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    • Even though I've started reading regularly since last year, one thing I hadn't done yet was watch a movie that was based on a book I had read. Well, I recently finished reading "The Firm" by John Grisham, and when I found out that a movie was also made, I decided to give it a go. I've heard many times that the movies are never as good as the books, and so I wasn't expecting this movie to live up to the book (which I thoroughly enjoyed) either, but boy, I wasn't expecting to hate the film so much.

      It started off decently enough. I expected that a lot of things were going to be cut out from the film since you can never cram everything from a book into a few hours. Though I was surprised that the film was 2.5 hours long. I was expecting it to be maybe between 1.5-2 hours. Anyway, a few important aspects from the book which described just how controlling the firm is were just glazed over in the film. The way the firm encourages its lawyers to have children and how they allow the lawyers' wives to work were given plenty of emphasis in the book, but in the film these two points just received a few lines of dialogue instead. The book also emphasised on the heavy surveillance the firm performs on its lawyers. Another aspect that was given significantly less importance in the film. But one thing which I just can't forgive is how the main plot of the film was changed so much towards the end. The plot in the book was intelligent, sophisticated, and really, really well thought out. The plot in the movie on the other hand was so dumbed down that I couldn't believe how bad it was. I understand that telling a story in print is much different from telling a story on screen, regardless if it's the small or big screen. but to change the core of the story so drastically? That's just such a shame.

      I guess that's why the success of books can't really be translated that well to films or TV. With books you get narrations that take us deeper into the minds of the characters, deeper into the setting, and deeper into the story. A book would probably take the average person a pretty significant number of hours to complete which could span over a few days or a few weeks. A movie is done is about 2 hours. That level of depth that we get from books just can't be translated to TV or films, which is why I would assume, that most movies based on books feel empty by comparison. That famous saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words", doesn't seem to be true in this instance, where the words in a book can't accurately be represented by a series of moving pictures, i.e., a movie.

      Another thing that I think books do better compared to movies is ageing. "The Firm" is almost 30 years old, first published in 1991, with the movie being made 2 years after the release of the book. Yet when I read the book, there was very little evidence which showed how old the story was. Maybe the lack of mobile phones and the importance of public phones in the story was a dead giveaway, but other than that, the story didn't feel "old" at all. The movie on the other hand just screamed 90s. The aesthetic of the film clearly showed its age. From the wardrobe of the actors, to the quality of the video itself, the music, the cinematography, the dialogue, everything about the film gave away how old it was. Words on the other hand, just don't seem to age. In the book, the main character is given a luxury car as a sign-on bonus when he joined the firm. In my head, I pictured a modern sports car, something you would actually see on the road in 2020. When I watched the film though, that "luxury car" was an old, blocky, and very square car from the 90s. Some very good films are evergreen, but good books are even more so.

      Lastly, I didn't like how the characters were changed from the book to the film. I don't mean characters were replaced, I mean their personalities and their roles in the film were significantly different from the book. The main character's wife for example. In the book she was a major part of the plan to evade and escape the firm, she was by her husband's side throughout the entire conspiracy, but in the movie she was just, well, the wife who inadvertently got involved with the plan. There's an FBI agent involved in the story, and in the book he was quite chill. In the movie though, he was a hardass who had no decorum whatsoever. In addition to the changes to the plot, these character changes only hurt the quality of the film even more.

      Did you read and watch "The Firm"? What did you think about it? What other books have you read and watched the films? Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? Game of Thrones? Did you ever enjoy the film adaptation more than the book?

    • I watched The Firm a few years after the movie came out in the 1990s and I remember it being a very well done film. It had major stars and talented actors from that time: Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Wilfred Brimley come to mind. I’ve never read any John Grishman novels but I thought this movie had a good plot and I can’t think of anything that was a negative. Considering that I’m more of an indie film kinda guy and this was a big budget drama of a popular best-selling book, I think that says something.

      I think the downside to some blockbuster big budget films is that they are so hyper-focused on being current (fashion, cars, slang, technology) that they become hyper-outdated in appearance over time. A good example are Stephen Spielberg’s movies A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Ready Player One. Both are enjoyable Science Fiction movies, but in twenty years will all of the 80’s video game references in Ready Player One still be relevant or will the film feel old and outdated? Maybe in twenty years they’ll remake it with references to Halo 3 and Fortnite.

      Most of the time, I think your experience is enhanced if you watch the film first and then the movie. Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity is good example that you may want to give a go of. And here’s a decent list of more recent books that are movies.

      There is even a genre of well-written books that are created from a movie. A few films where I have watched the film, and then found the book created from it and enjoyed it, include The Game (1997 David Fincher film) and Galaxy Quest (the book was written by Terry Bisson).

      Another thing that you might enjoy is watching a movie and then reading the original script it was based on. It’s amazing how different the screenwriter’s vision for a film was compared to what actually ended up on screen. It’s been years since I read screenplays, but the screenplay for Alex Proya’s Dark City is interesting: the finished film evolved from the original script into something more nuanced. (@Dracula you might enjoy this film, based on our discussion of Antichrist and Under the Skin).

    • The only time that I can remember thinking that a movie was better than the book was when I was a teenager in 1974. The movie's title was "The Island at the Top of the World."

      @StephenL The question isn't whether a movie is good but whether the book is significantly better. There is no denying that the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a good movie but compared to the book it is based on the movie is bland in comparison.

    • The question isn't whether a movie is good but whether the book is significantly better.

      Sometimes I like to ask and answer my own questions. 😉 To answer the question of whether a movie is ever better than the book, I would say in 99% of the time the answer is no. Or the exception to the rule is so infrequent as to make it an outlier.

      However, I can provide a definitive example of a case where the movie was profoundly better than the book.

      Philip K. Dick was a hack science fiction writer in the 1950s who wrote over a hundred books of minimal literary quality. His point of view was often of a post-nuclear war dystopia and his endings were often unsatisfactorily grim: the hero doesn’t win but merely survives another day of his miserable existence.

      Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a novel that he probably knocked out in a month. The characters are cardboard, the dialogue weak. But his idea of a police officer charged with killing rogue androids with human feelings became the basis for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. (If you have the opportunity to watch the extended Director’s Cut, please do so.)

    • At worst arguably the movie would be the TLDR version. At best, they are an entirely different experience. Think about it. When we read, we use imagination to "see" thus creativity is the limit of the experience. A movie transposes in choreographic ways what the regisor sees and wants, and what the actors are capable of delivering. It personalizes the script, their ways.

    • I will admit after reading “The Firm” and really liking it and then watching the movie ... well disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. John Grisham books don’t translate to the screen or TV for that matter. There was a short lived TV “The Firm” for a while.


      Harry Potter movies aren’t “bad” but they are not the books - changes in what happens and then fewer details disappoint.

      I guess books don’t do well in movie format. What is in my head when I read is not what I eventually see on the screen, so ...

      At least in documentaries I only complain about “facts” (opinions)