I’m going to talk about something today that is on everyone’s mind and lips. I’m going to talk about that controversial event that is coming up that has some people cheering and gleefully grinning, with others “tsking” and shaking their heads and wagging their fingers at such an abomination and corruption of something pure and great.
Yep, I’m talking Mad Max: Fury Road.
I’m a visual kind of guy. I like to be shown everything and be aesthetically appealed to. I want to be slapped in the face with quality storytelling until I have to file a restraining order against a director or writer. I want to be yanked around similar to a magician working his stage: misdirection, sleight of hand, and then POW! comes the grand reveal, all of which are designed to make you think “Wow, I really should have seen that coming!”
You really should have, because in movies like Mad Max, there is a lot of sexiness in what the director and writers do.
“But Jason,” somebody over thattaway just whined, “I thought you were going to talk about the Hugo Awards?”
Nope. Tough cookies if this makes you displeased. I want to talk about books versus movies. Suck it up and march on, buttercup. This is my blog today.
I remember the first time I watched Mad Max. I was, well, both shocked and in awe. The storytelling was brutal and inconsistent, the visuals disturbing and not well-shot. However, there was a deep, pulsing vein of violence and anarchy of this dystopian future that resonated. I remember thinking “This is good, but I bet a book would do what they were intending justice.” But then I saw The Road Warrior and everything changed.
You see, the difference between the two movies is night and day. TRW scenes were well-shot, the timing was magnificent and the pacing puts even me to shame (I like to write fast-paced stuff). The editing was top-notch, and I really couldn’t see much that would translate better into a book. In TRW, they did a much better job of showing you what was going on, whereas in the original Mad Max (I typed that Mas Max twice, and then realized that it wasn’t really a huge difference), it tried to make the viewer put the pieces together. It tried to be an elegant film when it wasn’t. TRW was an elegant film, but only because it readily embraced what it was supposed to be and what was supposed to happen. It did not burden itself by pretending to put on airs. It was exactly what it was, which made it great.
Could a book make TRW even better? Well, anything is possible, but it would take one hell of a writer and a very patient reader (because if you’re going to try to make it better than the movie, it’s going to take a weaver with abilities beyond any living writing). Could a book make Mad Max better, though? Undoubtedly.
I was going somewhere with this… right, I remember now!
I almost always pick a book over a movie. A movie and director has a strict time constraint (except Peter Jackson, apparently) and thus is limited to what can go in the movie and what ends up on the cutting room floor. Favorite side character who makes random appearances in the book? Probably gone. Background info that can help build the world the characters live in? Gone, because we gotta get that love triangle worked into the story somehow (screw you, Peter Jackson).
But then, there are times when the movie outshines the books (again, this Peter Jackson dude is all over the place here). I’ll admit that I loved The Hobbit when I was younger, and actively despised The Lord of the Rings. So when the movies came out ten years ago or so (oh Lord, I’m getting older…), I was reluctant to see them because of how much I disliked the trilogy (I can hear the howls of anger now…. all I can say is everyone’s tastes are different). But I went, and thought that Jackson had done a bang-up job of it. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to fit all of a book into one movie, so he picked what could handle the pacing and excitement that viewers needed. The extended director’s cut was for the purists (disclaimer: while not a purist, I do own all three movies in extended director’s cut format on DVD). Harry Potter? Same issues.
Can there be a middle ground? Depends on who you don’t mind offending. Should there be?
Simple answer? No.
Long answer? It’s complicated and I’m not sure I can explain more than that. It’s just… complicated.