In the hopes of developing my own writing I signed up for an online course taught by James Patterson. In the course he references his own books heavily, and finally I had to see what it was he was talking about. Along Came a Spider happened to be a Kindle Daily Deal so I figured I could gamble on $1.99. I didn’t sleep the first night, I was up late reading; I made it through about half the book. I finished reading the next day.
I remembered James talking about a movie version of Along Came a Spider starring Morgan Freeman so I rented it on Amazon to see how similar the two were. Much to my surprise the stories had nearly nothing in common with one another. The major similarities in both were the character of Alex Cross, a kidnapping from a private school, and a double cross by a friendly female agent. Everything else had been changed.
As a literary purist, normally this change would have bothered me and I’d gripe to whoever would listen (usually no one). But, the movie was too enjoyable to complain. I may be committing heresy, but it was one of those rare times when a movie version is better for not sticking to the book. I think the story flowed better (for the screen) and the action was tightened up. I liked both of these pieces equally and separately.
This all made me wonder if many of the despised book-to-movie adaptations are terrible, or if we’ve made our favorite books into something they’re not; something a movie could never live up to. Perhaps many of us lack the clarity to differentiate between book and film enough to see each as its own work.
I benefited from reading the book in two sittings, and turning around to watch the film immediately. I could accurately compare the two and see them both as valuable pieces of work. Perhaps we could all use a little perspective before we make snap judgements.