Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great Books Do Not Always Make Great Movies

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates, a post by one of his readers on books and adapting them into movies. Some great comments here. For the most part I always enjoy books more than the resulting movies, but there are some exceptions. Oh, yes; The Godfather; such an amazing film made from such a trashy potboiler of a book!

I got into a friendly argument about one of my least favorite clichés recently. It was this: the book is always better than the movie. First, always beware the use of "always"--it obviously only takes one counterexample (oh, there's this little movie called The Godfather) to prove the assertion wrong. Though the cliché is often stated this way, let's be charitable and relax the statement to something like "the book is usually better than the movie."

It's considerably more difficult to prove this wrong because there isn't, to my knowledge, a database of movies that are based on books that we could readily consult and then perhaps use some agreed-upon method--metacritic scores? Rotten Tomatoes scores?--to more-or-less prove the point objectively. But there are a number: The Godfather; most of the good Philip K. Dick adaptations (and there are several: Blade Runner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and perhaps the upcoming Adjustment Bureau will be good); The Talented Mr. Ripley is, I believe, better than the book it's based on...there are more examples, I'm sure.

Anybody want to share their own examples?

"Great Books Are Great at Being Books" (The Atlantic)


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