Is the book always better than the movie?

With the barrage of movies based on books being released by Hollywood nowadays, this question would crop up eventually. It was only a matter of time.

I would have to assume the basis for all these movies are good books  because it caught the fancy of Hollywood producers in the first place and I find myself racking my brain as to whether I have ever seen a movie that was better than the literature.

For the most part, I would have to say that the books have it. After all, books fills in the blanks that the movie does not always answer. Some get lost in translation, and some completely lose the general idea of the book in the first place. It takes great vision and imagination to interpret the work to film, and even more nerve to try to please hordes of the franchise’s built in fans. But once in a while, there are movies have captured the essence of the written work close enough for readers to think twice before awarding the point to the literature. This list of great films is based on movies that I have watched and whose books it is based, I have mostly read.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The Lord of Rings is one tough project to take on, and even harder to bring to life. I read the book a few months before the first movie was released and I was completely blown away by its translation to the big screen. The setting was almost completely as I had imagined it and the casting for the major roles was perfect for each of the characters. The excellent screenplay also retained the feel of Middle Earth and managed to eliminate elements of the story that are not quite as essential without compromising its entirety. I would say the LOTR movies were pretty even with its literary counterparts.

2. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I love JK Rowling’s works but the 6th Potter book was a bit too dragging and deperessing for my tastes (although it had a lot of moments). I understand that this was the transition book, where all of the mysteries are unraveled and Harry’s true mission revealed. I liked the movie better because it did not give away the ending right away unlike in the book, where Dumbledore seemed to be saying goodbye from the get go, and because it tweaked story to make it more interesting to the audience. I give my vote to the movie.

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl is a unique author. He writes children’s books that are not whimsical and happy but rather as a narration of events, people and environment, pieced together by excellent storytelling that appeals to even the youngest of readers. The movie (featuring Johnny Depp) was a bit surreal, a bit weird,  a bit graphic but quirky enough and presented more or less how Dahl put it. I would say that the book and the movie are even on this score.

4. Misery. I have not yet read the Stephen King novel, only the movie that earned Kathy Bates an Oscar for her performance as Annie Wilkes, a crazed fan who keeps his favorite author captive and forces him to write a novel the way she wants it..  or else. I have read some of Stephen King’s works and believe that the source material is just as creepy as the movie. I highly doubt however, that Stephen’s Annie could rival Bates’s interpretation. I give my vote to the movie.

5. Angels and Demons. Dan Brown made his name because of his novel, Da Vinci Code, but I have always found Angels and Demons more interesting because I felt the whole time that I was traveling in Rome along with Robert Langdon. The movie interpretation gave face to the places and visual representation to the suspenseful events in the written work. While the book gets readers thinking, the movie adds to the experience by showing the clues that help Langdon and company unravel the mystery. Plus Tom Hanks is a really great Langdon. 60/40 in favor of the movie.

6. Running Man. Stephen King writes as Richard Bachman in this dystopian tale where convicts are used as players in the no win game of death, televised and betted on by the masses. Ben Richards in the book was a compelling hero, but Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday gave a whole new meaning to bringing down the house. In this regard, the movie gets my vote.

Feel free to share your thoughts, and tell me if I missed any of your favorites :-)