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Books into Movies

Nov 16, 2006 — I recently read The Godfather, and since I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I decided to watch the movie. (Finally).

I'm sorry to say, but if I hadn't read the book first, I'm not sure I would've understood the movie. I've heard that the sequel is even better, so I watched that one too, and found that a lot of it was flashbacks and therefore covered in the book. Again, not sure I would've understood it all without having read the book first.

I had a similar problem with The Firm. The book was incredible - very intense and hard to put down. I could see how the movie may be good for someone who has never read the book, but if you have read the book the movie completely butchers the story. Especially the ending - it feels like they cheated or something.

I've heard rumors for about 7 years that "they" are thinking of making a movie out of Ender's Game. Is it just me or does this seem like it could be a VERY bad idea since the book was so good? I don't know if I've ever seen a book-based movie that I really enjoyed because they always have to edit out a lot to help with time.

Dylan says:

The only hope I have for Ender's Game is that Orson Scott Card is part of the script-writing process.

If you want a really extreme example of having to have read the book to understand the movie, try 2001: A Space Odyssey. Actually, that is almost such an extreme example that not only should you read the book to understand the movie, but you should see the movie to understand the book.

Some books go very well into movies. When I first saw Harry Potter, the movie, I was quite impressed with how well they turned it into a movie. I honestly couldn't think of how they would have made the movie better than they did and still have it be the same "story" as the book.

And then there are total disasters, like Battlefield Earth. The book is absolutely incredible but I wouldn't buy the movie if it was in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

And then of course there is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think that will go down in history as one of the most brilliant books-to-movies endeavors of all time.

Wirehead says:

You couldn't pay me to watch Battlefield Earth again, and that's one of my favorite scifi books. I think it was databind() that said something along the lines of "Watching Battlefield Earth was like watching a family member be molested".

The Harry Potter movies have been quite good in general compared to the books, in terms of accuracy of translation. Another decent one was Firestarter by Stephen King, one of the more accurate translations I've seen. Actually, Stephen King in general seems to get better than average results on getting his books made into moves that at least vaguely resemble the book.

One of the other all-time colossal flops was Starhip Troopers. It was actually worse than Battlefield Earth, if that's even possible. The movie was literally the diametric opposite of the book in virtually every way possible, including the keynote of the story, which was the moral that individual citizens should have to take some responsibility for their society to earn the right to vote, as otherwise you are exercising power without responsibility and will just vote yourself more welfare and handouts until the civilization falls. Paul Verhoeven managed to take this story and portray it as fascism instead. SST is literally a genre-defining book by the grand master of SF, Robert Heinlein. Now...if you're the guy responsible for getting this movie made, how far up your ass would your head have to be to get the guy that directed SHOWGIRLS, a movie that couldn't even make money with an NC-17 rating, to make your SF movie? The mind reels. Battlefield Earth at least COULD have been good, as there were some people (presumably at least John Travolta) who wanted to see it done right actually involved in the project. Starship Troopers was never going to be anything other than a horrific miscarriage. I literally do not have the adjectives in my vocabulary to describe just how awful that movie was, and how much of a crime it was to do to that story what was done.


I agree re: 2001, both the movie and the book are... odd.

I know there are at least a few other good book --> movie translations out there but I can't think of any at the moment. Any others I'm forgetting?

rnewhouse says:

I believe 2001 the book was actually based on 2001 the movie. To really get the impact of the movie, you need to understand the frame of reference of its initial audience, which included old fogeys like myself. I have seen the movie again in more recent years, and it's interesting to note how much of the stuff that looks really cheesy was actually way far out in the imagination of the screenwriters when it was released.

That said...

DaVinci code is another example of a movie that was pretty good IF you'd read the book first.

And then there is the whole genre of book/movie sets that are two whole different stories, both great, but virtually unrelated to each other. Like Contact.

Wirehead says:

Funny, I was all set to say "Arthur C. Clarke wasn't really in the habit of doing novelisations of movies" or something similar, but it turns out that the movie and book were actually made simultaneously.

From Wikipedia.Org

2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke's first venture into film was the Stanley Kubrick-directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick and Clarke had met in 1964 to discuss the possibility of a collaborative film project. As the idea developed, it was decided that the story for the film was to be loosely based on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", written in 1948 as an entry in a BBC short story competition. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but this proved to be more tedious than he had estimated. Instead, Kubrick and Clarke decided it would be best to write a novel first and then adapt it for the film upon its completion. However, as Clarke was finishing the book, the screenplay was also being written simultaneously.

So they were actually created concurrently, which sort of lends itself pretty well to Dylan's idea that you have to see/read one to understand the other. Neat little piece of SF trivia there.

Jackson says:

I never read the Harry Potter books, so I've really enjoyed the movies. I've never seen or read 2001: A Space Odyssey. I HAVE read several Stephen King books and then seen the movies, and was almost disappointed the movie didn't convey the same grotesque horror that the book did.

The DaVinci Code was pretty true to the book, but I'm glad that Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons" isn't a movie. I LOVED that book and am certain a movie just wouldn't do it justice.

Runaway Jury wasn't too bad - though they changed cigarettes (book) into guns (movie) to help the movie seem more intense.

I have to agree with the Battlefield Earth problem. I think it was a poor decision to make that book into 1 movie. It's too big - it needs more time, like a trilogy. Never read the Lord of the Rings series - but REALLY appreciated the movies.

CJO says:

Speaking of the Lord of the Rings, I have a student that is reading The Fellowship of the Ring right now. I was checking his comprehension by asking him about some things that had happened, and he was giving me the right answers. Then I realized that one of the things he was describing was something shown in the movie.

Did he understand the book? I'm pretty sure he did, but since the movies were such a good translation, I'll never know for sure what he got from the book and what from the movie.

By the way, I just read today that Peter Jackson will not be making The Hobbit. Apparently he was fired because of some money dispute the production company and him were having. This seriously sucks, if you ask me.

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