Movies That Are Better Than the Book (Really!)
If books and movies were included in the old fashioned game of rock-paper-scissors, book would beat movie almost every time. I mean, really, how many times have you heard that the book was better? Too many to count, I’ll bet.
Well my darlings, welcome to the exceptions.
You see, every once and a while, someone gets it right. And while they may be few and far between, they do exist. They are out there. And for your own viewing pleasure, here are the four I would recommend.
The Shawshank Redemption is what many people consider to be a near-perfect movie, myself included. It’s a film that not only tackles the places where honesty, determination and hope overlap, but also looks at how finding things in life that drive you can vary from person to person. It’s a brilliant film, and while many will say that movies are rarely better than the book, I feel that this is definitely one exception to the rule. In terms of story, the changes made are fairly minor (in addition to the fact that the two main characters look nothing like their descriptions). Characters who are supposed to leave stay on to maintain a stronger presence in the film (namely the warden). And while Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, is a classic in its own right, the film goes beyond classic. It’s iconic, and deserves any and all praise it receives.
The first time I saw Jaws, I was twelve and alone in my basement. It had such a profound effect on me that years later, it was the first film I bought on DVD. To even imagine that such a great film could come from an even better novel was impossible. And it most certainly is. The trouble with writing an action novel is that it can be difficult to convey those big and exciting scenes quickly enough. Action requires speed, but readers require visual descriptions, and the combination of these usually slows a reader down. This is one of the reasons that the film does better than the film. Another is the fact that the ending becomes less about men fighting each other over petty differences and more about building suspense to fight the shark. The third is just the good fortune that Spielberg faced in the form of bad luck. When he couldn’t get the mechanical shark to work, he was forced to start shooting film without showing the shark. Intentionally denying the audience the visuals they need furthers the suspense and helps to make this film better than the movie.
Like anyone who has seen the recent film Hitchcock is aware, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho is based on a book of the same name. Released in 1959, the book was adapted into film the following year. And let’s face it — if there’s anyone who can improve on a book simply by filming it, it’s Hitchcock. I can’t go into too many details and tell you exactly why the film is better (without spoiling both the book and the movie, anyway). But I can tell you that a great deal of why Psycho the film is better comes from the way the characters are portrayed, the casting that was done, and the order of events that the film presents to the viewers. Outside of that, you’ll just have to trust me.
Before I was a Neil Gaiman fan, I was a Coraline fan. After watching it one night on a whim, I was swept away by the characters, the storytelling, and the mood. After finishing the movie, I tracked down the book, and was blown away yet again. Not only was the book different from the movie, but I enjoyed them both!
I hesitate to say that the movie is an improvement on the book, simply because so many subtle but important changes have been made. For example, the character of Wybie that I loved in the film isn’t in the book at all, while the small glimpses of the father’s character that I enjoyed in the film were much bigger and drawn out in the book. Still, in a world where Hollywood rarely gets the book right, I have to say that Coraline is one of the small exceptions.