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Thursday, March 03, 2016

Book Versus the Movie

We all know that movies rarely follow the books. Some authors have become hugely upset by this, which I totally understand, but it's my reaction as a reader/movie watcher that I'd like to talk about. The movie/book in question is Angels & Demons by Dan Brown.


I listened to the audio book, and when I was about halfway through, I saw the movie. I'd planned on finishing the book first, but my dad had really liked The Da Vinci Code and wanted to watch the next film.

The setup and beginning are much different than the book in a lot of respects. As a writer, I understood this. First of all, the book has a complex start with the hero being taken via experimental plane to Geneva and CERN. (Interestingly, this book was written long before the atom smasher at CERN came on line, something I checked since Brown's portrayal of the organization was drastically different than what I knew of it.) Once at CERN, there is the body to view, the lab and the underground storage facilities to visit, etc.

A movie would get bogged down trying to duplicate the book's opening, not just in terms of story, but in terms of the time it would take. They couldn't afford to film the beginning as it was written. A viewing audience would lose interest, although in a book, the opening was fine, suspenseful enough to keep me listening. The scriptwriter(s) choice to open as they did worked out well and got the story started much faster than the book did. I was okay with this.

Where I thought the movie became confusing for someone who'd read the book was the head of the Vatican Guard. In the book, there is one head--Olivetti. In the movie, there are like these two guys in charge, Richter and Olivetti. I kept trying to figure out where Richter came from. :-)

The other change that was somewhat large in the first half was with the Robert Langdon character. In the book, he made the mistake of thinking Raphael's tomb was the first stop on the trail of illumination, but we find out he was wrong. In the movie, it was another character who made that assumption, leaving Langdon perfect. I think I prefer Brown's way here, making his hero human and fallible.

It was the second half of the movie which diverged more dramatically from the book. Some of it was because of the streamlining they did at the beginning of the movie. After all, they couldn't have the director of CERN show up to meet with the Camerlengo if we'd never met the CERN director before. But other things had nothing to do with the logic of the plot.

  • In the book, the fourth cardinal dies in the fountain. In the movie, Langdon rescues him.
  • In the book, the cardinal leading the vote for the new pope has no aspirations to become pope himself. In the movie, he's swayed to seek power by one of his bishops.
  • In the book, it's the second in command of the Vatican Guard who rushes in and is labeled by the Camerlengo as a member of the Illuminati. In the movie, it's the bishop who I mentioned in the previous bullet point.
  • In the book, though he has no papal aspirations, the leader of the conclave becomes pope. In the movie, the fourth, rescued preferiti becomes pontiff.
  • In the book, Langdon is in the helicopter with the Camerlengo and survives by using a tarp when he jumps out of the helicopter. In the movie, the Camerlengo goes up alone.
On this last bullet point, I totally understand why the scriptwriter opted to go the way he did. It was very unbelievable that Langdon jumped like that and survived. Also, the piece of information he had that led him to try it was a conversation with the director of CERN, which didn't happen in the film.

Overall, both the film and the book had pluses and minuses. Some things about the book I liked better and some things I liked better in the movie. It's interesting, though, to ponder why the scriptwriter made the choices he did when it came to interpreting the book.