If there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I tend to have a few snobbish tendencies. Oftentimes these tendencies aren’t very well concealed because, well, a snobbish person doesn’t really feel the need to conceal their snobbery. It’s one of the many defects of our kind. But regardless, one of my snobbish views is that the book version is always always always better than the movie. I know this is a relatively common viewpoint, especially among readers, but for me it is as much a commandment as it is just a regularly held belief. Quick humble brag, I have read many books which have later been adapted to “major motion pictures” as the newly designed book cover will no doubt inform you. From Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Kerouac’s On the Road to The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, I have read them and seen them and the result is always some variation of the same.The book is better, but the movie is still ok. In some cases the movie is still a worthy adaptation and could even be considered great, but the book can always offer depth that the movie cannot. Typically, in order to adapt a novel movies have to make theatrical changes to shorten the story which at times leads to unfortunate compromises. In short, movies take shortcuts for convenience. Books do not.
For me, the latest example of the book v. movie comparison comes with Stephen King’s IT. Mainly I read the book over the past summer in order to complete a New Year’s resolution I’d set for myself to read a 1,000 page book during the year. But the secondary reason for choosing that book was because I knew there was a movie coming out and I wanted to read the book before the movie came out. Truth be told I’ve never been a big reader of King but I read 11/22/63 last year and loved it! So naturally I knew I had to explore more of his work. Enter IT… the story of a child-killing clown who roams the sewers and the group of kids (and apparently adults) who fight to defeat this pure evil. Really long story short, the book, while outside of my normal genre boundaries, turned out to be an extremely well told story with themes that were presented in a unique fashion. By the time I finished the epic I knew it was much more than just the story of a child-killing clown as I myself so adoringly put it. And this discovery only filled me with more dread when I thought about how the movie would portray Pennywise and how it would treat the overall story. Would they give the storyline and the characters the respect they deserved? Or would the movie simply turn into a shock and cringe horror flick meant to keep patrons up at night.
These were the thoughts that were swimming through my mind as I drove to the theatre this past week. But in the end I was pleasantly surprised with how the story was transferred from page to screen. I think the fact that the creators of the movie are planning to split the book into two movies gave them more latitude to explore the characters and avoid a simple popcorn horror film. The child characters were all true to the book in terms of their personality and appearance and the adult characters were perfectly King in their own behaviors. Yes, even with a sequel planned IT took shortcuts to shorten the storyline and move the story along quicker. In some cases, the movie even made changes that I believed enhance the overall impact of the story. For example, the changes for what each of the children sees when IT presents itself to them. In my opinion, the two biggest mistakes the movie makes are with Bev’s storyline and Mike’s background. For those of you familiar with the story, I think you’ll understand what I mean. But ultimately even these changes can be chalked up to shortening the story and just “getting to the point.” In the end the movie stays true to the story of king’s original and is indeed a respectable adaptation. While I will reserve full judgement until the sequel comes out, chapter one in the adaptation has certainly kept me interested.