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Books Beat Films?

July 13, 2011

The latest cinema experience is, apparently, going to be “theme park style” 4D. You’ll get the smell and feel of scenes thanks to scent and air jet technology – and your seat will even move in time to the car chase. Improving only slightly on your local cinema, you can also expect to get wet and sticky too – though this will be provided by complex computer delivery at appropriate times, rather than the current random “whatever has been spilt by the person next to you” method.

Only two things bug me – how will they deal with those ‘bedroom’ scenes… and is anybody going to want to sit in the front row for the re-make of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ if things are taken to their logical conclusion? On the other hand, would some US movie theatre audiences recognise the difference…

I stopped going to the cinema some years ago. This was largely down to the fact all the local ones have been turned into expensive (and mostly unsellable) apartment blocks, plus the odd (mostly empty except for a few weeks in January) gymnasium. The nearest cinemas are an expensive tube ticket away – and by the time I’ve got there, and paid almost the price of a theatre ticket to get in, I might just as well go to the theatre (where normally I don’t pay anything like as much for a seat). So, modern movies pass me by until they hit the TV screen around Christmas each year.

Quite honestly, though, I’ve never felt I’ve missed much. I’ve always put reading as my number one enjoyment, and I normally find book to screen adaptations a bit of a let down, if I’m being honest.

Sure, I do ‘see’ Radcliffe’s face when reading ‘Harry Potter,’ and same goes for a number of other books and characters. I guess that’s laziness. What I miss in films, though, is the depth of inner dialogue – something film can’t often do. Stage musicals are pretty good with that stuff – the character can burst into song with their thoughts. Films, you can’t even do an ‘aside’ to the audience, mostly – a ‘voice over’ is the closest they get, and they can’t be used too often or you end up with a mime show.

I wish you could, though. One of my least favourite films of all time was “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.” I guess that I may have been expecting far too much from the ‘hype’ that preceded the initial release, but I just found the whole thing… boring. No more, no less.

Oddly, this was a rare case of a book being written after the film was made. And guess what, the book is infinitely superior! I only read it as it was part of a ‘sci-fi compilation’ book I was given – and I’m so glad I did. E.T’s view that Elliot was, “dumber than a cucumber” was an observation worth waiting for, and the character suddenly became ‘real’ – the intergalactic botanist confined to the closet like an extra from “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for films – “Star Wars” (in the same compilation book) plays better on screen than page; but for me, I’m happy with the scent of bath foam as I read – and if I want a water spray while reading a nautical tale, there’s always the shower attachment nearby.

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