HOOKED ON BOOKS: Is the book or the movie better?
Spoiler: The decision could go either way.
When a movie or TV series is based on a book, opinions may differ about which version did it better.
Sometimes, the film adds a certain something, as in the creepy “Coraline,” which somehow improved on Neil Gaiman’s novel.
Occasionally, the film totally ruins the concept, as in “Inkheart,” a movie so lame that it soured my memory of Cornelia Funke’s book.
Most often, the difference could go either way. Here are some fantastic books that became very different, but still great, movies or TV shows. Though I think these books are almost perfect, straying from the source material doesn’t hurt the films.
I saw the movie directed by Christian Rivers before I read Philip Reeve’s book, but I enjoyed both. Part of the fun was noticing how much they differ.
Both are set in a distant future when humankind has consumed most of the world’s resources. Cities move around on giant tank treads, devouring each other for fuel and other treasures.
When London crosses to mainland Europe to hunt smaller cities, a girl with a scarred face comes to London to hunt the man who killed her parents. A boy who works at the London museum gets involved. As they chase and are chased by dangerous people and machines, they grow closer despite their different backgrounds.
In the movie, the hero boy and girl are more man and woman. In the book, they’re still kids but their adventure is perhaps more grown-up.
In the book by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus, a kid named Jim Sturges lives under the paranoid protection of his father, who has never gotten over seeing his brother Jack abducted by trolls when they were kids. Now Uncle Jack is back, still aged 13, and he recruits Jim to be a trollhunter like himself.
In the beautifully animated TV show created by del Toro, the kid’s name is Jim Lake and his single mom doesn’t know anything about trolls; his destiny as a trollhunter finds him pretty much by chance.
Either way, the future of a city depends on what Jim and his allies do, with thrilling action, clever dialogue and scenes ranging from scary to hilarious to a bit romantic.
‘The Princess Bride’
You’ve never seen Rob Reiner’s movie? Inconceivable!
Populated by a scheming prince, a beautiful princess, a gentle giant, a Spanish sword fighter and a romantic pirate, it has miracles, fights, chases, true love, rodents of unusual size, laugh-aloud humor, you name it.
It’s less surprising if you’ve never read the original book by William Goldman. For those who take the trouble, it has beauties missing from the film – plus all the classic lines that the movie’s fans are always quoting.
The first chapter, which the movie reduces to a couple of sentences, is worth the read by itself. But the book is full of details that I savor on every re-read. There’s only one answer when I tell you to read it: “As you wish.”
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’
Ransom Riggs took a collection of weird vintage photos and wrote a book around them – a strange, disturbing book about invisible monsters that devour children’s eyes, a school frozen in time and a group of kids with bizarre powers.
Tim Burton directed the movie, adding a climactic sequence in the English resort town of Blackpool that raises the story to a new level.
If you are, or ever were, a child who had trouble fitting in, this lovely, terrifying book-movie pair is made for you. They feature a kid who can talk to bees, a girl who can fly, a boy who can bring dead things to life and a woman who can change into a bird.
You have to be there for that to make sense. But once there, you may not want to leave.