Friday, August 16, 2013

Novel Movies (Posts by JT)

Today JT, from the trailer review posts, is here to write about movies based on books.
Hi, this is JT here, hoping I don't bore you all to death with a post like this. I read a lot, so as a matter of course I am very interested in films that are based on novels. I intend to highlight some I am familiar with, and a few that I don't like so much...Anyway, as I was thinking about this, it struck me that though it may be clear that Hollywood's idea well is running dry, what Hollywood there is is propped up mightily by works of the pen. In a broad definition, you might even say that even the Marvel franchise is based on literature. (ok, it's not so broad to say that, but I for one prefer to stick to hard-bound novels). As it happens, only the animated studios are really making original ideas anymore, and even How To Train Your Dragon is a published book, albeit for a young age group. In this post and the following ones I am going to lay out some of my thoughts on the novels and the movies that they produced.

Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur is 1) subtitled A Tale of the Christ and as focused on Christ's time on Earth as the movie makes it out to be. 2)800 pages long, if I remember my numbers right. 3) contains pages upon pages that describe one setting meticulously before going to the action (a film-maker's dream, I've heard)  and 4) entirely deserving of a movie three hours long. 
Ben-Hur is one of Charlton Heston's most famous roles, and I think he owned it, though I am no judge of acting. Everything that happened in the film was in the book, as shown, including the sea battle and the famous chariot race. However, I believe they did remove one or two scenes of deep philosophic thinking and consolidate a couple of characters due to length.
Lew Wallace was a Union officer during the Civil War who wrote the whole story around that time. He is officially the founding member of Hollywood's genius club, which includes only James Cameron (although Titanic was just one historical event in which he placed characters) and J.R.R. Tolkien, as the only people to write a story that spawned a movie that won ten or more awards,  at 11.

Master & Commander:The far Side of the World
Patrick O'Brian's  Master & Commander series includes 20 books, of which The Far Side of the World is number ten. The movie bears almost zero resemblance to the book, which for the only time in my experience is a brilliant idea. If you read all 20 books like I did, you realize that Far Side of the World is a dead fish in the middle of an action-packed series riddled with sea battles. By contrast, the book (which this film follows almost in name only) involves sidetracks that make no sense in the middle, and an end of cordial diplomacy that is mind-numbingly lame compared to the suspenseful chaotic shaky-cam sea battle we got on film. When I mention it I tell people that the right way to appreciate the stories would be to get the books, and when you reach FSW, replace it with the film. Russel Crowe did brilliantly in his role Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany did Stephen Maturin just like he was supposed to. I have no idea why this film is so underrated, because I've forgotten what year it came out. If you like Russel Crowe you should check it out. But beware, this film has no time for your _____ hobbies!

 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
I have not seen the film version yet, mainly because I tend to read the book first if there is one. I just recently read the book and enjoyed it a lot, although I don't think I would go back for a second reading. (So far, LOTR are the only books I've been able to pick up more than once, not counting ones I read when I was twelve). Anyway, to get a little background on it I looked up the wiki page and it made me want to see the film, because I see no significant differences between the two. I think Gary Oldman was a brilliant choice for the lead based on the character in the novel and the roles I have seen him do (though I know nothing about acting nuances, so I always think everyone did brilliantly unless they are outrageously wooden...)
I did not figure out the mystrey before it was revealed, but that just makes it more fun. I think if I were to see the film I would like it.

Les Miserables
I didn't think to include this one at first, because i intended to stick to ones I thought were flying under the radar. However, when it came to it I could not pass it up. First of all, yes it is a romance novel really, but for all that I liked it more than I've liked anything since LOTR. Second, it is 1400 pages long and fills up the spaces with pages upon pages of side-tracks which meticulously describe 1830s Paris, human psychology, and various other elements that are relevant to the way the story is arranged. It could not have justice done to it in musical form, because of said length and that musical form apparently was only chosen so one could see a bunch of a-listers and a couple of almost a-listers shriek and cry while singing (even in the rain.:))
Which brings me to: Don't blame Russel Crowe. It was said that Russel Crowe can't sing, but I would like to explain here that by the standards of the stage version, he actually did fine. That's not singing, that's chanting. Different standards, all right? Although I could not get over the decision to sing every little argument...It wasn't actually a very good movie, unless all you want to see is The Gladiator in a French police costume chanting himself hoarse, while Wolverine and Catwoman run around being down and out and sorry for themselves, while Bellatrix lestrange and That Nut pretend to be barkeeps, not to mention the other hopelessly lost pair who absolutely MUST sing their romance duet in the middle of the line of fire, and then conveniently faint or die while Wolverine sings his own famous song...Did I mention the nine-year old (maybe younger) who should been 14? (I'm fairly sure of that. 'Course 14-year-old boys often can't sing, so that's that...)
I'm done now. I hope you got something out of this post, because I'd like to do more.


  1. Great movie list! Actually I think Gavroche is supposed to be twelve...which is admittedly still a little unlikely for the singing, but better than fourteen.
    I have some movies I'm going to look into now...hehehe. :)

  2. Enjoyed reading these, JT! :)
    Do some more of these posts, won't you? ;)

  3. Good post! I agree with you in Ben Hur and Master and Commander, though not on Les Mis (the book is not a romance novel, sorry).

    What I like best about movies based on books is that they often lead people to read the books, which they might not otherwise have done.

    This will sound weird, but I generally prefer to see the movie before I read the book. Because then I enjoy the movie and don't spend gobs of time going, "That's not how it is in the book!" I can then go read the book and enjoy it too, since they're usually much deeper and more intricate.

  4. One of my Golden Rules of Filmmaking is "The movie WILL ALWAYS be different from the book". I have yet to see a film version of a book I read stay completely faithful. If any has, let me know.

    I haven't read any of the book versions on this list, but having seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought it a brilliant film. Oldman is superb as Smiley, and it is a rare moment when I hope for a sequel. Since LeCarre has other books, who knows.

    Many people said it was hard to understand. I didn't have a problem following the plot, so I highly recommend TTSS. As a bonus, we see Sherlock himself (or Benny as I call him) in a supporting role.

    Lastly, no--Maximus CAN'T sing, but bless him for trying. Also, giving Oscars for singing ONE SONG? I love Hathaway, but did she deserve a major award for belting out I Dreamed a Dream and then croaking?

  5. Master and Commander is one of my all-time favorite movies. Never read any of the books though... now I know more of what to expect if I ever give them a try!

  6. I love Ben-Hur; it's one of my all time favorite movies. I also loved the book, but I was glad of some of the changes they made from novel to screen. :)


    1. Sorry I can't re[ly to evevryone right now. I have one more of theser posts tp gp right now Ubfortunately haven't sctually seen many...


One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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