Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Movies Vs. Books

During the last 10 years there have been a lot of books (including comics) that have been made into movies. The simple reason for this is money. The movies make money by ticket sales, DVD sales which in turn becomes a big budget advertisement for books, toys and other merchandise. 

It is a symbiotic relationship. The book/publishers/authors make money from selling the rights. the movie makes money and in return the book makes some more money from selling more copies due to recent exposure. Win-win situation right? 

Yes and No

There are creators/writers, such as Alan Moore of Watchmen/V for Vendetta who refuses to write a script for his own creations, declines to watch them once released and partakes in zero of the profits. People like Alan Moore refuse to be part of the movie industry because they don't believe film makers can make a good movie out of their books and don't believe movies can encompass the spirit of their creations. Is it good that creators are boycotting their own work?

Usually when a book is turned into a movie it is because the book has great popularity and is enjoyed very much by readers. Other benefits of movies is they turn weeks worth of reading into a few hours. There are also people that don't like reading (yes they do exist) and making films exposes them to great entertainment (Lord of the Rings) and sometimes great literature (To Kill a Mocking Bird).

However I am going to use 5 different personal examples of movies vs books to outline when and where a book or a movie is better than the other. 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

This example is about book I have not read before but have seen the movie. I saw this movie quite soon after its release because I like dragons and because there was a lot of buzz about this young kid with Asperger's Syndrome. I knew nothing about the book so went into the movie with a completely open mind. I think I wanted my money back after 30 minutes. When the film was over, I wanted to forget the movie was ever made (much like the never made Dungeons and Dragons movie). 

I still have not read the book and refuse to read the book. The movie was so damn awful that it has completely destroyed my perspective of Eragon. Which is a darn shame because there are many people who love the series and keep telling me to read the books, but do I need to read another version of Earthsea or Star Wars?

Verdict: The movie industry is bad for books reputation

Watchmen by Alan Moore. Film by Zack Snyder

Another film I watched without first reading the book/comic. I watched it because I watch most comic book adaptations and because one of my friends who has similar book tastes to me wanted me to see it. I absolutely loved it. I couldn't believe such a film could be produced. The characterization was amazing. I loved Rorschach, I hated the Comedian but loved how he was portrayed as the anti-hero. The cheesiness made me laugh and the violence really gave the film some grit. I have yet to read the comics but will do so at the first chance.

Verdict: Made a ton of money. Promoted Watchmen to the greater audience (including myself). Mission completed in my opinion. 

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

A slight difference to Eragon. When the Fellowship of the Ring came out, I had attempted the book, but I found it too difficult to finish and stopped before the hobbits even met Aragon. So I watched the movie and absolutely loved it. Not having read the book again let me see the movie with an open mind. After the movie I picked up the Lord of the Rings again and finished all three before The Two Towers came out. I enjoyed watching The Two Towers + Return of the King but I was always expecting certain things that never transpired. Where was Shelob in the Two Towers? Where was "Battle of Bywater" in Return of the King (perhaps my favourite part in the whole trilogy)? 

Verdict: Both book and movie gave me something that the other wouldn't have. The book gave me more in-depth knowledge and more enjoyment because there were parts not in the movie. The movie gave me the extra motivation to pick up the book again and the extended scenes on the DVD's were great!

Dune by Frank Herbert

A science fiction classic and is at the top of most people's top 10 sci-fi lists. When I read it, I had little sci-fi reading experience but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. Yes, there were things I didn't like about it but overall I was impressed and those things that I didn't like don't stop me from recommending the book to other people.

Enter David Lynch's movie of Dune. I was so excited when I saw Patrick Stewart as Gurney
Halleck and then the force fields came on and didn't know whether to cry or laugh. Ok it was 1984, so I put it out of my mind. The by the end of the movie the film was still terrible, terrible storytelling, terrible characterization.

Verdict: Not an example from something in the last 10 years but still relevant in my opinion. So glad that I read the book first because I don't think I would have read the book otherwise. Again the movie industry destroys a book's reputation.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A book and series that I have read and absolutely love. While it is not the first fantasy book/series that necessarily recommend to people because of its complexity, it is my favourite. Not too recently HBO signed a deal to make a TV series (yeah not a movie but close enough) of A Game of Thrones. At the moment the series is in casting mode and have already attached Peter Dinklage and Tom McCarthy. Once they have got a cast they can begin filming the pilot which I eagerly await.

Verdict: A series that has a huge fanatical fanbase. A book that makes me really desperately want to see it adapted to TV. Not because I think that the TV series will add something amazing, but I can't get enough of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Although I have only outlined 5 examples here there are sure to be many more but overall it looks like the film industry is a positive for books. It reaches across a greater audience, has ability to let 12 friends do the same thing at the same time, helps make them more money and keeps fans interested and talking. The only people that it really hurts are purist's and sometimes the artist/author (i.e. Alan Moore). You can argue that these are the people whose interests you should look after, but as long as there is a demand and people willing to buy the product, whether it be good or bad, then there will be people making the films.


Author Tony Peters said...

I have only seen and read Lord of the Rings. I have watched Eragon but not read it. THe LOTR books are better than the movies for sure, but they are definitely a challenge to get through. I missed the whole retaking of the Shire in the movies, I was waiting and waiting, but it never came :(

Tony Peters
Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

Enchante said...

Yeah, I mentioned that in my post. The retaking of the Shire is "The Battle of Bywater"
It was my favourite part of the whole trilogy.
Wasn't even on the extended DVD!

I.J. Parnham said...

I rarely watch films of books I've read or the other way round. In either direction they just never work well for me.

Of your examples, I made the mistake of reading a few pages of Eragon after having read some rave reviews. It put me off reading rave reviews for years. Not seen LOTR, have no desire to as the book almost put me off fantasy.

Dune isn't on my top 10 sf list, but Lynch is on my top director list so the film did annoy me, but then again the studios did butcher it so maybe the original vision was worthwhile.

Like you I'm a Martin fan, but the series fills me with dread. I hope it works but somehow the thought of seeing the people who live quite happily in my mind appearing on screen makes me think I won't watch.

Enchante said...

I can understand where you are coming from Parnham. You don't know whether to cringe or be elated when you hear something you have read is being turned into a movie.

The best way to combat it would be to try and be objective but it isn't always possible with something that you love, and I know that I won't be able to be objective when it comes to A Game of Thrones.

Your point about LOTR. As I said, I couldn't read through Fellowship on my first attempt and it was the movies that made me pick them up again.

Author Tony Peters said...

I actually knew that. I was just agreeing with you.