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Read the Movie!

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By Chris Kavan - 03/16/10 at 10:05 AM CT

I love films. I love watching them - analyzing them - making fun of them - quoting them - good, bad, unknown, classics - I will watch just about anything at least once.

However, I also love to read. I'm much more selective about what I read than watch, but I've read a good share of books over my time. And, like most people would agree, the book is pretty much always better than the movie. Which is why I implore you to read - whether it's before or after you watch - a film.

Incredibly popular books get made into movies: good examples: Harry Potter (which I've devoured) and Twilight (not so much). A popular series is a good place to earn lots of money... but you have to get a great cast, make sure the story is adapted well and hope the crowd shows up. Yet a great series doesn't mean a great film. Look to Eragon, Inkheart, Lemony Snicket and The Spiderwick Chronicles - all have a devout following, yet none did particularly well. Even when the original author is involved doesn't mean things are going to end up wowing you, which is too bad because a bad film could potentially ruin a great book.

An author I've loved since my middle school days is Stephen King. I like horror, and whether you think he's a hack or not, King knows horror. It's too bad that most of the films based on his work fail to live up to the story. Two exceptions - Kubrick's The Shining (which King disliked) is a great horror film, but really takes liberties with the novel and Shawshank Redemption - which isn't really horror, but is the best King adaptation yet. In fact, Shawshank may be one of the few films which betters the story. Other good adaptations include Stand By Me, Carrie, Misery, The Mist (even with the dark ending), 1408 and Green Mile. But there are many more questionable and bad adaptations like The Mangler, Graveyard Shift, Maximum Overdrive, Needful Things, Silver Bullet, Thinner, Dreamcatcher, Sometimes They Come Back and The Dark Half.

More recently, graphic novels have become the new thing to adapt. This medium is more suited for film. Early concepts worked - I loved Sin City and 300 - highly stylized, violent - great work. Even though Alan Moore hates Hollywood, I thought V for Vendetta was excellent. Likewise, the slick adaptation of Wanted was a hoot. What didn't work? The Spirit still looked great, but the story was lacking. On the other hand, Watchmen stuck too close to the material and was bogged down because of it. Likewise, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was just a mess and all the blood in the world couldn't rescue 30 Days of Night from being just another monster-of-the-now flick.

So I don't care what movies you like - Fight Club, The Exorcist, The Notebook, The Lovely Bones, American Psycho, The Godfather, Bourne Trilogy, Atonement, Mystic River, The Cat in the Hat... I could go on all day. Point is, the visual medium of film is great, but it can never match the medium of the mind. So next time you see a great film that's "based on the novel by..." do me a favor and pick up the book too.


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