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From Novel to the Big Screen
What Led Me to This
I have been reading for quite a long time now, and most recently I have gone back to some of the classics to see where my favorite genres, horror and science fiction, got their start. A number of movies have capitalized on some of these classics in the last few years, and in this article I discuss my personal opinion of these novels, as well as their big screen counterparts.
This was my very first Robert Heinlein novel, and I must admit that it was a very mixed bag. I wanted to see where my favorite genres of fiction and sci-fi had its origins, and I must say that this was a bit of a task.
First of all, the movie and the book are not at all the same and should be viewed as completely separate entities. From the very open sexuality depicted by the shower scene in the 1997 movie, to the very armies of countless humans running into the hordes of alien insects, these two are the furthest you can possibly get from one another. As fans of the movie would recall, both males and females shared a common shower and went idly about their business without so much as a glance at each other. In the book this is the complete opposite, where all male soldiers are restricted from all contact with females for almost the entirety of their service, as this is viewed as a major distraction to the soldiers’ training and peace of mind. Also, the large scale armies of humans with helmets and machine guns could not be further from the book’s representation, where the armies are actually small squadrons of soldiers who wear large mechanized suits and combat the alien horde using a combination of communications, strategy, and advanced firepower and technology.
The novel starts and ends beautifully, packed full with scenes of action and warfare on an alien planet. It is the middle that posed a bit of a problem to me. It felt like this was meant to be a novella, and was forcefully stretched to be a full-sized novel. Where the beginning and end flow seamlessly with fast paced action, the middle feels like running through a bog of boredom and redundancy. It is filled to capacity with conversations between the story’s protagonist and his teacher, where they discuss what I could only surmise to be ‘the theory of being a soldier.’ Certain characters that were barely mentioned in the book were given larger roles in the movie to replace the boredom that so dominated the core of the novel.
In a nutshell, this was a great story that was stretched beyond what it should have been. Again, the movie and book are not at all alike and should be viewed as such.
I Am Legend
I am a big fan of dystopian, post apocalyptic stories and so I bought this book to see where the origins of the movie came from. Many people do not know that this is not the first movie to be made from this novel by Richard Matheson. The movie 'The Omega Man,' starring Charlton Heston, was also based on this book. I am not a fan of either movie, but I will not go into why, as I believe this will take too much time and this is after all, a book review.
A fair warning to all heavy readers, this book is very short. As a matter of fact, the book I ordered also had a few short stories thrown in to build up the page count, but please do not let this deter you. This is a fine story which varies greatly from both on-screen adaptations in more ways than I could list. The most obvious of these differences is the ending, which is very unique, and unlike either of the movies, gives you the reasoning behind the title. The story throws you into the mind of the protagonist Dr. Robert Neville, who is strangely immune to the virus that has decimated the world population. Those infected with the virus are drawn to his stronghold like moths to a flame on a daily basis. As far as the creatures are concerned, the Charlton Heston movie was more accurate as they are very humanlike and not at all like those shown in the modern movie starring Will Smith. The infected regularly attack Dr. Neville’s stronghold, although their attacks do minimal damage, but they also taunt him psychologically, playing on his most human of instincts. What I will say in favor of the modern adaptation is that it more accurately showed Dr. Neville’s mental decay as a result of his prolonged isolation.
The book flows almost too well, in the sense that you will most likely finish it in one sitting. This gave me mixed emotions. I wanted more, yet I thought it was good enough as is. Additionally, a few of the short stories were quite good, and if you do indeed get the collection, I would advise that you read the short stories first and leave the main story as the pièce de résistance.
World War Z
This story was a paradox to me in both its incarnations. This movie, more or less, catapulted the world into a ‘zombie mania,’ whereas, I cannot to this day sit through twenty minutes of it. The true mystery to me came after I read the book by author Max Brooks. Yes, the whole book.
How in the world could anyone turn this into a movie is still beyond me, because as far as I saw in my twenty minutes of self imposed torture of viewing this film, there is no main character or plot. The book is in fact an account of the ‘zombie apocalypse,’ as seen by numerous people. Yes, you read that correctly, it is a collection of reports given my about a dozen people, of what they saw and experienced during the chaos of the zombie uprising with the only constant being man’s last major stand at a specific time and place. This in itself is about the only positive attribute of this book, because it splits the story into nice sections that you can space out and read one at a time instead of swallowing the entire bitter drink at once.
Simply by how well this movie did all over the world I know that I’m going to get a lot of detractors, but as I said before, individualism is a beautiful thing. I for one, being a huge fan of the entire post apocalyptic theme, did not find it at all special in any way, but that is my humble opinion.
What I can say for sure from these three titles is that there are major differences between books and their on-screen counterparts. Don't at all believe that just because you have read the book first, or vice versa, that you are in any way spoiling the end for yourself. Rather, what you are doing, is seeing a different take on the story.
What to Expect Next
For my next article, I think I will write about some titles that I found had very favorable and accurate movie adaptations, unlike those discussed here.
So be sure to check in next time. Until then, please keep reading.
© 2018 Joseph B Daniel