Image Credit: Tom Gauld
It's rare. But it happens.
Sometimes the movie is better than the book.
That's super rare, though, as most people will tell you.
Anyone can name books they've read that are better than their movie counterparts. For example, I've read (and watched the not-as-good movie or TV show of) Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, The Relic, Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Expanse, to name a few.
But can you name a case where the movie is better than the book?
That's a little harder.
I have two: Children of Men and Love, Simon / Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
I watched Children of Men as soon as it came out -- it looked like my kind of sci-fi. While I read and watch an awful lot of Star Trek, I'm actually not a fan of science fiction with aliens. (I think it's because all too often the aliens are bent on destroying Earth, turning it into a horror movie (like Alien) or an action movie (like Independence Day).)
Children of Men -- the movie -- sees a near future world where humanity can no longer have children. The youngest person in the world is an adult. And then a woman gets pregnant. What follows is a harrowing and tense movie as they try to get the pregnant woman to safety with a humanitarian group. I loved the movie.
Shortly after watching it, I picked up the book... because the book is always better, right?
Unfortunately, not the case here. Well, I shouldn't be so absolute in that statement. The issue was that the book took a far different approach than the movie, and I preferred the movie's approach much more. The book focussed on the sociological aspect of a world no longer having children. Dolls become a treasured thing, with fully-grown adults purchasing expensive lifelike dolls to treat like real babies. It's definitely an interesting thought experiment and is definitely a good book. I just though the movie was better.
I had been eyeing the book for a while before buying it -- but it was the strength of the movie that finally made me make that purchase.
I don't think I would have read it if the movie was bad (or if the movie had never been made). And I don't think I would have watched the movie if I had read the book first.
Anyway, this was several years back in 2006.
To find a movie that's better than the book is a rare thing and I never expected it to happen again.
Then I watched Love, Simon. (I wrote about this a few weeks back -- I, along with most of the theatre, sobbed through the whole thing because it's such a touching movie.)
Love, Simon is a rather typical teen rom-com, but with a gay romance at its core. It's super cute and speaks a lot to the "gay experience" that really gets lost in media. In the movie, someone posts on an anonymous blog that's popular with the school that they are secretly gay. Simon, the protagonist, is closeted and feels alone for being gay -- so he reaches out to this anonymous person. From there is a movie full of trying to figure out who this secret person is as he and Simon develop an over-email-relationship, to the point where they express their love for each other, despite not know who the other person is. (Well, the love interest eventually learns who Simon is, but Simon doesn't learn who the other boy is until the end of the movie.)
I loved the movie on so many levels.
So, naturally, I had to read the book.
Like with Children of Men, the book (Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) takes on a different approach... and I didn't like it.
I wouldn't have read the book if I hadn't seen the movie. And I wouldn't have seen the movie if I had read the book first.
The book takes a different approach -- which is really good on it's own, but I was expecting the approach the movie took. There's still the same secret love and there's a blackmail subplot in both the book and the movie. But the book really doesn't focus on the romance -- it's almost a background thing. Instead, the book seems to really focus on the message that "gay kids are normal kids", which, of course, they are. Most of the book follows Simon doing normal things that teenagers do, with him keeping the secret that he's gay. It's a damn good book -- but I was expecting something like the movie.
Seeing Love, Simon and reading Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has been an interesting experience. As soon as I walked out of the theatre, I decided I want to write a YA gay romance. Four weeks and 66,000 words later, I have a first draft that has made a beta reader cry and is already super polished. (It's been a hell of a long time since I've written anything without a sex scene.) I'm busy submitting it to agents now. With YA, I think the market is really in physical bookstores, and you need to access the traditional publishing market to get there. My writing group (and my husband, an editor) feel this is strong enough to get a publishing deal -- fingers crossed -- but if that doesn't happen, I'll be self-publishing it and cracking into another YA.
I wrote this book because I had been inspired by the movie. But if I had read Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda first, I likely wouldn't have bothered with the movie. And if I hadn't bothered with the movie, I wouldn't have written my own book.
Sometimes the movie is better than the book. And when that happens, it's a rare and treasured thing.
Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Silent Hearts. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, member of the Indie Erotica Collective, and hosts two podcasts, Deep Desires Podcast and Sex For Money. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.