The constant thing said about movies based on books is always “how much better the book is.” On occasion, however, it does occur that the movie can go further than the book. A prime example of this is the sci-fi classic ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’, the movie spectacular that transformed outer space movies from being campy kid stuff to being sleek, intelligent, well wrought adventures of the mind and spirit. The addition of HAL to the story, a renegade computer with the personality of C3PO and the cunning of Darth Vader, became a legendary sci fi ‘character’.
It is based on a short story called ‘The Sentinel’ by Arthur C. Clark, a genuine British scientist and renowned science fiction writer who helped director Stanley Kubrik write the screenplay which was considerable longer than the original story. Whereas the original story is perhaps a couple dozen pages long, the final novelization of the movie was book length long.
Tom Cruise had to give up a year and a half of his life to star in another Kubrik odyssey called ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ although the eyes of all the males in the audience were wide open when Tom’s real life wife Nicole Kidman opens the film with a strip tease in the very first scene. Later scenes amplified the amount of well maintained and proportioned naked female flesh that flattered the screen as Cruises character searches out a dirty rich men’s sex party complete with a June Tayler dancer like bit with all the luscious ladies a’ la buff’. Tom probably later regretted his long employment under Kubrik as he normally would have made several films in the same time which is proved by the Guiness Book of World records saying that ‘Eyes’ is the longest continuous made film ever made, taking 400 days to complete. Eyes ended up doing well in the theaters, taking in $162 million worldwide despite its strong sexual content. Kubrik himself although didn’t fare so well as he died five days after the film was finished.
‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is based upon an old German novella entitled ‘Dream Story’ by Arthur Schnitzler. It is a good and deep read, but without the depth and complexity that Kubrik gives it. Also it is minus the visuals of all the Playboy quality naked women. Strangely, Kubrik originally wanted to make the movie a comedy starring Woody Allen or Steve Martin.
‘Forrest Gump’ was the best selling book by Winston Groom. It concerns the unexpected adventures of a mentally diminished southern boy, who, despite his naivete and weak brain power, goes on to achieve minor miracles in his life. The film, with Tom Hanks embodying the half wit, gives it the star power that brought millions to view it. Director Zemeckis added his own touches to the story that gave it more dimension and spiced it with all the wonders that the radical 60’s had going. The crème of the cake was the rambunctious music of the time that gave Gump such great emotional appeal. Little Zemeckis touches made it scrumptious, such as Gump being edited into famous film footage of all the Presidents of the times. It also turns out that Gump was the unwitting author of many of the famous phrases we have grown up with including “Shit happens”.
One thing that the book has that the film doesn’t is that Forrest and Jenny “do it all over the place” where as in the movie they only ‘do it’ once–enough to produce a son. In the literary version he also gets to be an astronaut.
The film went on to be a huge hit internationally and has been included into the Library of Congresses national film registry as one of the greats of all time. A minor scandal ensued when it was realized that while Zemeckis and Hanks racked up big bucks with the film, Groom got diddly squat.
‘Polar Express’ is mostly a visually lavish childrens picture book with a bare bones story written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. The tale of four children on their way to the North Pole was a winner as a book and a triumph of the imagination as a film. Director Zemeckis (again) turned it into a colorful opus using digital wizardry and the voice power of actor Tom Hanks (again), the same actor who sent Forest Gump off the charts. Whereas the book could be read in 5 minutes, the movie is a dazzling 100. The film also brought in $306 million dollars and was nominated for 3 Oscars–nothing to sneeze at, even if you are at the North Pole. Both the book and the movie are now considered to be Christmas classics.
All three of the latest Batman movies, ‘Batman Returns’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ by director Christopher Nolan are heads and tails above the original comics in every way possible. While kudos must be given to inspireers Bob Kane and Bill Finger for inventing the masked avenger in the first place way back in 1939, it must be admitted that by today’s standards it was poorly drawn and a real basic story.
While the drawing and writing of the comic series has grown more sophisticated over the years, it took a major evolutionary leap with the publication of the ‘Dark Knight Returns’ by Frank Miller in 1986 transforming it from a cheap comic to an art form both literally and visually. But it is Nolan’s nuevo classic noir films that sent it into the stratosphere artistically. The films are story-wise greater with more depth and plot, more lavish in background and design, more sophisticated with content and inventions and more arresting to ones attention with the action and scenes. The Batman of Miller brought the Dark Knight into modern times, then Nolan propelled him into the inky-est of noirdom.