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  1. #1

    Default Films that Transcend the Book

    Awhile ago I was telling someone about how much I liked the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Someone else interrupting uttered the cliche "The Book is Better", which I don't doubt. It got me thinking though what films actually transcend their book counterparts. For a long time I've thought about it and I can only come up with four examples of having a better experience with the films than the books they are based on, not that the reading experience was bad by any means. Here are the examples I came up with.

    Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho depending on your opinion of the brilliant Robert Bloch novel I believe is one of those examples. Whether its Hitchcock's direction or Anthony Perkins' portrayal of the character Norman Bates.

    Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has a very interesting genesis as well as being a phenomenal film. Original inspired the by short story The Sentinel (which becomes the mining on the moon scene in the film), fifteen years later is read by Kubrick who then works closely with Arthur C. Clark to expand the thought provoking story into both a majestic novel and monumental screenplay.

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas directed by Terry Gilliam (who some may know as the only American in Monty Python ) is an incredible film experience. Not only is Gilliam's direction enjoyable but also their are brilliant performances by the actors Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro (among others). There is even a cameo from the novels author Hunter S. Thompson.

    The last example I came up with now seems like the most obvious one, the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Personally I'm not a big fan but I recognize that this movie has transcended the L. Frank Baum novel and become an iconic part of pop culture. Whether that is due to the production staying pretty true to the William W. Denslow illustrations from the book, the brilliant efforts by the directors/actors/producers, the relatable archetypal characters, there is a hell of alot this film has going for it.

    I tried not to say too much about each of my examples to leave more room for discussion from others & myself in later posts. I'm wondering if others feel the same way about these or any other movies. So I ask the question again, what films are better than the book?
    "It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison

  2. #2
    Senior Member Arvandor's Avatar
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    Jurassic Park - the book is cliched rubbish with cardboard 2 dimensional characters. The film is much better, with more well-rounded characters.
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    I'm a male DebkoX's Avatar
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    Hunger games, had a much more realistic feel.
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    Senior Member edhopper's Avatar
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    Jaws. Scarier with a better ending.

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    Shazam! Panic's Avatar
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    Fight Club. Saw the film, thought it was great. Read the book and didn't really like it. I'm not sure I can honestly say that the film transcends the book, but it's different enough (in fairly subtle but important ways) that I think if you really like one, you probably will be disappointed in the other.

    As far as Fear and Loathing... goes, the book is a favourite of mine, and while the film is a good take on the material, maybe the closest a film could get to the book, for me it still isn't as good. I've read the book three or four times (and will read it again many times in the future, I'm sure), but have only seen the film once and don't feel the need to see it again. But YMMV, and all that.

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    Mattress Tester T Hedge Coke's Avatar
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    American Psycho. The book's got some interesting techniques to it, but the movie's smart and creepy and funny and then creepy because you're finding it funny. Also, the chainsaw drop.

    I like Red Harvest, but several of the movies that copy off its central conceits are superior or at least significantly different to warrant being considered equally good.

    Ultimately, I think Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost musical is better, or at least more enjoyable to me, than its source play.

    The Disney version of The Little Mermaid is better than the original in most ways.

    And, I can't see how Dr Strangelove isn't better than its source material.

    But any good adaptation is going to transcend, simply because a movie can do things that prose cannot. It has to add something, just as it must subtract and adjust. Mutations the name of the game. Just setting definite faces onto people is a substantial thing that can reroute an entire work.

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    Elder Member thwhtGuardian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arvandor View Post
    Jurassic Park - the book is cliched rubbish with cardboard 2 dimensional characters. The film is much better, with more well-rounded characters.
    My first thought was Jurassic Park: The Lost World, but there's certainly something to be said for the improvements made in the first film as well.

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    trevordraws.com Tar22's Avatar
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    Jaws and The Godfather immediately spring to mind.
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    No task too small ForeverTaskmaster's Avatar
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    Senior Member edhopper's Avatar
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    I thought Avatar was better than the Smurf books source.

  11. #11
    Elder Member Libaax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T Hedge Coke View Post
    American Psycho. The book's got some interesting techniques to it, but the movie's smart and creepy and funny and then creepy because you're finding it funny. Also, the chainsaw drop.

    I like Red Harvest, but several of the movies that copy off its central conceits are superior or at least significantly different to warrant being considered equally good.


    But any good adaptation is going to transcend, simply because a movie can do things that prose cannot. It has to add something, just as it must subtract and adjust. Mutations the name of the game. Just setting definite faces onto people is a substantial thing that can reroute an entire work.
    Red Harvest have never been adapted as film. Samurai films,westerns has borrowed the main plot,some elements but there has never been hardboiled PI film adapted from it. Western,samurai films are not PI stories. Toshiro Mifune didnt play the OP in Yojimbo. I see what you mean there are good films inspired by the stories by great directors but there has never been an actual adaption of the book for it to be as good or better than the book


    The Maltese Falcon film is an adaptation of the Hammett novel, same lead,same names,same story,same setting. The Maltese Falcon film i think is better overall story than the book. It added more to the story with great lead,script. Imo one of rare adaptation in that genre that is better than the book.
    Last edited by Libaax; 12-15-2012 at 10:55 AM.
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    Mattress Tester T Hedge Coke's Avatar
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    Die Hard! Forgot about that one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Libaax View Post
    Red Harvest have never been adapted as film. Samurai films,westerns has borrowed the main plot,some elements but there has never been hardboiled PI film adapted from it. Western,samurai films are not PI stories. Toshiro Mifune didnt play the OP in Yojimbo. I see what you mean there are good films inspired by the stories by great directors but there has never been an actual adaption of the book for it to be as good or better than the book
    The plot progressions, character dynamics, character types, and many other things are retained in several versions. But, yes, you're right, often instead of a private investigator he's a wandering swordsman, or a career criminal, or, in the Albert Pyun version, a robot who'd been shot in the head. I didn't say it was a straight up adaptation, but that "several... movies... copy off its central conceits" and I stand by that as a form of adaptation. Last Man Standing was pretty hardboiled, though.

  13. #13
    Elder Member Libaax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T Hedge Coke View Post
    Die Hard! Forgot about that one.



    The plot progressions, character dynamics, character types, and many other things are retained in several versions. But, yes, you're right, often instead of a private investigator he's a wandering swordsman, or a career criminal, or, in the Albert Pyun version, a robot who'd been shot in the head. I didn't say it was a straight up adaptation, but that "several... movies... copy off its central conceits" and I stand by that as a form of adaptation. Last Man Standing was pretty hardboiled, though.
    You didnt say it was direct adaptation but this thread people are talking about Pyscho vs Pyscho, Wizard of Oz vs Wizard of OZ. They are talking about direct,regular adaptations and i didnt want there to be misunderstanding. Yojimbo is a good,close use of the concept. Last Man Standing was hardboiled PI film and there was actual OP story he was in PI,western looking small town like that. Still it could be any film because there has been many copies of pioneer PI authors like Hammett.


    Have you seen the other classic PI novels and their films? I find it interesting that Red Harvest never had film noir adaptation because its much darker than Big Sleep,Maltese Falcon. The OP kills the bad guys, makes them kill each other and is pretty amoral in the way he does his work. Of course he isnt elegent,cool looking either. Film noir doesnt want amoral little fat guy.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Libaax View Post
    The Maltese Falcon film is an adaptation of the Hammett novel, same lead,same names,same story,same setting. The Maltese Falcon film i think is better overall story than the book. It added more to the story with great lead,script. Imo one of rare adaptation in that genre that is better than the book.
    I've never seen the original but the John Huston/Humphrey Bogart version was fantastic. Some of the same supporting actors were in Casablanca with Bogie as well.
    "It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison

  15. #15
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    Honestly, I think the Bourne movies are far superior to the books

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