I love movie novelizations because the very concept is insane. They're books designed to appeal to people who have actively chosen another entertainment medium. The weird thing is, a lot of the time they're completely awesome.
One of the reasons you should pick up a novelization is because they can reveal things about movies that you might never know. Often the book isn't so much an adaptation of the finished film, but rather a prose version of the script. Since scripts go through dozens or hundreds of rewrites, the novel may include deleted scenes or abandoned concepts.
Then again, sometimes they just throw completely outlandish things out there that have nothing to do with the film, but make for fantastic reading.
The fourth Jaws film is justifiably considered one of the worst movies ever to be made. In addition to having a plot that might actually have been written on the skin of a horse that had been beaten to death, it managed to jump the shark on science by actually jumping a shark over science. Seriously, the shark gains the ability to roar, stand on its tail 15 feet out of the water, and swim from New York to the Bahamas in three days.
Also it explodes. Of course it explodes. You don't make a movie like this and the monster shark doesn't explode. And it's psychic. And it can survive on land. I dare you to name which of those three I just made up.
Now, everything I just said makes perfect sense to me because I've read the Hank Searls novelization, and I know that the shark is actually magic. Really magic. Searls was no slouch writer, and he did everything he could to save this giant floating turd of a story. One of the things he pulled from an early draft of the script was a backstory involving an actual voodoo curse by a witch doctor who had a grudge against the Brody family.
Or, as the Jaws wiki puts it much better than I could ever hope to do, the "Great Roaring Shaka Shark shall unleash its roar and wreak havoc on those who seek the treasures of sand."
This sounds silly, but it actually does make the story into something with at least some motivation. Searls also did some great scenes told from the shark's perspective, as Benchley himself did with his creatures. One of these shows the shark singlehandedly taking out a full-grown humpback whale!Alien
When you want a science fiction movie adapted into a novel that might be better than the original source material you don't fuck around. You speed dial Alan Dean Foster and send the check pronto. He's done some of the most amazing adaptations known to literature, in addition to his own stellar original work. Do yourself a favor and pick up Nor Crystal Tears sometime.
Foster did novelizations for the first three Alien films, and each one is better than the last. For some real fun, you can actually pick up the audio book for Alien 3 narrated by Lance Hendrickson. If that didn't jumpstart your nerd motor then you are dead inside.
The opening of the first Alien novel talks about the crew of the Nostromo in hibernation. In the movie it's a basic scene, but when Foster writes it he uses it to expound upon each member's personality by ranking how good each would be as professional dreamers. In his world, apparently, dreaming can be recorded and played back as art, and there are people who make a living doing that.
By comparing the minds of his characters against the backdrop of this fictional, but awesome occupation, he gives more life and development to them than Ridley Scott ever did in the film. Plus, it hints at a whole new world of art.Superman Returns
I didn't care much for the first attempt to reboot Superman, and to judge by the critics I'm not alone. It's not Brandon Routh's fault, he does pretty well with what he's given as far as playing Clark Kent goes. Certainly Kevin Spacey made for an excellent Lex Luthor, and Kate Bosworth is fine as Lois Lane even though it makes her relationship with Supes look a little pedophilic (Kate Bosworth would have been just 18 at the time Superman supposedly left Earth). In the end though, the story is more or less ridiculous even for a character that is kind of one-sided and ridiculous to begin with.
Writing the novelization fell to Marv Wolfman, who is a legend in comic book writing if not prose. He penned Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as creating the third Robin, Nova, and Blade. He's not shabby, and while his novel adaptation of his own Crisis was a little lacking he actually managed to make Superman Returns into a pretty good story by adding one good touch and removing one bad one.
In the movie, it was Earth scientists that discover the remains of Krypton far out across the galaxy. However, the novel makes it clear that it was Luthor's planting of false information in the press regarding possible survivors that was the catalyst for Superman leaving Earth in order to investigate. Think about it, would the Man of Steel really abandon the people he had sworn to protect for five full years for any other reason than he may be able to save some of his homeworld kin? No, he would have stayed and fought.
Meanwhile, Lois Lane goes off and has a child, and in the movie all genetics is thrown to the wind by making him half-Kryptonian. It's not as ham stupid as turning back time by spinning the planet backwards, but man is it up there.
Which is why Wolfman left it out of the novel entirely. It's possible that the studio didn't tell him about it in order to protect their "shocking twist." Whatever the reason, it makes the story infinitely better because Superman becomes an even more tragic figure. You can't beat him physically. When you start shooting scenes where he lifts an entire continent of kryptonite then you've lost all ability for us to worry about his physical well-being.
Instead, Luthor did what he always does best, outthink Superman. Even though his plan doesn't work out, he still costs his enemy the love of his life. I'm starting to think Wolfman should have written the movie instead.Gremlins
There may be cuter creatures in the world than Gizmo the mogwai, but there can't be many. Nonetheless, he is incredibly dangerous. Get him wet, and he spawns asexually almost immediately, resulting in four or five full grown copies of himself. Feed those spawn after midnight and they transform into psychopathic lunatic demon monsters with claws, fangs, and murderous inventiveness.
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In the movie it's implied that the mogwai are some kind of Chinese fairy creature. Otherwise there is isn't really any exposition on the origin of the creatures. Author George Gipe decided to rectify that lapse.
In Gipe's book, the mogwai are an alien species genetically designed to literally be cute and adorable enough to spread rapidly across the universe invoking happy warm feelings. An adorable plague intended to create peace through hugs and tummy rubs, if you will. It's a good plan... OK, it's a stupid plan even before it goes wrong, but let's try to give a hand to good intentions, OK? As a nation that offered blankets covered in smallpox to Native Americans I'd say we don't have a lot of room to judge on this.
Well, the scientist went on playing God, and they made a small mistake. Though all mogwai are cute, only one out of every 10,000 is good-natured. The rest are assholes. That one, like Gizmo, is functionally immortal, which combined with being sweet-tempered makes the other mogwai and later gremlins abuse and torture them out of jealousy and spite.
And that whole turning into a murder mutant simply for having a late night snack? That was also unintentional on the part of these alien scientists. So remember, next time you see someone trying to haphazardly crossbreed with a poodle in order to get a mutt with a stupid name, it could be much, much worse.