“It’s the ultimate head-to-head competition, and movies are the Washington Generals”

projector1 vs books11

If you’re reading this web blog, you probably like the book better than the movie.  Willing Davidson recently offered up his explanation as to why on Slate.   He argues that even when the filmed adaptation seems to drag on and on into eternity, it’s still too short to do everything a good novelist can do in a book.

I think a better reason- and Davidson hints at this eventually- is that books and movies are good at different things, so when a filmmaker treats a book as an overlong script that just needs to be hacked down to two hours, things tend to go sour.  A more successful approach involves using the book as a jumping off point for something different.  Off the top of my head (and this is a blog after all, so that’s probably as deep as we’re going to get) take Bernard Malamud’s The Natural.  Good bookBeloved and, I think largely artistically successful, if somewhat vapid, film. But aside from the characters and the general plot, they’re two different works entirely, with entirely different tones and themes.  The book is a study of how the darker elements of human nature corrupt the pure.  The film is a retelling of the classic hero story, one that would probably be annoying to have watched with Joseph Campbell, because he’d be pointing at the screen and yelling “See? That’s what I’m talking about!” every five minutes.  Books tend to be good at the kind of introspection one finds in the Malamud novel.  Movies tend to be good at the kind of epic spectacle one finds in the Levinson film.  In the end, I think the novel is better than the movie, but by taking a different, more movie-like route, at least this time the movie stood a fighting chance.

Which brings me to my larger, somewhat underhanded purpose in trying to get you to read this post all the way through.  The Mercantile’s criminally underattended Graphic Novel Discussion Group will talk about Alan Moore’s The Watchman on Saturday, March 14th at 1 p.m.  As you probably know, The Watchmen has recently been made into a film– despite the fact that it’s long been considered unfilmable– and given the book’s cult status, a lot of people are going to either to be really happy or really annoyed (or both) when they see it.  If you’d like to weigh in on how you think the adaptation will turn out, or if you’d like to get some background before you see the movie, or if you’re just a fan of the book, you are required to attend.  Assuming, that is, you can scrape together the FREE admission charge.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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