☞ Since the last post was on Cloud Atlas, I thought we should touch on the issue of whether movies can be better than their books. The view that a movie is better than its book, or indeed — as is more commonly the case — the book is better than its movie, may result in controversy. The following review and listing of movies that the writer regards as better than their books is certainly debatable. It begins with the controversial claim that the movie version of Cloud Atlas is better than its book: this important claims occupies this extract. But is it really better? This is the way, for example, that the movie critic David Edelstein views the movie version: “Do you want the true-true? I think the film of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is dumb-dumb.” There are other more positive evaluations of the movie versions that are debatable (found in the original article of the extract below): A Clockwork Orange, Fight Club and Life of Pi. I agree however, with the evaluation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which incidentally, can be compared to Salman Rushdie’s more positive evaluation of the movie version.
“As the saying goes, “Books are always better than the movie.” But with books like “Cloud Atlas” redefining story-telling on screen, we beg to differ. Here are some reasons why a film like “Cloud Atlas” could even give its source material a run for its money.
Why it’s better than the book: We’re not saying the book was worse. In fact, the story itself is wonderfully enchanting, but with several different storylines to keep track of in the book it will certainly take a while for some readers to understand. British author David Mitchell penned the post-apocalyptic novel in 2004. The story’s synopsis describes itself as “An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” It may be complicated and far-fetched, but for a feature film to be able to capture the book’s essence (albeit in a three hour long film) is a talent. Book fans won’t admit it, but sometimes, to watch a film that came from a book you loved through in a film is by far better than a single person’s imagination.
Who is in it: Big Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant are some of the few who star in this epic feature. Unlike your usual Hollywood films, in “Cloud Atlas”, one actor is given the roles of various characters as the film shifts between narratives.
There you have it. With “Cloud Atlas” coming soon to local theatres, we look into some of the best films so far that are, in fact, better than the books.”
☞ Again, adaptation becomes an issue… How close is the film to the original? When should this become an issue? Or, to put it in the terms of this review, when does a film begin to “vandalise” the original?
“What began as a necessary fleshing out of narrative allusions and foreshadowing to effectively translate literature into a movie ended up as Jackson’s sheer invention and gratuitous abuse of the characters, all of whom sword fight more often than Conan the Barbarian and more bloodily than Leonidas. If Thorin had shouted in the midst of battle with the Goblins, “Dwarves! Tonight we dine in Mordor!” no one in the audience would have been the least bit surprised. Zorro and the Three Musketeers had less skill with a blade in hand-to-hand combat than do these Dwarves, Gandalf or at times, Bilbo Baggins.
The only scenes where Jackson manages genuine fidelity to the story are the ones with Gollum, Bilbo and their Riddle-Game – perhaps out of fear of trivializing his previous movies, Tolkien’s actual dialogue and plot enters the script before vanishing again into a Jacksonian cinematic homage to every American action movie ever made. No wonder Christopher Tolkien looks on with weary despair.”
☞ The difficulties of adapting a cinematic narrative from another medium can be seen in Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The difficulty faced here is not that the film veers too far away from the original narrative, which was inspired by non-fictional events — to the extent that one questions its truthfulness, as in the case of Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty — but that it stays too close to it. In this regard, some parts of the film suffer cinematically, or could even be seen, as argued in this review, as engaging in a losing competition with the language of Kerouac’s original narrative.
“On the Road does not bind itself by rules of traditional cinematic narrative.
But it’s also shaped by the difficulties of adapting such a book for the screen. It includes many shots of Sal at a typewriter, much dialogue about being a writer, and even more voiceover narration taken directly from the book’s prose. Besides their clunkiness, these devices put the movie in direct competition with Kerouac’s words; even when Riley reads them nicely, it’s more a testament to their power than the film’s.”