Books Ruin Movies

I just wrote a scathing review of “The Last of the Mohicans” on Netflix. Neil and I read it for CSA earlier this year, and it was an intriguing book, though sometimes difficult, like when entire passages were in French. But Neil laughed at the scenes where a character disguises himself as a beaver (and later as a bear) and fools the other Indians, who apparently aren’t surprised by a human-sized gargantuan beaver. And the passage wherein Colonel Munro tells Duncan Cora’s mother was half-black, and tells him not to even dare to be racist about it is compelling, given that the book was written in 1826, long before the Civil War. Then there’s also the component that Uncas, the Native American, falls in love with Cora, and she with him–only for their bond to be broken forever when Magua kills her at the end of the book.

We wondered how the movie would handle the beaver scene, but no worries–it never showed up, nor did David, the sometimes comic character of a guy who just loved to sing religious songs all the time. Uncas is like a footnote (who conveniently dies, never having come close to Cora.) Now it’s Hawkeye, his father’s white trapper buddy, who’s caught Cora’s eye. Hawkeye is played by Daniel Day Lewis with a thick Irish brogue, and it’s no wonder he’s hooked up with Cora, cuz she’s clearly a Celtic type, too, her pale white skin giving no hint of her mom’s heritage, which is never mentioned. Duncan, who was the old school European-type hero giving a foil to the Native’s survival skills, gets murdered horribly in this film (his final end coming thanks to a merciful arrow from the Irish Hawkeye.) It’s awful! Neil and I screamed at the end, as every supporting character died and Hawkeye and Cora go off into the sunset. But based on other reviews, if you never, ever read the book, it’s a great movie.

I felt the same with The Count of Monte Cristo. Peter and I saw the movie when it first came out and we loved it. Then, years later, I read the book with Neil, and found it full of twists and turns, and magic, betrayal and intrigue. The movie I once loved was a pale, lame thing in comparison, especially since the Count runs off with his first love (who has never aged in the 20+ years he was imprisoned and gone) instead of his Turkish slave, who is a no-show, like so many of the other spectacular elements of the novel.

It’s terrible! I don’t know if I even want to see the movie version of The Red Badge of Courage or The Virginian. The movies may be loved, but do they even come close to the book?

It makes me wish producers wouldn’t touch books, and just stick to scripts. For instance, you rarely hear of classic plays being butchered in performance: we saw Death of a Salesman at the teeny Pear Theatre, and it was terrific –and we could read parts of the play the next day and recognize them. We also saw Bridge on the River Kwai as an interlude in our studies of World War II, and it was a great movie–I hope it wasn’t based on a book, because I’d hate to think which would have been better.

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