For the reader and watcher in us all, today's post is on the unlikely but possible occurrence of when movie adaptations supersede books. A curious phenomena that happens rarely, we'll examine why.

Yes, it's true. Putting Rosie O'Donnell in leather lingerie once improved on Anne Rice's writing. My apologies for your brain exploding

The Book: Exit To Eden, Anne Rice (As Anne Rampling), Random House, 1985
The Movie: Exit to Eden, Directed by Gary Marshall, 1994

Book Synopsis: Lisa is a professional Switch (both Dominant and submissive) working as a fetish escort (a prostitute that specializes in BDSM sex) and calls herself a Dominatrix. She is Head Mistress of a fantasy island that is a BDSM retreat. Ostensibly all employees and guests are switches. Lisa is commitment-phobic yet intrigued by guest Elliott, half-Australian rich, devil-may-care photojournalist. They have kinky sex, travel to Texas and New Orleans, have more kinky sex, spend more money than you'll make in a lifetime in a week, and slowly fall in love with the emotional depth of a Henry Kissinger documentary.

Movie Synopsis: LA Detectives Sheila and Fred are on the case of an international smuggler and assassin Omar. Omar's picture is taken by photojournalist Elliott who leaves to visit Eden, a BDSM fantasy island. Omar and his henchwoman Nina follow, and Sheila and Fred go undercover to catch them. Lisa is a real Dominatrix, has commitment issues, but spends time getting to know Eliott while the criminals and cops have misadventures on the sexually open island. They do escape to New Orleans, with the cops & robbers following. Omar is caught, and eventually Eliott overcomes Lisa's commitment issues and they fall in love.

Why many people prefer the book: The lurid descriptions of BDSM sex are frankly wrong in the book (I am a Dominatrix and have been for over 10 years, so I know what the hell I'm talking about) but are lurid. The fantasy that an island exists where well-built men and women will tie you up and fuck you, or submit to the same, is a fantasy most people would enjoy. Also, the movie skirts over most real fetishes of BDSM making it a little bit more playful and light than it really is. On Eden no one cries, or has to deal with complicated after-care.

Why they're wrong: There's no goddamn plot in the book. It's a slow, plodding, pedantic love story with the accuracy of sex scenes I expect from Glamour or Cosmopolitan and there's little conflict, poor pacing, and wild descriptions of manic behavior. The movie adds characters and a plot, and in Sheila and Fred we seem them opening up their sexuality, at the same time Lisa warms to Elliott. That's right! We get comedy, pacing, conflict, arcs, in short we get an actual fucking plot. And even I, who knows how BDSM vastly differs from the movie, enjoy it. Hell, if the movie island existed, they'd have my resume right this minute. I mean it. I'd emboss it onto leather and sign my name with spikes and be all over it.

An example of the type of people who think Anne Rampling's "Exit to Eden" is brilliant prose

The Book: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, W.W. Norton 1996

The Movie: Fight Club, David Fincher, 1999

Book Synopsis: Our narrator meets Tyler on a beach, and when his apartment explodes moves in with him in a ramshackle home and reads journal entries from a Jack. Our narrator has terrible insomnia, meets Marla as he cruises support groups to relieve boredom. Soon Tyler and our narrator establish an underground men's fighting club which grows into Project Mayhem, carrying out consumer-terrorism, while Tyler fucks Marla regularly, annoying the narrator. The narrator wants to blow up buildings with him inside but the bombs don't go off, and at this time he realizes he is both Jack and Tyler, Tyler being a manifestation of his Id. He ends up in a mental institution, both cheeks blown open by gunshots (resembling The Joker from Batman), and members of PM there are still carrying out his plans.

Movie Synopsis: Pretty much the same, only the narrator meets Tyler on a business trip. There are minor differences, but primarily at the end he takes one gunshot to his head to re-integrate Tyler into his mind, he watches the buildings blow up (the bombs do work) and the movie ends with him holding hands with Marla, his ladylove.

Why many people prefer the book: It's hard to argue with this one. As mentioned in a previous post, if you wrote a novel based solely on conflict, you'd get this. It's original, captivating, tough, and amazing. However most fans of the book over the movie like it because of the extra ambiguity in the ending. With Jack/Tyler/The Narrator in a mental institution the conflict is softened into the ol' "what is real/what isn't?" And on a personal note, if you viewed this an alternate origin story for The Joker and decided the asylum was Arkham, this version makes the most sense. Just sayin'.

Why they're wrong: David Fincher changed some scenes/lines because he had to under studio pressure, but mostly his changes were to flesh out characters, and keep things more realistic. The real "so what?" at the heart of Palahniuk's story is "what if we broke free from the facade of corporate facism?" By quickly "killing" Tyler at the end, and making PM successful at killing the credit companies, the end is far more thought-provoking than the film itself. What would happen if we all threw off the corporate brand shackles and returned to our primal instincts? Occupy Ikea!

The average book over movie enthusiast of "Fight Club" also treats it like  a manual to manhood

 The Book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick, Doubleday, 1968

The Movie: Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, 1982

Book Synopsis: Following bounty hunter Decker through a day in his life, he lives in one of the few low-radiation areas after WWIII, with his depressed wife. He works under a superior Holden, taking cases the boss doesn't want, and owns an electric sheep, unable to own a real animal. When Holden is injured by an android, a replicant, Deckard takes the case. Traveling to visit the manufacturer he meets the Nexus-6 owner and his daughter Rache, discovering Rachel is a replicant. Then the story of John Isidore interweaves with Deckard's. Mentally impaired, he meets Pris, a replicant, and takes her in. Deckard  kills a replicant then stumbles upon replicant Luba, who calls the police. The cops who show up accuse Deckard of being an android. Isidore and Pris are joined by her friends Roy and Baty. Deckard uses his bounty money to buy a real goat. He talks to Rachel again, discovers she doesn't know she's a replicant, and realizes he can't "retire her." He goes after Pris, Roy, and Baty, killing them, then returns home to find his goat has been killed by Rachel. Deckard drives off, discovers a toad, finds it is mechanical, and develops empathy with it, returning to his wife.

Movie Synopsis: Pretty much the same, only Deckard is not married, not much attention is given to him having a superior, and Isidore's story is a much smaller subplot.There's no discussion of Deckard farming, and it's one long 1940's -noir visual orgasm. Rachel also goes from story-plot guide to love interest, and the suggestion that Deckard may be a replicant himself is much stronger, and still unresolved.


Why many people prefer the book: It's damn tough to argue with this one. The writing is crisp, and the overall goal of Dick is to examine if humanity or technology is better. You seem to be slammed in the face that humans are better, but a novel twist of dramatic irony is that the main reason for this is that humans can feel empathy for machines. However this is mostly shown by Deckard's bonding with the toad at the end. Really...a mechanical toad. 

Why they're wrong: The movie is damn close, but Ridley Scott's set designs and concept of the world is breathtaking. There were few changes, dropping some of the weight from Deckard's life. This works because one-dimensional heroes work in movies, but they need more in books (unless they're in romance books...figure that one out). The main difference is that the humans v. androids debate still rages, and humans come out on top because of empathy, but here it's not for a goddamn toad, it's because of love. Love for Rachel transcends even the complex question of whether or not Deckard is human, relegating  it to the background. At the end of the day, if you want everyone to know you have a masterpiece, to break out of genre fiction, you have to have it celebrate love, or triumph-of-the-human spirit. We're all just suckers for it.

As a geek I really can't decide if this is horrifying, or beyond awesome.