Book vs Movie: Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney

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In honor of National Poetry Month, I decided see if I could find a movie adapted from a poem. I found more than I expected, although some were more inspired by the poet or their collected works as opposed to actual adaptations. Then there are the epics, which in some cases seem to have spawned their own genres. I decided to go with Beowulf because I knew pretty much nothing about it. I thought this would be an interesting experience and it was. A little different, kind of odd, but interesting.

I’ll start off saying I enjoyed Beowulf. The basic story is pretty cool. Beowulf is a bad ass hero. He fights some sea monsters, kills a demon and it’s mother. He becomes a great king because of his reputation as a great warrior and the alliances he formed. With that said, it was a difficult read. It’s not exactly hard to follow, but it does need your full attention. It’s also best to read it in small chunks. There are a lot of digressions that can be draining. Usually it’s the praising of former kings and heroes, or background information, and even a minstrel’s song performed during a feast. It’s especially frustrating because its usually just before or in the middle of climatic scenes. Overall, it was an interesting read and had some engaging parts but I don’t think I would of finished it if I wasn’t doing this post.

There have been a couple different adaptations of Beowulf, I chose the major movie released in 2007. The movie uses real actors for motion capture animation, I’m not a fan of the style. Something about the way the actors look like overly edited photos irks me, however it works well for the fantasy elements. In general the movie seems a lot like the book, it uses a lot of the same elements, but it ends up telling a very different story. The poem is essentially a way to sing the praises of Beowulf and other great kings and warriors. The movie presents a story of flawed, easily corruptible men whose misfortune is a result of their own actions. It’s a modern, or some would say more realistic interpretation of the poem. However, it makes for very few, if any, likable or sympathetic characters. In fact I wonder if the point wasn’t that men are the real monsters.

If not for this post, I wouldn’t of even been interested in watching this movie. I didn’t think it was horrible, there were bad parts, but it wasn’t really good either. I’m not even going to attempt to say which I thought was better. They were both kind of meh. Plus they were very different and made for different audiences. I’d say if you’re into scholarly reading have a go at the poem. You’ll probably enjoy studying it and different interpretations. (But don’t watch the movie if it’s for a class.) If you’re looking for a fantasy action adventure, the movie is entertaining enough. While the poem has some moments, it’s not exactly thrilling reading.

Book vs Movie: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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I thought this would be the perfect book and movie for this month, because essentially it’s a love story. Not my usual thing and I was not expecting to enjoy either, as I assumed it was a typical couple from different worlds makes it against the odds story. Nick Young and Rachel Chu have been dating for two years when a trip to Singapore introduces her to the alternate reality of Singapore’s elite and super wealthy families.

While the love story is the major plot line and driving force of the story it recedes into the background for much of the book. We are introduced to a handful of minor characters, mostly members of Nick Young’s family. The story takes on a fly on the wall feel, giving us an insider view of the family and their social circle. We see their extravagant lifestyle and how they struggle with the pressure to keep up appearances. The over the top characters create a lot of humor, but we also see the darker side portrayed in the negative reactions to Rachel. The book is a great read and I flew through it, I will likely be reading the followups in the series as well.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it, but it was a bit disappointing after the book. For obvious reasons, much of the story from the book was cut out, shortened or sped up. The book includes a lot of characters with their own subplots that add depth and are entertaining but have little to do with the main characters. However, there were also some changes that made a major difference. First of all Peik Lin and her family were not as ridiculous in the book. I loved Peik Lin, she was literally my favorite thing about the movie. But the rest of her family was just too much, especially the father who was more creepy than funny. There’s also their knowledge of the Young family and Peik Lin attending the party at Tyersall Park, which completely undermines how the Youngs were portrayed in the book. And then there was the ending, which literally ruined the movie for me. It was the most cliched, vomit inducing, regurgitated scene ever. No spoilers here, but you can probably guess, because it’s been done in about half the romance movies ever made.

So as usual the book was better than the movie, far better. Besides major issues, there are also minor scenes that don’t really make sense to viewers unless they’ve read the book. The movie simplified a complex story into a superficial and unoriginal rom-com. Although entertaining, it was a poor reflection of the book. I’ll be digging into the next books of the series soon, but I doubt I’d ever watch the movie again. And I’ll likely skip the sequel if it actually happens. (Unless they make it all about Peik Lin.)

Have you read the book, seen the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and let me.

Book vs Movie: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Rourdin

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In an effort to keep these interesting I wanted something a little out of my normal reading and viewing habits. I decided on the kids book Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.  I’d seen parts of it on TV, it seemed okay and I was interested in how they combine the mythology with a modern day setting. I’ve always loved reading mythology, the Olympian Gods especially.

If this series came out when I was a kid, I would have been obsessed. A thirteen year old kid from New York finds out his father is Poseidon, god of the sea, then goes on a quest to save the world. I enjoyed reading the book, it’s a quick read for me but has a good story. I really liked the way the author wove in mythological aspects into the setting. Especially, how magical elements were hidden in plain sight. For example, Medusa’s victims as garden statues and DOA records as the entrance to Hades. The story was humorous, the characters likable and it really kept my interest.

The movie was okay. It keeps some elements from the book but the story ends up vastly different and not for the better. There were a lot changes to the story, big and small. The movie isn’t terrible but it could have been better if they had stuck closer to the story from the book. One major change to the story took a way a lot of the agency of the characters. In the book, the decisions they make lead to face monsters and various obstacles. However, the movie eliminates all of that with addition of a magical tool that guides them on their way. We know exactly when to expect a fight or action scene, there’s no suspense, no tension. While reading the book, I was always wondering what mess they would get into next and how it would change their path. The movie ended up seeing our protagonist and his friends go on a very different quest.

This time around, I have to say the book was definitely better. The movie was fun to watch, the characters and the humor hold up well. However, they should have stuck closer to the source material. The book just had a better story. Let me know what you think. Have you read the book, watched the movie? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

Book vs. Movie: The Girl On The Train

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I’d like to say that I went into this with a fresh unbiased perception, but the idea to even read the book and watch the movie was because of what I’d heard about them. While I’d only heard good things about the book, the movie was often criticized. It’s pretty common for readers to dislike and slam movie adaptations. In some cases the criticism is well deserved but many times it’s simply because of deviations from the source material. There’s also the simple truth that it’s pretty much impossible to encompass a novel into a feature length film.

In this case I think the biggest problem is that the story isn’t as exciting or interesting if you already know the ending. The book was suspenseful because it centered around a murder mystery. Personally, I loved the book. It’s a little bit of a slow start but once I got started I finished it in a matter of days. It was structured perfectly to build up to the climax. The changing point of view and back and forth through the timeline helped build the suspense.  The reader is kept in anticipation, while slowly unraveling the chain of events that led to Megan’s murder. It’s told at an excellent pace, revealing just enough to keep you interested while still leading to unexpected twists.

As for the movie, after reading the book the whole mystery aspect is lost making it harder to capture my attention and the suspense of the story. However, I do think the movie could have been better. It didn’t really maximize on the suspense aspect of the story. In the opening scene we already know most of the details of Rachel’s past. In the movie the story seems to go too fast. I also think the structure of the story didn’t translate well on the screen. The nonlinear structure and changes in point of view worked well in the book, it lent to the mystery, dropping clues here and there. In the movie it just didn’t have the same effect. I think one of the biggest problems came at the climax of the story. In the movie it was very abrupt and I didn’t see as much of the foreshadowing we got in the book. I suspect if hadn’t read the book first I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Attempting to put my bias aside, I still have to say that the movie could have been better.