Can a movie be better than the book it was based on?

Yes, here’s why: Fight Club. I love this movie with all of my heart. I love it so much that I watched it for two weeks straight when it first came out on video. I said I would keep watching it until I didn’t see something new. It took roughly two weeks for that to happen. I have probably seen it more than any other film. I know all the dialog. I watch it at least once a year even now.

ModelTFord1913
Model T Ford 1913

Because of my adoration for the film, I read the book. If the movie is a Lamborghini, the book is a Ford Model-T. The framework is essentially the same, they both have four wheels and can be classified as automobiles, and without the Model-T, the Lamborghini likely wouldn’t exist in its present form, but that’s where the similarities end. The movie drives circles around the book.

Fight Club was the first Chuck Palahniuk book I had ever read and it didn’t really inspire me to read more. I’m not a fan. I tried reading Choke, but I said to myself about a quarter of the way through the book, if he uses “…isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind” one more goddamn time, I will throw this book across the room and never pick it up. Then he used it again, so I didn’t finish Choke.

I did manage to finish Fight Club, but it left me underwhelmed. Essentially, all it did was give me a new found appreciation for the magnificence of the screenplay. The screenwriters should have won every Academy Award forever for turning a mediocre book (albeit, a book with some great ideas) into that masterpiece of cinema.

There are many books that I think are just as good as their film derivatives –Nineteen Eighty-Four, A Clockwork Orange, Fires On The Plain, Woman In The Dunes to name a few– but Fight Club is the only example of a film that I can think of that is far superlative to the book on which it is based. I’m sure some will disagree as Palahniuk, for some reason, is viewed as a great writer. To me, he is the Kerouac of this generation. Kerouac was also a mediocre writer who got by on slang and the “edginess” that spoke to certain readers of his era, just like Palahniuk. So, Kerouac and Palahniuk, and Cormac McCarthy while we’re at it, can all get bent, but thanks, Chuck, for making it possible for one of my favorite movies to exist. And thanks to Henry Ford for creating the Model-T and making it possible to drive my car (which is not a Lamborghini).