Thursday, 27 March 2014

Things People Get Wrong Every Day

Number 12: The Book is always better than the film, by Derek Duggan

So, you know how it is – you’re at a party listening to someone who is justifying your misanthropy. Your fake smile is hurting your teeth. Your partner said she was just going to the bathroom for a moment, but that was half an hour ago. You haven’t said a single word in all that time, but your new best bud hasn’t noticed. You imagine being able to open your mouth wide enough to just lean forward and swallow them whole and the tremendous pleasure you’d take in shitting them out the following morning. Somewhere along the line they’ve gleaned you’re a writer and they’ve been telling you all about the sort of book you should be writing and how they only read quality stuff like Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins and then, out of the blue they’ll say – Books are always way better than films. They’ll back this up by telling you how the film of The DaVinci Code wasn’t a patch on the book without ever considering that while the film was so bad it could only have been made worse if Jeremy Clarkson had been in it, it was certainly no worse than the scuttering pile of arse gravy of a book it was based on. Eventually you just think Fuck this and kick them in the banjos/flange before making your excuses and leaving.

There are so many cases where the film is at worst on a par with the book it’s based on and in several cases vastly better. This year, for example, sees the big screen release of Noah. Seriously, Noah, for fuck sake. (The tag line is – I’m the father of a soaking son and the husband of a drenched wife and I will have my big boat full of animals in this life or the next!). Now, no matter how bad that film is - and I’d rather let Christopher Dean do a triple axle spin thing on my knackers than see it - it will still be better than the book it’s based on – Genesis (which is about how God made Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel and stuff).

And what about The Hunger Games? The films manage to skirt over some of the frankly staggeringly awful plot holes in the book (although not the biggest one about the selection process – please see prior rant in a previous issue) and it had that fantastic laugh out loud moment when all those people watching the screens did the really corny salute thing. Add this to the fact that despite the film being a whopping 142 minutes long, it’s still a lot quicker than having to sit down and actually wade through the books.

Next year we are to be treated to the big screen version of Fifty Shades of Grey. I struggle to imagine a way in which the film could be any worse than the book. Again, possibly if Jeremy Clarkson was cast as Grey - Do it to me, do it to me like you’re shooting a badger while setting fire to a gypsy camp.

Sometimes you can see a film that is so tremendously bad and yet inexplicably popular that you think the book must have been very good and they’ve just made an orangutan’s anus of the film. But don’t be tricked. This sort of thinking can lead you to do terrible things like reading Twilight, or Eragon. These are perfect examples of instances where the reader’s imagination is so strong that they actually imagine the book they’re reading isn’t cock cheese.

There are times where, although the book and the film are different in many ways, the director has managed to capture the atmosphere of the book so successfully that you don’t notice the changes. Lasse Halstrom did a superb job of making his 2000 film Chocolat exactly as boring as the book it was based on by Joanne Harris.

Of course, there are many books where both the book and the movie are good, even if in some cases they’re quite different. A case in point is Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was filmed as Bladerunner. One of the main reasons I wanted to mention this particular writer here is so I could tell you that in all truthfulness I am a massive Dick fan. The movie doesn’t stick strictly to the book, but it’s equally successful. And this is also the case with Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes. I’m also quite a big Boulles fan. Between Dick and Boulle my weekends are always exciting and I can often be seen with a Dick in one hand and, well, you get the idea with that one.

So, to sum up, what are the main ways in which many films are better than books?

1. They cut out all the shit bits (although sometimes leave lots of shit bits in – all camping stuff in Harry Potter for example).

2. They’re not as long – all descriptions of each individual fucking rock that Frodo and the gang passed on the way to Mordor have been thankfully left out of the 150 hour movie, for instance.

3. Some films of books have Liv Tyler in them whereas no books actually feature her.

I hope that clears up any misunderstandings.

Glad I could help.

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