I try to find the humor in every situation I face. Somehow, if I can laugh about something it just doesn’t seem that scary/depressing/overwhelming/(insert emotion). I remember when I was hospitalized for a three foot blood clot and I had made a joke about it to my wife (at the time). She doesn’t share my humor for laughing in the face of disaster.
Maybe that’s why we’re no longer together. Hmmm…
Anyhoo, so for those that are self-quarantined, staying away from the public, or just simply an introvert here are some choices in reading material for this time of season. And please, just know that even though this list is themed toward pandemics, it’s simply a literary book list with some dark humor to it.
So for your reading pleasure, here is my 2020 Pandemic Book List:
1. The Stand, by Stephen King. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this horror classic. The premise of this ginormous novel is a detailed vision of the total breakdown of society after the accidental release of a strain of influenza that had been modified for biological warfare causes an apocalyptic pandemic that kills over 99 percent of the world’s population. It’s an amazing read about what happens to humanity and the good vs evil theme is quite page turning. I’m currently watching the television adapted movie and reading the uncut version of the novel. I’ve been sniffling and coughing up phlegm all the while.
Makes a man a bit paranoid, haha.
2. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton. First off, I love when people call books a techno-thriller. It’s such a great name for a genre. So this novel handles the narrative differently. It documents the efforts of a team of scientists investigating the outbreak of a deadly extraterrestrial mirco-organism in Arizona.
3. Year One, by Nora Roberts. Okay, so if you’re not that into Stephen King because of the length of books he writers, I get it. However, if you’re looking for a pandemic themed book that invokes King’s The Stand without the 1,000 + page count then this one is it. I’ll warn you though, it’s part of a trilogy so if you’re wanting a one and done read, then you may reconsider it. It’s a great read about a sickness that spreads suddenly and within weeks, everything starts to crumble. This is different than your basic pandemic. Where science and technology falls, magic rises and people start developing magical powers and turning into elves and other magical creatures.
4. World War Z, by Max Brooks. So, without getting into all the zombie fiction out there (and believe me there’s a lot) I’ll just offer this one beacon of light among the undead. This book, written by Director Mel Brook’s son, is a collection of individual accounts following the devastating global conflict against the zombie plague. For those that have read The Zombie Survival Guide, this is the same author and it’s equally well written. While the guide was written in a half-comical nature, WWZ is written in a serious tone that examines survival-ism, uncertainty, and the ineptitude of individuals and governments. It’s really a must-read.
As an additional note, I really disliked the movie simply because it was nothing like the book. In my opinion, it would’ve been better to make it a strict adaptation of the novel. And you can fight me on that.
5. Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Okay, hear me out on this one before I get an angry voicemail about how I need to “get my facts straight.” Dracula is about a vampire that travels to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse. However, the good Count is defeated by a band of humans that wield science as a weapon. Sound familiar? It should because that’s the basic theme of almost all pandemic themed fiction. I once wrote a college paper about how Dracula was a metaphor for Cholera. It was pretty good paper inspired by a very good work of fiction. Check it out.
Well, that’s five pandemic inspired fictional works. While I hope you all don’t fall ill with the coronavirus, I do hope you read some of the books on this list. All have a soft spot in my literary heart and have earned a place on my Hall of Fame for books.
Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are numbers 23 through 11. Or as I like to call them… the worst of 2019.
Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.
23. Dark Phoenix
My Score: 2/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/64%
You know, people complain about The Rise of Skywalker and all of its plot holes, but no one really talks about the horror that is Dark Phoenix. The bland alien invasion, the fact that it was forgotten that the Phoenix showed up in the previous film (how they defeated Apocalypse), the F-Bomb dropped by Cyclops, and the fact that Magneto was just allowed to exist after Apocalypse was killed. Most people will discount this film due to the fact that the entire thing is now pointless because Disney purchased Fox. The funny thing is that even if Fox hadn’t been purchased, the X-Men franchise would’ve been dead due to this garbage fire of a film.
22. Terminator: Dark Fate
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 70%/82%
Sure… kill John Connor. Okay… erase Skynet. I would’ve been onboard with these decisions if they’d been for a purpose. I’d have been on board with it if they tried to go at things from a different path. However, Dark Fate is the exact same plot. A poor lady gets targeted by termination by robotic assassins sent back in time by a robot overlord that’s trying to eradicate the human species. The only thing that stands in between her and the assassins is a human that’s sent back in time by the future version of that lady. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Swap Skynet for Legion, John Connor for Danni (I honestly don’t remember her name), Reese for another person I can’t remember, and update some of the tech and you’ve got pretty much the same movie.
Granted, this film looks beautiful. I can’t knock the CGI. However, the weak storyline and the forgettable villains really just make this film forgettable in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll get some flack for my opinion on this film, but eh. And really, if you think about it, it’s just a CGI futuristic John Wick, dead dog included.
20. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 42%/83%
I’m not much of a Godzilla fan. I’ll go watch them, but I’m not one of those fanboys that will defend the film religiously. I understand that they were trying to make a giant monster film, but what I don’t understand is why they have to attempt a human-interest side of things. The audience goes into a Godzilla film wanting to see the King of Monsters rampaging through cities as it defeats other monsters. For the most part, this film delivers in this aspect. However, the parts of the film where the humans are trying to do their human-thing just drags the plot. Just let them fight.
I went to see this twice in theaters. The first time, I really liked it. The CGI was great, the plot was decent, and the humor connected fairly well. Then I went to see it with my nephews. The second time was not as enjoyable as the first. The humor was stale, the plot had holes I hadn’t seen during the first viewing. Yet it was still pretty decent because of the franchise’s nostalgia. Overall, it was not a bad film. Not a good film either, but just average.
18. Zombieland: Double Tap
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/88%
When I heard they were making a sequel of my favorite zombie flick, I felt both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I wanted more of that comedy and action. Apprehensive because they could totally mess things up. I got that humor and that action, but they totally messed things up. The idea of anti-gun, vegan hippies surviving in a zombie apocalypse is nuts. Having Tallahassee not kicking their butts once is a big letdown. Add in the fact that the humor is sorta stale, the girls take off on their own with the dudes going after them (same plot point as the last film), and the introduction of cool evolved zombies only to have them be referenced maybe once or twice and you’ve got a subpar film.
17. Men in Black: International
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/66%
Another film that tries to compete with the prior films in the franchise. Overall, I liked this film. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have great chemistry together. The pawn alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani was the highlight of the film. Really, when you consider MiB 2, anything is better.
If this film came out before the superhero genre exploded, it would have performed better at the box office. Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan was a bit too late on this lackluster conclusion to his loosely linked trilogy. James McAvoy and Samuel Jackson are great, but Bruce Willis’ acting is as flavorful as a piece of dry white toast. Since it is an M. Night Shyamalan film, we know there’s some type of plot twist. This time around, the three main characters are murdered by a secret organization bent on keeping the fact that superhumans are real a secret. Of course, due to people’s obsession with social media, this secret gets out to the masses.
15. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/72%
I loved the book that this film was adapted from. It was a treasured tome of mine growing up. The film did a decent job of merging a lot of those stories into one cohesive plot. The acting was alright, but the ending was the thing that suffered the most. It was meant to end with a few more sequels to build off of. However, I doubt that we’ll get those sequels because of the lukewarm reactions of the fans/critics. The monsters were very creepy, one of the best parts of that movie.
14. Pet Sematary
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/34%
Most Stephen King films will rank higher than most on my list. I’m a huge fan of the author and I love watching his books come to life on the big screen. I think I’m being a bit picky, but I really didn’t like Jason Clarke as the main character, Louis. In truth, I’ve never liked anything Clarke plays. He’s not my favorite actor. What saves the film is John Lithgow as Jud. Loved his acting. If you’ve seen the original, then this may or may not be your favorite. The original is hard to beat because it instilled that creepiness. Watching the new version, that creepiness has been dulled a bit. But it was still there, lurking in the background as the plot lengthened.
13. Child’s Play
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/57%
When you reboot a movie, you sometimes change some things about it to make it your own. In Terminator: Dark Fate they changed details but didn’t make things different. When Chucky came to the big screen in this reboot, just about everything was changed. Instead of a bad guy that wills his soul to enter a children’s toy, this time around it’s a doll that’s sabotaged and learns to be evil. It’s a great lesson about nature vs. nurture. Another lesson is to never make a child’s toy that can control all the electronics around him angry at you.
This was a film I didn’t anticipate on watching this year. It wasn’t one that I really wanted to watch this year. It does have the powerful acting chops of Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, and Bill Hader to make this Disney + original Christmas film a success. Watching Noelle travel to Arizona to find her missing brother, the next Santa Claus, in time to save Christmas was a rather funny experience. The humor was unexpectantly funny and I laughed more than I expected.
11. In the Tall Grass
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 38%/36%
For this last film on this list, it sort of surprised me. Sure, it’s a mediocre film with a confusing plot and some vague pseudo-religious relic and cult. But that’s what makes it intriguing to me. Watching this Stephen King short story come alive is not a masterpiece, but it does make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck happened. For those that are gluttons for punishment, it’ll make you want to watch it again. Can I just add that Stephen King has now forced me to put corn fields on my “don’t mess with” list. And I’m from Indiana so that’s pretty impressive. And a bit scary.
Soon, I’ll have my best of 2019 list showcasing the top ten films I’ve watched. Did you think my list so far is accurate? Which ones did you agree with? Which films do you think should’ve been higher/lower? Let me know in the comments!
So, I have a lot of people tell me that they don’t like watching Horror films because they have too much violence/gore/swearing/jump scares/takes place in Michigan or some variety of other reasons. Or maybe you have a rule about not watching films that are Rated R. Since it’s Halloween soon, this rant I’ll be listing my top five Horror film picks for people that don’t watch a lot of the genre.
1. Psycho (1960) directed by prolific Auteur Alfred Hitchcock. Basic premise: Woman decides to embezzle money from employer and during her escape she finds refuge in a motel ran by a psycho with a mother obsession. And yes, it’s Rated R but hear me out. Back in the ‘60’s this was considered R, but in today’s standards, it’s PG-13. Hardly any violence or gore (Hitchcock used chocolate syrup as blood since it was filmed in black and white), one profanity and that’s the “OMG” phrase, and the only nudity was a silhouette of Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene. Having sad this, Hitchcock was a master at building suspense and crafting deeply disturbing narratives.
2. Insidious (2010) directed by James Wan is bordering on what I’m including on this list. Basic premise: family moves into a new house and are plagued by evil spirits and soon realize that a demon has trapped their son. So, it’s rated PG-13 and includes a single use of the “F” word. There’s a bunch of other mild obscenities. The violence in this film is very little, but there are multiple jump scares. No sexual content which is a plus. What might deter some people from watching this is the intense demonic entity that threatens the family.
3. The Sixth Sense (1999) directed by M. Night Shyamalan is another film that borders what I’m comfortable suggesting to you all. However, it’s such a great PG-13 rated film, I have to include it on this list. Basic premise: kid sees dead people and a psychologist tries to help the kid. Mild profanity, moderate frightening and intense scenes, mild sexual content, but moderate violence and gore are in this film. The ghosts appear how they looked at time of death, so some scenes are pretty grisly looking. However, if you’re wanting to watch a ghost film, this one is a must see.
4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) directed by Scott Derrickson. Try finding a decent exorcist film that isn’t Rated R and you have this film here. Basic premise: A lawyer that doesn’t believe in good and evil takes on a negligent homicide case centered on an exorcism. The lawyer begins to question whether or not good and evil exists. This film is unique because it focuses on the exorcism after the fact from the lawyer’s point of view as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Emily Rose. There are a handful (maybe two handfuls) of curse words, moderate violence, and really no sexual content. It’s the perfect film for someone wanting to dip their toes in an exorcism movie.
5. Beetlejuice (1988) directed by Tim Burton is one of those films that you watched when you were younger, but when you watch it with your kids you wonder “Why did my parents allow me to watch that?” It’s Rated PG, but in reality, it should be Rated PG-13. In fact, the entry above is tamer than this one and that was about a demonic possession. Basic premise: Homeowners die and haunt their house. They seek help from the “ghost with the most” when new homeowners move in. It’s a great scary/funny film, but I’d suggest watching it first before letting your kids watch it.
With all that being said, I really thought that finding five films that weren’t all that gory and graphic wouldn’t have been so hard. I’m sure there are a plethora of other films that would make this list, but I either never came across them or I’ve forgotten about them. Hopefully you all have/had (depending on when you read this) a Happy Halloween! Wishing you all a treat filled and no trick night. Dress up as something and eat some candy because dressing up as a character from your favorite movie/book/show/video game only comes once a year. Right? Oh wait, that’s what cosplayers do every day.
If I survive the night, I’ll talk to you all later.
Since it’s October, I thought it’d be appropriate to write a series of scary topics to coincide with All Hallows’ Eve. To kick off this series, I’ll be discussing the differences between a horror book and a horror film.
By your reaction (yes, I’m watching as you’re watching this) I failed in my attempt at a jump scare. You see, that’s the main difference between a visual media and a written version. For those that don’t know the term, a jump scare is used to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event. Typically, that means something, or someone appears in front of the audience and often accompanied with a loud noise. At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two friends of mine. One friend, we shall call Angela, is particularly good at two things: hiding and jump scaring the other friend. The other friend, we shall call Kenny, is particularly good at one thing: being scared. Let’s just say, jump scares are an effective way to frighten your audience.
When used in films in an effective manner, jump scares can be a sudden payoff to a long period of suspense. As the tension builds up, the jump scare is the climax. They’ve been called “one of the most basic building blocks of horror movies.”
Recently, the use of jump scares has been criticized as overused and a lazy method to scare the audience. Which is true. Going back to my two friends, Kenny is like the audience and Angela is like the movie. Kenny’s been scared so many times by Angela that he’s used to it by now. Of course, that just means that Angela (and films) have to figure out new ways of scaring.
In a literary work, the author doesn’t have the above-mentioned technique to scare readers. Like film, authors must find alternative ways to scare the reader. One of those methods (there are many and I have just a limited amount of space, so I’ll only cover one in this article) is to create a false sense of security.
Simon Kurt Unsworth, author of The Devil’s Detective, talks about creating a false sense of security. He explains that if you make your story based in the real world so that readers recognize and relate to it, then add elements that show that world’s weaknesses. “Real fear comes from seeing in the narrative a set of events that, if they occurred, could threaten what’s important to the reader, and could change their world into something they no longer recognize or understand,” he once said. He goes on to say, and I really like this line, that “monsters aren’t really scary; monsters walking up the street where we’re living and threatening our children? That’s scary.”
Why do you think Stephen King’s books are so scary? IT, The Shawshank Redemption, The Institute, The Shining, Carrie, Firestarter… I could go on. He’s written so many books that are set in the real world and shows us that sometimes it isn’t a scary monster that’s the villain. It’s often society or the government that’s scarier than the space alien that feeds on children’s fear and then feasts on their flesh.
Even when your story is fantasy, there are still elements of realism that can be incorporated into it to make it more relatable to readers. In Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the characters are effected by addiction and mental issues even as they traverse across Mid-World on the Path of the Beam. Sometimes, the things that scare you are the ones that live inside your head.
Like the King of Horror once said in The Shining, “Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.” Sure, he was talking about a haunted resort, but it also meant Danny’s father turning into a homicidal abusive patriarch.
The real world is scary folks. Hopefully, we only experience it through the pages of a book or through the screen. It’d be nice to think that. Maybe that’s why we read and watch cinema. To escape the horrors of our everyday life. One last quote by Stephen King, I know, I quote him a lot. I think this sums up the article so here goes:
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win,” King said. Isn’t that the scariest part of life and literature, when the monsters win?
Let’s get this disclaimer out of the way so that we can get down to the meat and potatoes of this book review. I absolutely, positively love everything that Stephen King has ever written. Not so much his film adaptions, but that’s another review for another time.
Released in mid September, the storyline of The Institute follows two main characters. The first readers encounter is Tim Jamieson, an ex-policeman that’s traveling to New York for a job. Following his intuition, Jamieson ends up in DuPray, South Carolina. He ends up being a Night Knocker. For those that don’t know what a night knocker is, don’t worry I didn’t know either. Basically, it’s just a lowly paid member of local law enforcement that walks around at night making sure places are locked up. Jamieson has his own interesting history and is developing a life in DuPray when the story shifts over to the central character of the novel, Luke Ellis.
Luke is a twelve-year-old genius that’s about to enter college. One night, he’s kidnapped from his home in suburban Minneapolis and taken to The Institute. It’s a facility located in Maine. Luke soon finds out that he and all the other kids in the facility have either telekinesis or telepathy. Oh, and the facility is operated by a super secret shadowy organization.
Going into the novel, I was certain that it was a sequel King’s 1980 novel, Firestarter. It’s essentially the same premise. A child with pyrokinetic powers is hunted by The Shop, a super secret government operation that does drug testing on people with telekinetic abilities. Spoiler alert: Firestarter ends with The Shop reforming under new leadership. With Doctor Sleep being a sequel to The Shining, it wasn’t that hard to think that The Institute was a sequel to Firestarter. However, don’t get your hopes up. There’s no references to the book that was adapted into the 1984 film starring Drew Barrymore.
While I really enjoyed Luke’s journey of survival and vengeance, all I really wanted to do was get back to Night Knocker Tim. For some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tim’s normal, everyday life compared to the freaky and slightly traumatizing tale of Luke Ellis. As you could guess, the two main character’s path eventually collide and that’s when the story picks up. To quote Pam Beesly-Halpert from The Office, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
Stephen King is one of those authors that has an innate talent to craft a decent story with children as characters. The Institute is pretty much a mash-up of IT and Firestarter. You take a shadowy government organization testing children and the children must band together to survive. Luke and the other children share a deep relationship together and King so masterfully gives each child a story arc without bogging down the narrative.
The one thing that I truly did not like were the political digs at President Trump and the Republican Party. If you follow King’s social media, you’ll know that he doesn’t particularly look on them with a positive light. There aren’t many of these references, but they always made me cringe and pulled me out of the narrative when I read them.
I guess I wouldn’t be a good reviewer if I didn’t mention how the novel parallels real world events. When you finish this 576 page science fiction/horror thriller there are a few things that hit close to home in terms of vaccinations, missing children, and zealots that believe that the ends justify the means. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that The Institute is an interesting look into these issues and the deeper and terrifying implications they have on society.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King, The Institute will itch that literary scratch. For those that haven’t delved into the deep library of King, you’ll find this book a great introduction into it. The Institute is definitely one to put on your To-Be-Read list.
Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:
Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.
Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.
That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.
Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”
Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”
I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.
Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.
Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”
Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.
Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”
Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.
Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.
For my first Book vs Film, I wanted to write something epic. Really kick off my entry into this series with something big and bold. With this in mind, I was sorting through my book collection and my eyes settled on George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.” At first, I thought it was too big, too epic. The books aren’t even finished despite the television show having just ended. How could I compare the books to the television show? Do I go through season by season? Since the source material runs out around the fifth season, BvF: GoT would only have about five parts to it.
That’s not epic at all. If I compare each individual episode to the books, now that’s something epic.
Plus, it’s something that will definitely kill time until the last two books are released (knock on wood). Now, for your enjoyment, I present to you BvF: GoT: Season 1, Episode 1.
By the way, if you’ve never read the books or watched the show: Spoiler Warning! Plus, why are you reading this if you have an interest in reading or watching it?
The first difference I’ve noticed happens less than five minutes into the episode. The three men of the Night’s Watch are sent to track the wildlings. In the book, Will is sent to scout ahead for the wildling camp. He finds the camp and all the wildlings are dead. He reports this back to the leader, a highborn guy by the name of Royce. Royce asks for proof or a reason why they’re dead to which Will couldn’t really give so they decide to go investigate. In the show, Will finds them all brutally massacred and positioned in some macabre design.
Another small detail, in the book only Will and Royce went to the wildling camp. In the episode all three went. Just a small change, nothing to blow your skirt up about.
Another detail that I’m sure the show cut for time limits. In the book, Royce defends Will and tries to attack the White Walkers. Will climbs a tree and Gared’s fate is unknown. In the show, we see no fight with the walkers and we see Gared get beheaded. RIP Gared.
If I had to say which I’d prefer, so far, I’d say I liked the show. The initial scene is short, to the point, and sets up the obvious threat that will loom over the rest of the show. With the brutal nature of the bodies and the beheading, it shows two things:
–The White Walkers don’t mess around when killing humans.
–The White Walkers are warrior artists. They kill and then decorate the battlefield. When they don’t enlist dead people, they use them as artwork.
I will never skip past this beautiful credit scene simply because of the GoT theme song. Sorry book lovers, point goes to the show for this one!
Stark Intro and Execution Scenes
Another big difference from the books. In the books, each chapter follows a different character. In the show, it blends together a lot of those storylines to conserve time. In this scene we are introduced to the entire family of the Starks in just one minute and twenty seconds of screen time. In that time we are told:
–Robb is the older and more serious brother from his stance.
–Jon is a more nurturing and teaching brother, giving Bran some archery tips. We also know he’s a bastard when he says “so’s your mother” indicating that Catelyn Stark is not his mother.
–Sansa is the more beautiful sister that’s better at needlework.
–Arya is the exact opposite of Sansa and is better at puncturing men with arrows than puncturing needles into fabric.
–We see Catelyn and Eddard (Ned) Stark watching over the boys as they train. This indicates that they are interested and involved in their children.
–Rickon. Almost forgot about that brat. Well, everyone else did so I won’t say more to that.
In the book we don’t see any of this yet. We go to the execution of the deserter. In the books it’s Gared. In the show, it’s Will. Both talk about White Walkers and everyone believes he’s looney.
The major difference is the way Ned Stark is portrayed. In the show, you first see Ned as a family man. You see him giving Bran encouragement and nurturing alongside his wife. In the book, he’s first shown as the Lord of Winterfell having to do his duty and execute the deserter. As Martin writes in the books, “He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”
That simple sentence does what most of the show does. It shows that Bran’s father isn’t always the stern, duty bound Lord Stark of Winterfell. He’s also a loving father.
Another minor difference is that Theon Greyjoy laughs at the most morbid things in the book. During the execution scene, Theon laughs at the decapitated head and “put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.” In the show, he did none of those things.
Direwolf Pup Scene
Very little is different. Bits of dialogue are changed and a few characters less in the show, but other than that much hasn’t been altered. In the show, Jon Snow doesn’t claim his direwolf for his own, however. That honor rests on Theon calling it “the runt of the litter.”
Great Hall Feast
The book portrayed the feast in the great hall of Winterfell following Jon and his quest to find the bottom of an ale mug. This is where the show’s narrative style is more advantageous. Game of Thrones shines when it comes to character interaction and the show has more characters interacting with each other than the book in this particular scene. Point goes to the show.
Different approaches to the narrative
The first big branch from the book comes 18 minutes into the episode. After the direwolfs are adopted by the Starks, it cuts away to a beautiful scene of King’s Landing. In the books, we don’t travel to King’s Landing that quickly. First there’s an interaction with Cat and Ned in Winterfell’s godswood. The chapter follows Cat as her character is fleshed out a bit more. We’re told that she is a Tully from Riverrun and that they don’t worship the old gods like the Starks still do. This sets up the lore. It also sets up the lore behind Brandon the Builder, the First Men, and the woods having faces carved into them. Cat and Ned share some dialogue about the children and their newly adopted pets. They also talk about the growing number of deserters. Cat delivers the news about Jon Arryn dying and that the King and his entourage are traveling for Winterfell. This scene is shown in the show only after the King’s Landing scene.
In the show, Ned and Cat don’t share that much dialogue. They don’t discuss the children. Cat skips right to showing Ned the message they’d received from the King.
The book takes an interesting turn. It changes narrative and goes to Daenerys (Dany) and her story. Dany and her brother Viserys are exiled Targaryens. Their family used to rule the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz. Viserys wants to retake the Iron Throne and is going to wed off his sister in order to acquire an army of Dothraki in order to do it.
Going back to the show, this scene in King’s Landing is not shown in the book. It starts with the bells of the Sept ringing and the funeral of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King taking place. This is also the first time you see the Iron Throne. This is also the first time we’re introduced to twins Jaime and Cersei. Soon enough, we find out through dialogue that Arryn knew something about Jaime and Cersei.
So, before I say anything else, I know that the show is made by HBO. I also know that sex and violence sell. But, there’s a scene with Theon, Jon, and Robb and their all shirtless. Theon and Robb talk about getting shaved for the queen. They also talk about the prince, as said by Theon, getting to “stab” southern girls with his “royal prick.” That’s the whole point of the scene. Point to the book for not including this because it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.
The first time we see Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei’s brother, in the show is when he’s with a prostitute. Such a great character and the first we see is him drinking and receiving a sexual act. In the book, we see Tyrion entering the Winterfell great hall and we’re given a description. The first actual interaction with Tyrion is with Jon Snow. Tyrion gives Jon some good advice. In the books, he’s not the whoring, drunk that the television show portrays him as. It’s truly a shame, but like I said, it’s HBO. Now, in all fairness to the show this portrayal sets Tyrion on a moral low note in order to build him up in later episodes. But still, I don’t like the show’s version.
There is a lot of nudity in this episode. Ninety percent of it is not needed, but there is one scene that warrants it. That scene is with Dany and Viserys. He’s inspecting her body and you see her breasts. In the book we see Viserys and his cruel nature as he twists one of his sister’s nipples. We don’t see that in the show.
Interesting thing to note when it comes to nudity. In the book, Cat and Ned are naked when Maester Luwin comes with news from Cat’s sister. Ned dons a robe, but Cat doesn’t mind that she is naked in the Maester’s presence stating “Maester Luwin has delivered all my children” and “this is no time for false modesty.” I find it funny that the show will show young women naked, but not an older lady when the book allows it.
One last bit about the sexual content in this episode. It deals with the difference in the consummation of Dany and Drogo’s marriage. In the book, it appears to be consensual. Dany objects, but then consents after a bit of foreplay. In the show though, it’s anything but consensual. In the book, it’s written romantically, and you can tell that it’s the start of an honest romance. In the show, Drogo is forcing himself on a crying Dany.
As far as narrative, much has stayed the same. Plot points in both book and show are still there. However, the television show takes a more linear style. Instead of bouncing around to different characters in different parts of the world like the book, the show sticks with locations more than people. The exclusions to this are when Robert mentions in the crypts that there are still Targaryens left in the world. The narrative then shifts over to Pentos with Dany and Viserys as detailed above.
Unfortunately, this is Book vs Film. There has to be a winner. The show and book are parallel in almost every way. The book has an advantage because there is more lore and detail in every section that the show cannot possibly portray. The show also has too much sexual content that detracts from the overall story and plot. The thing that sticks out over the book are the character interactions. Jaime and Ned talking to each other during the feast. King Robert berating Queen Cersei when they first arrive in Winterfell. Many others that I don’t have time to detail. The actors do an impeccable job which makes the decision clear. The narrative style is also easier to digest in the show than it is in the book simply because it’s linear opposed to moving from character to character in different locations.
That being said, Episode One is better than the book.
Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow my website to find out what I thought about the other episodes!