Are there any novelisations that are better than the films they're based on?

A friend said the Assassin’s Creed novelisation is a lot better than the film.

Can you think of any others? :slight_smile:

  • Fantastic Voyage*

(And yes, it’s a novelization. Asimov was hired to adapt the script. However, the movie was delayed so the novelization came out first.)

The novelization of “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” was written by Vonda N. McIntyre. It’s been a long time since I read it but I remember it having far better dialogue than the screen version.

Labyrinth was a better book than the movie. The movie was incredible, but there were plot gaps explained in the novelization.

The novelization of The Wicker Man was pretty good. It was written by Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy, who wrote and directed the original film.

It sadly lacks Britt Eckland nudity, but it goes into more depth on the conflict between Sergeant Howie and Lord Summerisle. Besides the obvious legal and religious conflicts, there were also social and political angles that were surprising to a non-Brit like me. Howie is less of a jerk than the movie depicts, and Summerisle plays a more physically active role in the conspiracy.

The book was re-printed when the Nicholas Cage re-make was in the theaters, and you can get new copies from Amazon.

Christopher Wood was one of the screenwriters who adapted the Ian Fleming novels The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker for the screen. He also wrote novelizations of the movies, titled James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me and James Bond and Moonraker. Wood’s novels are not great, but they are at least as good as the movies.

I have not read Delos W. Lovelace’s novelization of King Kong, but it has been re-printed many times since the copyright lapsed, so somebody must like it.

I was going to mention this one, but you got here first.

So I’ll go with The Dark Crystal and E.T.

The 80s were a pretty sweet era for Juvenile and YA film novelizations.

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Buckaroo Banzai, by Earl MacRauch, tells the movie story a lot better, with some hilarious detail about the BB fan club.

I’m told that one of the Star Wars prequel novelizations- I think maybe it was RotS?- is actually pretty good.

The dean of them all is probably 2001, which may be less visually stunning in print but is a hell of a lot clearer. And has one of the best closing lines I can recall.

I came across the novelization posted online at some point – it may have just been the first chapter or two – and it cleared up a couple of things that are suggested by the movie but that I missed as a kid. I remember assuming that, in traditional fairy tale fashion, Sarah’s mother was dead and that the pictures of her in Sarah’s room (including one with David Bowie) were a sort of memorial. The novelization makes it explicit that Sarah’s parents are divorced and her mother is a successful stage actress.

The novelization also notes that Jareth the Goblin King reminds Sarah of the actor who her mother frequently co-stars with (presumably the guy in the photo), which actually takes things even farther into Electra Complex territory than I’d thought.

Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. :smiley:

+1. First one that came to mind. The movie was great in its own way, but the book was far more riveting and memorable.

As a twelve-year-old, I really enjoyed the three Omen novelizations. From what bits of the films I’ve seen in recent years, I think the books may be better overall (though not as great as I thought they were when I was twelve, probably).

Heck, I was going to mock the novelization of E.T. E.T. was falling in love with Elliot’s mom, for heck’s sake!

She also did the novelization for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was much better than I thought it’d be.
A novelization at least as good as the film was Orson Scott Card’s for The Abyss. unlike most novelizations, where the author has nothing to do with the filming, Card really got involved, even going as far as to put on a diving suit and go into the giant tank that was the set. His backstories for the characters were adopted by James Cameron, who insisted Card’s work wasn’t a mere “novelization”. He also had bad things to say about previous novelizations of his movies, which I think is a dig at King of the Novelizations Alan Dean Foster.
Another novelization that deserves a look is the novelization of Forbidden Planet by “W.J. Stuart”, actually mystery writer Philip MacDonald. Although Anthony Boucher derided it as “an abysmally banal job of hackwork”, it’s actually much better than run-of-the-mill novelizations. It delves into what’s going on, even giving a slightly different interpretation than the film does.
I hadn’t realized that it had been released in hardcover. I do have two different paperback novelizations – one contemporary with the release, the other from the late 1960s.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

For years they re-released the James Bond novels with covers reflecting the movies, as the movies were released. This wasn’t too bad when the films at least somewhat resembled the novels – it worked pretty well with *From Russia, With love; Goldfinger; Thunderball; *[ and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (I don’t recall a movie tie-in with either Dr. No or You Only Live Twice – the most I saw with that was a fluorescent sticker attached to the cover of the pre-movie paperback). But they released Fleming’s novel Diamonds Are Forever with the poster from the movie on the cover, even though the film had precious little to do with that novel (they selected elements – the Las Vegas setting, the American gangsters, the killers Kidd and Wint, the death in the mud bath, but mostly it was completely new plot). That must have been a bit of a surprise for readers looking for Jill St. John and a laser satellite. In any event, I don’t recall any movie cover tie-ins for the next two movies, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

Then they made The Spy Who Loved Me. By this time, the movies had departed completely from the novels. But even if they’d wanted to, they couldn’t have filmed Fleming’s novel as he wrote it – he explicitly sold only the title, retaining the rights to the actual story. Probably a good thing, too – I think the novel would’ve made a poor film, especially for people expecting the usual Bond extravagances.

The movie The Spy Who Loved Me and the next one, Moonraker, were undoubtedly James Bond at his most puerile. They’re the films that had Richard Kiel in them as “Jaws”, the simplistic, outrageous plots, and stuff. And for these two films, they decided for the first time to have new novelizations, where the novel fit the movie plot. And the got Christopher Wood, the guy responsible for those awful scripts, to write the novelizations.
And to my utter surprise, the novelizations are much better than the films. Granted, they’re worse than most James Bond novels not written by Fleming himself. But they’re not as juvenile as the movies, and show a better understanding than I’d give Wood if I’d only seen the movies. He even manages to give “Jaws” a plausible back story.

After Bond, Wood went on to write the abysmal script for remo Williams, but not a novelization (AFAIK) – there were already plenty of bad Destroyer novels out there.

As for Bond, I don’t think there were any more movie novelizations until John Gardner wrote the one for License to Kill (which was better than the movie) and Raymond Benson wrote the novelizations for *Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, * and Die Another Day. Although I liked Benson’s original Bond novels, I wasn’t impressed by these.

I don’t think there have been any other Bond movie novelizations.

J. M. Barrie wrote *Peter Pan * first as a stage play, then novelized it.

I don’t know if it’s *better *than the play, but certainly it’s a classic.

Sorry I missed your mention of the Wood novelizations in my recap of Bond. I actually think they’re better than his movies, as I said.

I have read the Lovelace novelization of King Kong. It’s pretty good, although it includes some things not in the film (the triceratops attack) and it still doesn’t explain how the hell they got Kong from Skull Island to New York. They based the 1969 Gold Key comic book adaptation on the Lovelace book.

Actually, I liked to novelization of Star Wars, which was supposedly by George Lucas, although everyone really thinks Alan Dean Foster wrote it. It’s definitely in his style.

But it’s not “better than the film”. You’d have to have a freaking GREAT novelization to be better than the original ** Star Wars**.

To complete the James Bond novelizations – they didn’t issue one, AFAIK, for For Your Eyes Only, but this was arguably about the last time they could have – the movie was the first time they tried to take Bond back to his literary roots, after the wide departure of the many previous films, culminating in the awful Christopher Wood duo. So they actually based much of the movie on two stories in that collection – the title story For Your Eyes Only and the bulk of the movie from Risico. (They also added an unused bit from Live and Let Die). So they actually coulda released Fleming’s book with a movie poster cover as a tie-in. But they didn’t.

They might also have gotten away with releasing Octopussy as a tie-in for the film Octopussy – they actually do refer to the events in the title story (Like For Your Eyes Only, it’s an anthology). and they use virtually all of the story “Property of a Lady” in the Faberge Egg auction scene (That story wasn’t in the original hardcover edition, but was added to the paperback edition. Fleming actually wrote that short James Bond story to be included in a Christie’s auction catalog, which it was.)