
The Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a The Game of Thrones
Yes I know that this is not a movie and really a series on HBO but let’s not worry about semantics shall we? Anyway, the book suffers from the same problems as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Martin is excessively heavy handed and he puts in more detail and history than the human mind can consume at one time. The story is very compelling, and most of the characters are well done and well thought out. There is just too much to sift through to get to that though. At the time I’m writing this I am listening to Storm of Swords on audio book and I have come to Joffrey’s wedding feast. I keep saying aloud “I get it there was a lot of food. Can we please get to the point of this chapter?”
The series concentrates on what is important: the stories, the characters, and how the petty struggles of the powerful are played out. Martin himself actually writes the screenplay for the show. It’s amazing to think that despite the book’s size he had to add elements to the story just to fill ten episodes. Most books that size could easily fill twenty if you put everything in. This destroys the most common argument of books being better than movies: you find out more from the book.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Wow, now I’m really stepping in it. I know the die-hard fans of the books think the movies cut out too much, or change to many things and on all the other movies I agree with them. With Phoenix, however I thought they managed to cut out the parts not needed and enhance what should have been the best parts of the book. I have to defend the fifth book to many people mainly because of Harry’s attitude. I guess they were turned off by the teenage angst. The movie shows this but Harry gets over it much quicker.
The one moment where the movie shines bright, enough to blind the book is the attack on the department of mysteries. In the book, you did get the feeling that the wizards were dueling each other and there was a confrontation between Voldemort and Dumbledore. The way the movie brought this to life though was epic. In the book, Voldemort and Dumbledore spent most of the duel trading banter. Voldemort tried to kill him with Avaracadavra a few times which Dumbledore managed to block with a few well-placed rocks and a sacrifice by his pet phoenix. In the movie all the stops were pulled out. Voldemort summoned a giant snake made of fire. Dumbledore tried to drown him with a globe of water. I was in awe when I saw that duel. That was what a battle between the two greatest wizards on the planet should look like.
I’m sure that there are other examples I could have put on this list, but for the time they have alluded me. Feel free to comment if you can think of any examples yourself.