The book is always better than the film.
I can’t remember how old I was when I realised this but I’ve always found it to be true.
Two examples that immediately come to mind are, for some reason, both Stephen King stories;
'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Body'
The Shawshank Redemption is pretty close to the book but for some reason I found myself favouring the book over the film.
The Body is my favourite story, read when I was 18. The film adaptation, Stand By Me, came into my life when I was 12. There are some notable differences, the main one being the focus point of the story. Stand By Me focuses on Gordie Lachance, the narrator, whereas The Body has Gordie focusing on his best friend, Chris Chambers.
This being said, the most prolific scene for me in Stand By Me is actually different in The Body; as a 12 year old girl I fell in love with Chris Chambers the moment he rescued Teddy from the train tracks. I was, therefore, a little shocked to find that it is Gordie who rescues Teddy in the book.
Both of these stories are beautifully written and wonderfully told. So what happens when a film is made based on a poorly written book?
I first started to think about this when I discovered that John Dies At The End is being made into a film. The trailer actually doesn’t look too bad but I found the book to be great at the beginning only to completely lose me somewhere in the middle and eventually just plain annoy me by the end. I had to force myself to finish it and was actualy angry with the conclusion. I’m curious to see if the film will be any good, but doubt I'll waste money on seeing it on the big screen.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Last year I went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at the cinema. It was the first time in a very long time that I have considered walking out in the middle of a film. Read my review here!
For my birthday, my darling beloved bought me the book (by Seth Grahame-Smith). Thanks, love.
Well, I thought I should give it a go. I was intrigued. Following my own rule that the book is always better than the film I thought it had to have something going for it.
It did. It was a real page turner and I zoomed through it. The first thing I noticed was it is completely different from the film!
I don’t just mean a little different. It’s not like The Fellowship of the Ring when Tom Bombadil got left out. It’s not like Stand By Me where Gordie saves Teddy instead of Chris. It is completely, totally different.
Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating. It is still about Abraham Lincoln who is a vampire hunter and becomes President of the United States. He still loses his mother at the beginning to a vampire, he still loses a child to a vampire and both Henry Sturges, his vampire mentor, and Joshua Speed are in the book. There is a civil war and slavery, because you can’t just rewrite history like that.
And that’s it.
That’s where the similarity ends.
What the script writers have done is give the story a greater impact and made Abe Lincoln that little bit more likeable, and politically correct, by giving him a black vampire slaying friend. I found it quite shocking that, through the entire book, Abe didn’t speak to, let alone befriend, any of the slaves he was fighting for the rights of. In fact, the book suggests that rather than wishing to help the slaves themselves, he wanted to end slavery in order to fight vampires. The theory being that vampires are taking over America because the white folk have given them a plentiful supply of food through slave auctions.
This makes for an interesting plot in a novel, but not for a film. Fair enough. Actually, even for a novel, it’s a little slow.
So why make a film out of it in the first place? I’m assuming someone heard the concept and thought it an interesting one for a film.
There can, then, be no excuse for the dodgy scenes in the film. I thought that the book might explain why Abe Lincoln could fell a whole tree with one blow despite not having Buffy Summers' slayer powers. The truth is that in the book he is only described as being incredibly strong because he trained so hard.
The stampede scene in the film that made me stare at the exit sign in the cinema? Nonexistent in the book. Someone definately needs to answer for that scene alone.
The endings of the book and film are also very different. Should I tell you the ending of the book? It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I thoroughly enjoyed the last scene of the film and not just because it meant that the film was over. Henry sits in a modern, present day bar and essentially finds himself a new vampire hunter to train.
That’s another thing that the book and film have in common which I enjoyed in both; Henry Sturges. The story is about Abraham Lincoln, but I’ve never been the type who will cheer for the hero. I’m the type who will always seek out the sidekick, the secondary character, that person in the background. They are often the most interesting characters, perhaps because they have gaps that need to be filled in.
There is more to Henry in the book and because of this, and because the book didn’t make me cringe, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is yet another example of the book being better than the film.