There seem to be some things that people can’t agree on. Some debates will just never end no matter how long they are argued. A few of these debates include: Pirates vs. Ninjas (I’m team pirates), Mayonnaise vs. Miracle Whip (ok, come on, let’s end this one. Team Miracle Whip needs to get a clue. Mayonnaise 4eva.), Chocolate vs. Vanilla (Red Velvet. Duh.), and the ever pressing Book vs. Movie.
More often than not it seems like the book comes out on top, but I will admit that there are some movies that I (gasp!) enjoy more than the book. But how exactly do we decide which one is better? The topic is much too subjective and touchy for a simple, casual discussion over iced lattes. Luckily an idea came to me somewhere in the middle of my third viewing of The Hunger Games.
We need to make them fight it out.
I’m talking book in the red corner, movie in the blue. A full on put your dukes up John-the second rule of fight club-hey Katniss knock down that tracker jacker nest-type battle royale. The other day it was brought to my attention that Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel already played around with an idea similar to this, but they don’t incorporate movies so my idea offers another level.
I decided that I was going to challenge myself for the first edition of The Book vs. Movie (BvM) Smackdown by putting both a book and movie that I absolutely adore, head to head. Who knows, I may crumble completely after this is all over. But a choice must be made so let’s see how they match up.
Welcome to The BvM Smackdown
In the red corner we have the novel Submarine written by Joe Dunthorne and published in 2008.
In the blue corner we have the movie adaptation of Submarine written and directed by Richard Ayoade and released in 2011.
Submarine the book steps into the ring and throws the first punch with an opening chapter titled “triskaidekaphobia” and an introduction to a protagonist, Oliver Tate, with such a unique and captivating voice it is impossible to stop reading when the chapter ends.
Submarine the movie blocks this punch with an opening frame that tells the audience that the story takes place in Wales, a country that the United States has not yet invaded and also produced Catherine Zeta Jones. It also tells the audience that they are about to watch a very important film and asks that the audience treats it with respect.
As the bell rings, signalling the end of round one, we are left with a tie. Both the book and the movie have great introductions, so each one has been awarded one point. Let’s see how they hold up in round two.
Shaking off the beginnings of perspiration, Submarine the book introduces the other characters in the novel. Oliver’s parents, his love interest Jordana Beven, and the next door neighbors. The way Dunthorne describes the other characters, and the interactions Oliver has with them makes the book feel more like an autobiography rather than a work of fiction.
Not missing a beat, Submarine the movie counters this with a perfect cast. Oliver Tate is portrayed by Craig Roberts (from the popular series Being Human) and Jordana Beven is played by Yasmin Paige (Ballet Shoes, and a Doctor Who spin off called The Sarah Jane Adventures that I was not aware existed) with other actors Paddy Considene and Noah Taylor also making appearances. Each actor does their character justice.
With the end of the second round, things are starting to heat up with a fire and a thud. Nails are being bitten as the score is still tied. Both book and movie are going to have to pull out some big guns if they want to take the lead.
Battered but not yet bruised, Submarine the book steps back into the ring and throws out beautifully written scenes, and lots of dry humor. Dunthorne’s sarcasm and wit translate well through the mind of a fifteen year old boy. Since the book is told in a first person narrative, the reader learns a lot about Oliver as well as the other characters since Oliver is incredibly perceptive.
Submarine the movie counters with a strong voice-over throughout the movie, as well as using incredible cinematography to compliment Dunthorne’s story. Ayoade did a wonderful job with the filming and editing of the movie, although like in any movie there are scenes from the book that had to be cut.
Submarine the book is able to take a small lead in this round due to the fact that even though the movie adaptation is beautifully shot and the voice over gives the audience a glimpse into Oliver’s thoughts, the book is still able to offer more with extra scenes and a more complex Oliver inner-monologue.
Submarine the movie is quick to fight back with a killer soundtrack written by Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner, a move we here at BvM Smackdown like to call a “Piledriver Waltz.” This looks like it will be an advantage over the novel, as it is something that comes uniquely to the movie.
The novel takes the blow from the movie but uses the momentum to throw one final punch. Submarine is Dunthorne’s first novel, and being so perfectly written the potential that his second novel has is incredibly exciting. Just the thought of another novel from this author being put into the world is force enough to allow Submarine the book to pin Submarine the movie for the 10 seconds needed for a victory. That and books are heavier than DVDs so gravity and weight helped too.
This edition of BvM Smackdown was almost too close to call. Both the novel and the film adaptation have a lot going for them, making them both equal rivals. Ayoade did a good job of capturing everything Dunthorne did in his debut novel to make it enjoyable and unique although in the end, the novel still came out on top. This should not take away from the film adaptation however, and both are highly recommended.