Page vs Screen: Which Did It Better? (part 3)

Welcome to part 3 of my Page vs Screen series.

Find part 1 here

Find part 2 here

World War Z

To call World War Z an adaptation of Max Brooks’s book would be somewhat false. At best it’s a reinterpretation, but even that’s being a little kind. Marc Forster’s film essentially just takes what’s a really cool title for a zombie movie and disregards everything else, so instead of the interesting stuff about a UN agent interviewing various sources in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse to paint a wide and in-depth picture of the event, we get long-haired Brad Pitt running around the world battling stupidly fast, CGI “zombies”*, and generally being far too good at everything.

That being said, it actually just about works. I don’t know how or why, it just does. And since WWZ isn’t nearly as much fun as Brooks’s first book – The Zombie Survival Guide – they’re probably a tie. But I’m still going to give the edge to the book, if only because it seems like less of a fluke.

*While the fast zombies thing kind of works within the context of the film, it doesn’t make any sense for them to be in an adaptation of this book. To quote The Zombie Survival Guide: “Zombies appear to be incapable of running. The fastest have been observed at a rate of barely one step per 1.5 seconds”.

Winner: BOOK

The Road

How do you choose between bleak and bleak? John Hillcoat’s film is an extremely faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, in as much as it leaves you in the same state of utter hopelessness and despair by the end. But while neither of them are particularly enjoyable, that’s not to say they aren’t good or worthwhile – they’re extremely powerful pieces of work which paint a horrific picture of humanity’s reaction to crisis while at the same time offering a glimmer of hope through the impenetrable bond between a father and his son, who are just trying to survive in a harsh apocalyptic wasteland.

Ultimately both require a certain mindset, but they’re absolutely worth your time.

Winner: TIE

The Road, book, Cormac McCarthy, Viggo Mortensen


Look, who’s going to pretend Jaws isn’t a perfect movie? One of Spielberg’s earliest films has endured to remain not only one of his best, but arguably the most loved (though that’s a debate deserving of an entire article itself). It was a famously difficult shoot where everything that could go wrong did go wrong (like cast members bickering and the friggin’ shark itself not even working), but what came out the other side was a bona fide masterpiece full of fun, thrills and historic shots. Even if the book was brilliant, I can’t help but feel Spielberg’s movie would still be my favourite.

Yet while the book isn’t brilliant, it’s a perfectly good read that I’d recommend. The two are pretty similar for the most part, but the radical change comes with the adultery stuff between Hooper and Ellen (as well as who survives by the end). Despite being a monster movie about a killer shark, Jaws is still a Spielberg film infused with a familial sensibility, and somehow adultery just wouldn’t work. It would be too…grown up. In Benchley’s book, however, it serves as an interesting conflict to complicate the main story, even if it goes on a bit and ends up dropping the pace. There’s a whole section of what felt like 100 pages (I’d have to double check) where it’s literally just Ellen wondering whether she should cheat on her husband, then deciding to cheat on her husband.

Winner: FILM

American Psycho

To quote Terry Pratchett, “Susan hated literature. She’d much prefer to read a good book.”

I can’t deny Bret Easton Ellis’s novel is an intriguing piece of work at times, but boy is it tedious. Any good book probably has an element of subtext to interpret and chew on, and there’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself once in a while, but I primarily read fiction for enjoyment. I want to be engaged with a story.

American Psycho has no story. It’s all subtext. All metaphors. All imagery. At least I assume it is – I lost the energy to even try and find something to understand in the Stygian labyrinth that is the prose. Ellis is amazing at gradually plunging us into the mind of a psycho, but narratively this thing is just grating. It’s just day after day after day in Patrick Bateman’s privileged life as he tediously describes every item of clothing he and other characters wear (even the most minor), what he eats for dinner, how he likes to have sex and murder people, and how much he loves Donald Trump. I just found it completely exhausting. And while the movie is certainly violent and disturbing, it’s somehow intensified to gratuitous levels in the book. Some sections are genuinely difficult to read.

Winner: FILM

Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s film and Ira Levin’s book are practically twins. They hit exactly the same beats at exactly the same times, and lead their audience toward an inevitable, thrilling, twisted climax. It’s probably a testament to how good the book is that I was completely hooked from beginning to end despite knowing exactly what was going to happen, having watched the film several times. For several nights I found myself unable to close it and roll over to go to sleep because I was too worried about what they were doing to Rosemary. Stop drinking that stuff! Don’t listen to Guy, he’s acting suspicious! Just get the hell out of there! Alas, I knew it was hopeless. Just like I knew it watching the film.

Terrifically unsettling stuff.

Winner: TIE

– Stay tuned for Part 4 –

Part 2

Part 1

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1 Comment

  • SHOULD YOU WATCH BAD MOVIES TO THE END? - Lights Overhead April 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm:

    […] classic? I’ve persisted with many so-called classics for this very reason (ever tried reading American Psycho?) until I eventually realized that I didn’t care what other people wanted me to like: I just […]


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