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#FantasyFunMonth: Book Better Than Movie

What fantasy books were better than their film versions? Join the conversation about #FantasyFunMonth.
| Mar 17, 2016 | 10 comments |

#FantasyFunMonthFantasy Fun Month sneaked up on me.

Rebecca LuElla Miller has been hosting the conversation, mostly at our Facebook page (follow us there!). I searched the hashtag on the social-network site, which reporter 1,000 people were talking about this. Well, that’s a start and no mistake.

Rebecca’s Monday post for Day 13 reminded me that I have a long way to go before I have read more fantasy novels, which you kids have possibly read more than once by now.

The same is true of today’s Day 17 topic: “Book Better than Movie.”

Here I feel as an alien among you fantasy fans.

I feel like this because I am perhaps infamously tolerant when it comes to book-to-movie changes, at least for the films I’ve seen. Comic-book-to-movie changes don’t annoy me because I never read comics growing up and only have a few graphic novel books today:

  • greenlantern_haljordan

    Green Lantern (2011) was not as good as the comic books, but I did not know that at the time.

    Fans despised Green Lantern (2011) for reasons I learned later; I enjoyed the movie and found the predestined-to-be-a-space-hero themes particularly evocative at the time.

  • Fans howled over The Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3 (2013); I thought the movie was a blast, better than Iron Man 2, and found the villain twist an amusing genre subversion.
  • (And I don’t holler when Superman is forced into a no-win situation in which he must kill a supervillain to save a life, because that’s how morality works in our real universe.)

I co-wrote a whole series about that last. I’ve also defended The Lord of the Rings and even (gasp) The Hobbit film trilogies, despite their book-to-film departures (more so the letter).

Like that escaping-in-barrels scene in the book: it's far too silly for a movie version. The screenwriters should have cut it.

Like that escaping-in-barrels scene in the book: it’s far too silly for a movie version. The screenwriters should have cut it.

Perhaps my inner screenwriter rises to give an apologetic. If a screenwriter says “That worked in the book, but can’t work in a movie,” I’m open to hearing that argument. After all, nostalgia can blind us to genre differences and even to our favorite books’ flaws.

Also part of me wants to become a cruel, efficient editor of things that don’t belong. When I read books I enjoy, I can’t help but think, “Yes, this would work in a movie,” and “No, that would not work, cut it.” There’s a bad assumption here: that books are only movies waiting to happen. (Which makes it a tragedy that J.K. Rowling skipped straight to her next movie.)

But what about books that are better than movies? My first answer is easy:

Now available in bargain Blu-ray bins at Walmart for $4.99.

Now available in bargain Blu-ray bins at Walmart for $4.99.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.

The 2010 movie version was a disaster. It (nearly?) doomed the Narnia film franchise. It ignored the book’s gilded, medieval-solar themes of honor, adventure, yet sacrificing both those just for a glimpse of Aslan’s Country—a world that transcends all our hopes. In place we heard “brave” themes about believing in one’s self and following dreams, as opposed to all those movies that urge us to ignore ourselves and declare the heck with our dreams.

Even worse, unlike, say, Disney princess movies, Dawn Treader movie wasn’t even a good movie about those shallow themes. This one took on water and rapidly sank into nonsense. Some would say the movie needed to find a unifying purpose for the journey that is rather episodic in the book. The results were somehow worse, more slipshod and episodic.

It’s hard to believe the same two screenwriters went on to write Captain America: The First Avenger amazing. Then they got even better with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and are now in charge of Captain America: Civil War and now even Avengers: Infinity War.

So in summary: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was terrible. The book was far better.

Yet I would say the same for the other Narnia films:

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was well-made, faithful, and original as a movie, yet with too many modern flourishes that underplayed Lewis’s themes. Book = better.
  • Prince Caspian was also well-made, yet less faithful to the book. I was okay with this; here the movie could have been better than the book. But it was weighted by modern flourishes and some cheesy lines about belief that some writers think honor the pious.
  • And as fun as the three older BBC films can be (especially when you’re a pre-adolescent and that’s what Santa gave this year) the books are far, far better than the BBC films.

I can’t think of other films that don’t live up to the books they are based on. But perhaps that is because I, alas, did not read a lot of fantasy growing up. Yet again, I may have the advantage, because then I’m not as automatically disappointed when movies based on books I love fail to capture the images and sensations I’ve already imagined for them.

What movies-based-on-books were not as good as the books?

What movies-based-on-books were perhaps better than the books?

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Kat Vinson

A lot of fans disagree but I liked Inkheart much better as a movie.
And I haven’t read Ender’s Game yet but I loved the movie and bought the book because of it.

Tamra Wilson
Tamra Wilson

I too, thought that the crying about Superman having to kill was a tad much. Superman will always choose the innocent over the villain. He gave Zod chance after chance to stop, but Zod refused. And besides all that, did nobody see the scene where Superman triumphant is left sobbing in Lois’s arms because of the fact he had to kill? McFly?!

Hem. Back to the subject, most fairy tales are better than their movies, though both have merits.


The only good thing about “Dawn Treader” was the actor they got to play Eustace. I thought he gave the best performance in all three movies.

I personally liked the BBC movies better than the Walden movies (overall stronger performances), but that’s probably because I viewed them more as stage plays that someone recorded on film. That’s probably why I was never bothered by the cheap production values.

Fun fact: Warwick Davis was in both the BBC adaptations and the Walden adaptations. He was Reepicheep in the former and Nikabrik in the latter.


Both versions of “Willard” were good (VERY good actually), but when I finally read the source material, “Ratman’s Notebooks,” years later, it was clear that the book was the winner.

A lot of people say this franchise falls more under psychological thriller than speculative, but certain plot elements (especially how they play out in the book) are so “out there” that I tend to view it as a dark urban fantasy (granted, mixed in with Psychological Thriller elements).


I’ve never had a movie that I liked better than the source material, but some people have told me they enjoy the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” film more than Baum’s original novel.


“Blade Runner” was a far, far better film than the original book, “Do Androids Dream Of Electric sheep?”

Also- and I know this doesn’t fall into fantasy- I thought the Jason Bourne films were amazing, but so were the books. The interesting thing is that they are almost COMPLETELY different from one another. …But I guess when you have a rockin’ core premise (which didn’t change) then the medium in which that story is told doesn’t matter much.

Rebecca LuElla Miller

I’ve been struggling to come up with an answer for this. It shouldn’t be hard because generally I think books always win out over movies.

I guess I’ll go with any of the Lord of the Rings movies. As good as they were, and I did enjoy them all, they left stuff out. I imagine if the makers had known how popular they would be, they would have turned them into five or six movies instead of just three. The Black Riders weren’t as creepy in the movie as they were in the book (but maybe that’s because I knew the story, but I don’t think so). Lots of other things. The books were simply better.


D. M. Dutcher
D. M. Dutcher

The weird thing was you should dislike Caspian much more than Treader. Caspian was what nearly torpedoed the franchise, with its pointless romance subplot, its excising of Aslan from the film, and its grimdark tone.

The only movie I’d put above the book is the proto-geek movie Escape to Witch Mountain. The book was good, but the movie is probably the only reason people know it exists, and was very well done. A lot of the geek movies based on books these days aren’t so much better as they are different. X-men days of future past is a good example, as its a good movie but really had the edges sanded off the original GN,

I thought Watchmen was a decent rendition of the GN. Zac still had his quirks, but it got the style of the book pretty well. Save for the ultraviolence (watchmen was violent but the alley seen was over the top stylistically).