Book versus movie

androidsHolidays are a great time to get away from the day-to-day pressures of living and simply unwind and enjoy yourself with family or friends. For me it’s also a time to catch up on some sci-fi reading. One of my favourite movies of all time is Riddley Scott’s Blade Runner, which is loosley based on Philip Dick’s classic sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I promised myself this holiday I would take the time to read it along with some other books; and I did. I enjoyed the novel, but it had a very different feel from the movie.

The main character, Rick Deckard, in the book was a more pathetic character than the role played in the movie by Harrison-Ford, and the ending was very different. But that’s not really surprising given the needs of Hollywood for an action hero and a happy ending. The theme of the both the book and the film is about what it means to be human and have an identity. I enjoyed the both, but I preferred the movie.

This got me thinking about other movies and books, and whether my views were coloured by which one I experienced first. In the case of Stephanie Mayer’s Host, I read the book before the film, and the film didn’t seem to possess the same emotional intensity as the book. Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal was much he same. The book had a slow start but, when it got going, it was difficult to put down until I finished it in the early hours of the morning. The movie didn’t seem to have the same intensity dispite Bruce Willis’s best efforts. Perhaps Bruce is no so good at playing the bad guy.

But there were many examples where the books and films were pretty much on a par with each other. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Jurrasic Park were all good books that made good movies. So what makes a good book suitable for a blockbuster movie? In my view it comes down to emotional intensity, and how the author or director makes his/her reader or audience empathise with the hero/heroinne.

Authors and directors do it in different ways given the different mediums they are using, but in both cases the main character usually has to go through a character arc that reveals his humanity. Blockbuster action sequences in movies are fun, but they are not what makes a movie great. Great actors and great directors make good movies by giving their audience what they want: an emotional journey through the story where for a brief moment in time they can experience what the main character is feeling. It’s the magic of story telling.

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