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The Girl with all the Gifts (Sophie)

Book: 2014
Film: 2016

M.R. Carey’s The Girl with all the Gifts is not your typical zombie book. Sure, it has a tight, suspenseful atmosphere punctuated by enough gorey violence to satisfy the most morbid of readers, but it has incredibly engaging characters and it delves deep into their psyche, along with some excellently creepy science – the kind of stuff that many books in the genre are lacking. It asks some incredible ethical questions about humanity, and the first act is one of the more memorable I’ve read.

The 2016 film adaptation isn’t exactly a typical zombie movie either. There’s blood and guts, dead-eyed soldiers firing into a swarm the undead, an abandoned hospital – definitely one to watch with the lights on – but it is from a perspective that you probably haven’t seen before, and has more heart than its action-only contemporaries. Glenn Close totally nails the morally-grey badass scientist/solider, and the young actress who plays the protagonist Melanie really holds your attention. Carey himself wrote the screenplay, and the filmic quality of his writing definitely eased the transition to screen.

If I had to pick one, the book takes the cake (or brains, I guess) – but if you’re a fan of the genre, neither will disappoint.
Dune (Sean)

Book: 1965
Film: 1984

Dune was considered almost impossible to film. Attempts to make it started in the early 70’s, the project moved from Arthur P. Jacobs, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and then Ridley Scott until finally executive producer Dino De Laurentiis hired David Lynch as director. Based on what David Lynch delivered perhaps it should have remained just a book rather than a film. He even distanced himself from the film once it was released.

I should start by saying that those who read the book first and then saw the film usually hate the film. I read the book first.

So to compare the book to the film: In the film, the characters, beyond Paul Atreides, are all two dimensional. For example, in the book the character of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen was a formidable political rival for the Atreides family. In the film, he is a grotesque sadistic madman.

Much of the book focuses on Paul Atreides’ internal struggle with what he is, the mythical leader of the Fremen, their Hahdi. In the movie, he is depicted as an action hero. This belittles the amazing spiritual and prescience powers he possesses and his struggles to come to terms with himself.

The book explores the interactions of politics, religion, ecology, and technology. Frank Herbert intentionally suppressed technology in Dune the book so he could focus on the politics of humanity. The movie plays up the technology to make it more sci-fi.

There are some good performances in the film: Linda Hunt as Shadout Mapes stands out, and it does try to follow the plot but most of the film feels like a checklist for the key events from the book without rounding out the characters and story behind them.

Read the book, which is great. You can pass on the movie as it misses the mark in so many ways.

Leviathan Wakes (Suzy)

Book: 2012
TV: 2015

I discovered Leviathan Wakes in 2013 and then just devoured all the books in a mood of utter indulgence. They were brilliant. I loved the plot. I love the words – it was visual and visceral and tangible. And I loved the different worlds. The characters. And the politics. And the philosophies. And, and, and.

Well, you can imagine how keen I was to see the TV series. Though there was a part of me that was pretty cautious, as I do hail from the ‘the book is always better’ school of thought.

So, my review? I think the TV series is FANTASTIC. I have a theory that I think makes sense: a TV series can give so much more depth than a movie as they have more time to really delve into the details of the story. But not only that, the producers have just got it RIGHT – according to my opinion anyway. The actors are all brilliant, though I do have a particular soft post for the kick-ass Frankie Adams.

Read it and then watch. Watch it and then read. Either way will do. But be prepared to be completely enveloped and for a binge session of either the books or the show. Or both.

Stardust (Chloe)

Book: 1999
Film: 2007

If you’re looking for a sweet fantasy adventure with a happy ending, then look no further than Stardust, based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. This story of a star who falls to Earth is full fairies, witches, mysterious lands, quests and, of course, true love.

Nobody should be surprised to learn that I thought the book was considerably better – Gaiman subtly and beautifully weaves familiar fairytale tropes into the heart of the story, without them overtaking the narrative. On screen, the translation of the story into acting can be overplayed and – dare I say it – kinda cheesy.

That said, I’m not averse to a slightly cheesy movie, particularly one with good narrative bones underpinning the whole thing, and Stardust is a generously faithful adaptation of the book.  The cinematography gives a nostalgic nod to The Princess Bride, which I appreciated, and contains moments of physical comedy that can’t exist on paper (Mark Williams’ impersonation of a goat enchanted into human form being one that immediately springs to mind).

My verdict: read the book first (of course), and then enjoy the movie as a fun, lighthearted accompaniment, without taking it too seriously.

Enders Game (Sean)

Book: 1985
Film: 2013

Most times when you have read a book and then seen a film you won’t like the film. This is because you imagine the book while reading it but the director imagines the film in a different way. I am happy to say that with Enders Game I liked both the film and the book. The film follows the book quite closely. For those who haven’t read or seen Ender's Gam,e it is the story of Ender Wiggin, a brilliant boy who is selected to go to battle school to learn to fight the alien race, The Formics. The Formics had devastated Earth 50 years prior. In the subsequent years, gifted children are trained by the International Fleet to become new commanders for a counter-attack.

In both the book and the film Ender is pushed to come up with more and more unique battle strategies during his training with the idea that they then will use them to fight the Formics. Eventuall,y he is entrusted with his own squad of misfits, who in the end win the training games in a zero gravity Battle Room. The book often focuses on Ender’s internal battle with the violence he must exhibit to survive. The movie covers this as well – it doesn’t shy away from the brutal existence of the children training in battle school or the relentless pressure applied to Ender and his team. The ending is poignant and heartfelt. The cast of the movie is A-list with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley (who does a terrible New Zealand accent), Viola Davis and Asa Butterfield as Ender.

Both book and film are great, I recommend to read it first then watch the movie.

Logan (Tom)

(Comic)Book: 2010
Film: 2017

And now we arrive at a dystopian future where most of the X-Men are dead and Wolverine is sad about it. But wait! Didn’t that already happen in X-Men Days of Future Past? Yes. How did they die? Professor X had a brain snap. Oh dear. Is he sad about it? Yes, very, but he’s also crazy now. So, you’re telling me all the X-Men, a tremendous group of superheroes and an allegory for oppressed minorities the world over are all dead so two guys can have some man pain? Yes, that’s precisely it. But they just fixed the timelines and delivered a perfect utopia for man and mutant at the end of Days of Future Past. Also correct. So, this movie totally blows? Actually . . . it’s pretty great.

While only using the comic book Old Man Logan as the loosest of adaptations, we’re still counting it in this list, because Tom will take any opportunity to talk comics. Ignoring the shitty set up of dead X-Men, Logan gives us probably the best performance of Hugh Jackman’s career. He’s broken, body and soul and you can see it in his eyes, when he admits he planned on taking his own life or when you realise in horror he’s an uber drive now. The last spark in his life comes from a mission thrust upon him: to protect the daughter he didn’t know from mutant hunters working for a shady corporation (all corporations are shady). Dafne Keane is brilliant in her debut as Laura/X-23 and Patrick Stewart is hilarious as the deranged Charles Xavier. Did we need to see him die yet again? No. But like I said this movie doesn’t sit entirely right with me. I love the X-Men and their mission and it’s sad to see it tossed aside. But it’s impossible to deny the caliber of the performances and the commitment from Jackman and Stewart.

Given how well this film was received and the finality of the story is too much to ask that comic book films are no longer made by people who kinda hate comic books? Probably not. 

Verdict: Definitely give it a watch.

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