Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Is the screen the word?

A new James Bond film is always the source of great excitement around the world and next Monday (26th October) that excitement reaches fever pitch with the launch of the latest instalment. With over a billion dollars taken for 'Skyfall' the expectation is high, but also the chances of disappointment too. Will 'Spectre' be as good? Will it take as much money and other such inane questions. The point is that Daniel Craig is in it, it has a new Aston Martin, there will be girls, fights and ultimately James Bond will save the world. When Ian Fleming sat down at his typewriter in 1952 to create the ultimate spy can he ever have imagined things would go so far?

With all this hype, and I am a Bond fan, it got me wondering about other books turned into films and the impact that the film has on a book's readership. When Harry Potter reached the cinema he already had legions of fans. My son and stepson feel that the films have never reached the levels of the books and openly scorn many of the scenes. The fans of '50 Shades of Grey' (all right calm down, they do exist) universally felt that the film wasn't better than the book - definitely damned in all circles there then. However, other films have found fans of the film rather than the book. Many whom have seen the 'Lord of the Rings' series ('The Hobbit included) have preferred the films to the books. Tolkien's wordy style does seem rather old-fashioned when viewed 60 years or so since their publication, although I still love the books and the films. 

The most filmed of all literary characters, Sherlock Holmes, has undergone great reboots with both the Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr creations attracting new audiences, but again I wonder how many turn to the source material? Shakespeare never goes out of fashion, but here I do think that people study the texts, whether as an academic exercise or for their pleasure.

Whatever the case I think it is clear that a film can breath new life into a book and that, hopefully, will encourage a viewer to become more of a reader. After I had watched 'The Notebook' I had to read the book and found the film to be better. Many years ago when I saw 'Roots' on television I also had the desire to read the book. The tv series was much better than the book, although Alex Haley's text is also of top quality. Another series I feel that are better than the original books are the Bourne series; a series so good that it forced the producers of Bond to up their game. The Inspector Morse books don't match up to the majesty of John Thaw's interpretation either - infact I didn't like Morse much as a character on the page, but I love the TV version.

All of which leads me to the question asked by fans of books and film versions of characters. Which is better? Your own imagination, aided by the author, or what you see on the screen in a cinema or at home? Usually I have heard that the book will 'always' be better than the film (or TV version). I would dispute that, as my examples have shown, but a lot of time this is true. It is the level of character development that a book can provide that makes the book the winner in most cases. It is also true that without the book the film would never have been made, In the case of 'Lord of the Rings' the books were so rich in imagery that it took the film industry 50 years to catch up before they could be effectively tackled. The cartoon version was rubbish. 

Which brings me to the end of this little discussion, but I hope it encourages you want to add your voice as well, which you can do in the comments below. I'd love to know which books you think are better than the films or the other way round and also, which books have been filmed that should never have been touched at all? 

Yours literally

Andy Gibney
@andygibneystwitter



Have something to say?  Please comment below, all feedback welcome.




7 comments:

  1. I think books are better the majority of the time.

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    1. Are there any examples where this isn't the case? For you I mean. Thanks for the reply,

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  2. interesting piece. i think, in all honesty, the idea that the source material is always superior to the remake/reshoot/re-anything needs updating. but also, lets not forget, its hugely down to personal opinion and, in the case of books especially, down to memories. i would rather watch LOTR over reading the books again, but because I was read the Hobbit as a kid and it was one of the books that taught me to love reading, I would choose the book over the films anyday. Roots the book is too much like hard work for me, but the show was excellent. Its all dependent on the person.

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    1. I agree with all you've said. I read the first Jason Bourne book and it took forever to get going, but the films grip you from the start. That was my point really; that it used to be, mostly, true that that books were netter than films, but the storytelling in films has vastly improved and I think that is the key.

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  3. You see I have this debate over and over. No, books aren't always better. To add to your examples I propose 'interview with a vampire' be added to this list. And divergent.

    I think we need to start moving away from this stereotype and each medium needs to be evaluated on its own merit m

    ReplyDelete
  4. You see I have this debate over and over. No, books aren't always better. To add to your examples I propose 'interview with a vampire' be added to this list. And divergent.

    I think we need to start moving away from this stereotype and each medium needs to be evaluated on its own merit m

    ReplyDelete
  5. You see I have this debate over and over. No, books aren't always better. To add to your examples I propose 'interview with a vampire' be added to this list. And divergent.

    I think we need to start moving away from this stereotype and each medium needs to be evaluated on its own merit m

    ReplyDelete