This may sound sacrilegious, but it’s true – some movie adaptations really are better than their book parents. Books are great for giving you the chance to imagine the story for yourself, and they provide you with more than enough time to get acquainted with both the setting and the characters, but in some cases this can either be too much information or information that would be better suited for a visual representation. That’s where film comes in.
Sure, there are plenty of books out there that are way better than their subsequent film adaptations (a majority of them, actually), but there are plenty of films out there that you can safely watch without ruining the book or cheapening the experience of reading it afterwards.
Take, for example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – a classic no doubt, but how many of us tried to read it and got maybe a third of the way through (if we were that lucky) before giving up. Granted, those of us who did are probably the same people who saw the movie first and figured we might as well watch the Cliff Notes, so maybe we’re not the purists we should be, but really – who out there honestly thinks Peter Jackson’s films were lacking because Tom Bombadil wasn’t a crucial part of the storyline? Watching the film versions of these books feels like we’re fast-forwarding to the more exciting parts.
Another book that is done a world of good via its film transformation is Fight Club. Chuck Palahniuk is an incredible author, and if you’ve never read any of his books, you should seriously rectify that (I highly recommend Invisible Monsters). Fight Club is no exception, however David Fincher’s film plays out so expertly with such magnificent performances from Brad Pitt and Edward Norton that you actually find yourself realizing that the characters you created in your imagination were, for once, not nearly as good as they were when brought to life on screen. Though, in all fairness, you really can’t beat the trivial nuggets that Palahniuk lovingly weaves through all of his books, Fight Club being no exception (for example, he gives you a recipe for how to make your own napalm).
A Clockwork Orange is another book that is done a world of good by being ported into a film. First off, the chief complaint – the verbiage in the book is nearly impossible to follow, and you find yourself developing a headache before you’re done with the first chapter. However, even if you make a guide for yourself of all of the terms and what they mean (like I did, when I was determined to finish reading the book on my own time in college), you’ll find that, surprisingly, a book so filled with sex, violence, and more violence actually comes up short when compared to the film. Malcolm McDowell pulls off evil so gloriously, and the film’s score is dark enough to haunt you for decades after you’ve seen the film. Those two elements alone are not ones you will find in any book, though Anthony Burgess’ work sure sets the stage for some brilliant film-making, which Stanley Kubrick did indeed pull off.