The Book, The Flick

Recently read Asimov’s Bicentennial Man. It reminded me of the movie
version I’d watched a long while ago. But only just. It amazed me how
much of change the story had undergone during the transition from novella
novella to movie script.
The movie by itself isn’t bad; the first half is quite sensitively
portrayed, sensitive enough to tug at your heartstrings. It meanders
in the second half, finally going where you never expected it to go,
and ending at an equally unpredictable stage. Andrew, the robot with
extra-wide positronic pathways can think and produce works of art,
ends up fascinated with humans and looks for family and togetherness,
falls in love with Little Miss’s granddaughter, opts for replacement of
his metallic parts with organic ones [he wants to know what
intercourse feels like], which finally results in his, well, end.
Uh-huh, I said and wished that an innocent Andrew hadn’t
metamorphosized into a very irritating Robin Williams. The movie tells
of an individual robot’s quest to make himself human, for purposes
very different from those mentioned in the book. The book spoke for
robotkind; the movie is more of a slice-of-life sort. The book deals
more with the aspect of endless life and an unprecedented incident
while the movie with the personal aspect of such an incident.

Which brings me to think: why on earth do filmmakers make movie
versions of books if they aren’t going to remain faithful to the
original? Doesn’t their version cease to be a version of the original
with the major changes they bring about in the storyline and script?
Like why at all say ‘Based on the novel by JK Rowling’ if you don’t
bother to stick to her entire story and simplify the whole thing to
something beyond recognition, add crazy-sounding spells for better
effect, fiddle with the way the characters are supposed to be
portrayed? Wouldn’t it be better to say “Inspired by” or “characters
and central storyline from”?
I very well understand the difficulty of fitting a 636-page tome into
two hours [westerners have shorter attention spans or what?], but why
at all make a movie of it? Why not a fixed-episode animated series on
prime time TV?
Hmm… I’m tempted to think that might help, but hey, it is always the
book that is preferred over the other versions. Like, show me one
person who preferred Deepa Mehta’s 1947-Earth to Bapsi Sidhwa’s
Ice-Candy Man. Or the Will Smith-starrer I, Robot over Asimov’s book
of the same name [At least the film says ‘based on characters created
by Isaac Asimov’.] Or anyone who says Orlando Bloom was just like
they’d imagined Legolas to be. You’ll find more people who say that
the Arwen-Strider romance was overdone in the movie.
Is the book preferred just ‘coz it is the original, and any subsequent
version seems like a cheap copy that leaves out some or the other
detail, or in most cases, a chunk of the story due to constraints
imposed by the other medium? The fact that we never are able to
appreciate remakes when we’ve seen the original corroborates this
But then, maybe not. I read the novelization [a novelisation, mind
you, the movie came first] of Manoj Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense and
found it more enjoyable than the film.
Maybe it is that while reading a book, we are able to skip the boring
parts and come back to the better parts while that is not really
possible in a movie.
The movie screen in your head shows the characters in terms of what
you already understand [heh, I always visualized Hagrid as a junglee
version of Putty Thing and Snape as a long-haired version of Fish Guy
from The Mask].
And lengthy monologues are less boring while we are reading them,
than while watching them. Ha, They’re planning to make a movie of The Da
Vinci Code. I wish them all the best. I really wonder how they are
going to get all the fact-explanation sessions in without boring the
pants off the audience. Will they show clips from The Passion of
But what takes the cake is the attempted movie version of Life of Pi.
The book is about how the lone survivor of a shipwreck drifts ashore
after more than two hundred days on a lifeboat in the Pacific. In the
company of a 450-pound Bengal tiger, a Grant’s zebra [with a broken
leg!], a hyena and a female orangutan, no less. The amount of blood
and gore they’d have to show… the hyena eats the zebra alive [the
process spreads over three days], kills the orangutan, feasts on the
carcass until it gets eaten by the tiger.
What’s more, dialogues are limited, and the text is filled more with
explanations for the protagonist’s deeds and animal behaviour.

“If you take the city of Tokyo, turn it upside down and shake it, you’d
be surprised as to how many animals you would get. Komodo dragons,
tigers, lions, leopards, and even an elephant or two. And they
thought… in the middle of a jungle… ha, simply laughable! What were
they thinking?”
Exactly. What were they thinking?

[PS: the extract from Life Of Pi isnt the proper one, I don’t have my copy with me now. More authentic versions will be appreciated.
Neways, it feels so good to be back online, blogging.]

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
This entry was posted in movies, Reading. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Book, The Flick

  1. aaaaaaaah,point.i havent seen this particular movie though,but the book,i can safely say is almost always better than the movie.
    but as far as i have seen,atleast 70% of the original is retained.
    and i prefer hollywood-atleast they dun have 5-6 love songs per movie.
    but i dun think lotr was bad at was good,though sauron didn’t seem dangerous at all!
    and movies have to have the essentials-a love story,some action…else,who will watch it?
    i admire peter jackson.and i dont much like the hp movies!
    gimme a good book anyday and i’ll forget the popcorn.

  2. have to agree… books r heap better than their movie versions. atleast mostly. The Godfather was very true to the original-Mario Puzo was one of the writers of the screenplay. i am told, ‘Babe’ was an unreadable book but the movie was an excellent piece of work. some one mentioned the latest Pride and Prejudice as being a tribute to Austen. exceptions, i believe. in tamil, Sujatha’s Vikram was brutally murdered in the on-screen version. and so was Priya… but less so.

    On the whole, my verdict – don’t spoil a book for us by making a movie out of it. But if you have to, be true to the book.

  3. aJ says:

    why on earth do filmmakers make movie
    versions of books if they aren’t going to remain faithful to the

    They do need to sell the movie. Commercialization unfortunately trumps over art and sticking to the source, in this case the book.

    That said, the reason why books are more enjoyable is that they do not have contraints over how long they can be. I mean, if they are kept within limits, book can be much more descriptive and these are the cases where even though a picture being worth a thousand words, the books score.

    And lastly, why not make a tv-season animation series, well, they do get made. There are cartoons for almost all comic book heroes, many of the books etc. But not everyone can watch all the episodes over the course of the season which typically lasts for about 8-10 months. Hence the shortened, rushed version is created in the form of a movie!

  4. Shashi Iyer says:

    they make it because u watch it. its a rather inexpensive hook. inexpensive for the brain.

    p.s.: very well written

  5. the Monk says:

    Hello. I totally agree, except for one point. Take I, Robot, for instance. The movie is crap. The book is genius. But if 0.1%(far lesser, I’m sure) of the people who saw the movie read the book after watching it, the movie would be justified, for me. All the same, the movie’s a disgrace to Asimov’s ideas.

  6. Priya says:

    my point about the prime-time tv movies was not about a series that is spread over a long time, i meant like a movie made for tv. harry potter is descriptive enough, you dont really need to add more effects to make it more spectacular. so why not make an animated film which goes on for, say four-and-a-half hours, and put it on tv. i guess that’ll rake in the moolah fast enuff, tho’ i must admit, not as fast as the movie screen.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Neways, it feels so good to be back online, blogging.

    And just when i thought you had given up! Damn! God save us all from the numbskulls.

  8. Priya says:

    and just when we thought you’d disappeared from the face of blogosphere.

  9. the Monk says:

    In my opinion, what makes HP work is that JKR has taken the pretty much ordinary boarding school life and put it in a magical context…look at the driving plot, it isn’t all that special, except for the character of Snape, who, for me, is the most fascinating character in the series…if you ask me, Philip Pullman is much better…take Azkaban, for instance…the book is brilliant, the best(in my opinion)…the movie was the worst…because you couldn’t really cram in all the so-called mundane stuff in 2 hours…that is why the dementors started flying around…

  10. Priya says:

    exactly my point. jkr writes very descriptively, so not much needs to be left to the director’s imagination, even. why try cramming it into two hours? cant it be a ‘pathbreaking’ and ‘epoch-making’ movie which lasts for ‘a marathon three-and-a-half hours?’
    maybe the next article in New York Times would be on how jkr and ‘her movies’ are bringing us away from couch-potatoedness and…. you get the picture.

  11. Anyone here seen the movie ‘to kill a mockingbird’?–>

  12. raytracer says:

    People are always comparing the movies to books they have been based on. LOR was a great movie and people liked it a lot. And so many other movies. A lot of people might never have read the book a movie was based on. But they might have still liked the movie. Finally it’s only a comparison and a matter of opinion. The movie’s story or portrayal might have been just as well appreciated had there not been a book.

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