Movies v. Books




I don’t know too many people who think movies tell a story better than the books that originated them. I may hang with a biased crowd, however. I’m a librarian, after allBut I love movies.

I love watching movies that were made from books I’ve read. I love seeing how people bring the characters to life. It’s like seeing inside someone else’s brain. I know what I see, how I interpret the book, but a movie lets me see how other people think about it. If you consider all the people involved and all the visions that come together, it’s kind of amazing the thing gets made at all. Of course movies also have a lot of restrictions that books don’t. It’s easy (ha) to write a scene that can be difficult to film. Locations, sets, cast. Not a problem for a writer. So, do I wish the movie could be as awesome as the book? Absolutely. Am I going to be affronted when it’s not? Eh. Depends.

I think looking at the differences between the book and the movie is interesting. For example, Simple Simon by Ryne Douglas Pearson which became Mercury Rising with Bruce Willis. A couple of things stand out. Firstly, the main character, Art Jefferson/Jeffries is an African-American man. Bruce Willis? Not so much, as far as I can tell by looking. The kid? Yeah, he’s an autistic 16 year old in the book. In the movie? The kid playing Simon was 12 when the movie came out. I certainly wasn’t around when decisions were being made, but it makes me wonder if they thought a younger kid would play better with the audiences, more sympathetic than an almost-grown kid getting overwhelmed and having a meltdown. And maybe they couldn’t find an African-American actor with big enough name recognition to play the part? Yeah, maybe.

You get something similar with Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde and the movie with the same name. In this case, Kevin Spacey’s character is supposed to be an African-American veteran. The scars that don’t seem to matter as much as he thinks they do are from his time in the service, not from childhood abuse as in the movie. In the book, he thinks the reason the mom feels awkward around him is because of his race and his scars. In fact, she feels like she can’t measure up to his standards, being poor and uneducated. You do get a little of that in the movie, but it doesn’t play out quite the same.

So, what’s that say about Hollywood? About what they think the audiences will accept? What’s that say about the audiences? Maybe we don’t care. Most of us don’t even know the movie is based on a book and therefore these issues never even come to mind. But sometimes they do. And I like to think about the choices that go into the changes between print and “Print.” How about you? Any big issues with your favorite book/movie?

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