As shown in a few earlier posts, I firmly hold the opinion that the book will always be better than its accompanying movie. However, as always, there are exceptions to this rule. This does not mean that the movies are better – just that I prefer them to or  enjoy them more than the book.

Stardust – Neil Gaiman is an excellent author, but that doesn’t change the fact that the light-hearted approach that the movie takes better suits the story than his rather cynical tone does. The movie is fun and engaging – with quirky humor spread throughout. The book is nowhere near as light; the quirkiness takes on a more sinister edge (as it does in most of Gaiman’s stories), and thus some of the charm is lost. The journey to bring Yvaine to Victoria doesn’t have the sense of gleeful adventure that it does in the movie – instead it takes on the same trudge-like feel that Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor had.  On top of this, the ending of the book was nowhere near as satisfying (to me, at least) as the ending of the movie. The witch lives on, never getting any sort of comeuppance and Yvaine resigns herself to loving Tristan (in a “I can’t go home, so I might as well love you” sort of scenario). Oh! I can’t forget to mention that Captain Shakespeare (my favorite character) has maybe two pages worth of screen time in the book – that alone made me sniffle.

BeowulfIn this case, the movie (the latest, all-CG one) is not better than the written version, but the changes made to the story make it flow better into movie-form than a direct translation would. In the poem, the dragon at the end is tacked on as a means to give Beowulf an honorable death – it has absolutely no connection to the Grendel/Grendel’s Mother story arcs. By having Grendel’s mother seduce Beowulf and making the dragon his bastard son, it ties it all together nicely. It also holds true to the cyclical theme of the poem. In the case of the original, the cycle was a young warrior aiding and older, weakening king, becoming a powerful king himself, aging, and being helped by a younger, stronger warrior who becomes a powerful king, etc. The movie changes it to a “sins of the father” type story and the cycle of seduction and destruction keeps turning. Some would argue that these changes are unnecessary, but I think the added subplot of sin, consequences, and responsibility makes for an interesting movie, as does the weighing of physical vs. moral strength in a king.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Less angst – that right there will win me over every time. I thought that the movie still captured the gist of the book (unlike the next movie, which focused on all the wrong plot points), but kept up a more fun tone. We still got to see Harry’s fear and frustration, Umbridge was as loathsome as ever, but we did not have to suffer through the mind-numbing barrage of angst and rage that we had to in the book. The sense of camaraderie stayed constant in the movie (I know that Harry withdrawing from everyone was part of Voldemort’s plan to weaken him, but I really preferred him not snarling at his friends every other line), and that made Harry’s fear all the more poignant to me since I wasn’t screaming “Of course you feel all alone! You’re driving your friends away, ya idjit!”

So there you are, the Three Exceptions. I’m sure time will add more, but for now, these three are the only ones.
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