Monday, 23 October 2017

The Princess Bride: Book vs. Movie

I don't remember when I first saw The Princess Bride movie, but I remember loving it and it feels like I've loved it forever. I actually didn't realise it was a book until years after I'd first seen it, and it's one of those ones I've been meaning to read for such a long time but I kept putting it off because I was afraid it would be a disappointment in comparison to the movie.

When I was contact about doing a post for the 30th anniversary of the movie, I figured now was the time to finally read it and stop putting it off.

If you don't know what The Princess is about, here's a  summary:
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Or, you could just watch the trailer:


So... Let's start with the easy part, shall we? The movie:

I don't have adequate words to fully describe my love for this movie. It's one of those movies that just makes me smile so much. The cast is fantastic, and it manages to simultaneously mock and celebrate fairytale tropes, getting the balance of each just right.


It's funny, it's fun, it's sweet. It's a love story, a fairytale, an adventure story, a pirate story, a revenge story -- basically, it's ALL OF THE THINGS. And it works as each thing individually but also as a perfect combination of all of them.


And the side characters? I adore the side characters so much. Few side characters win me over quite so thoroughly as Inigo and Fezzik did.


I think what I like most is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, and I loved that. You can accuse it of being ridiculous or cheesy or unrealistic, but it's supposed to be, it is all of those things and it's knowingly so. For some reason that makes it easy to not only forgive, but enjoy, things that would annoy me in other movies.



And it's timeless. Even the technical side of it...the special effects are comically dated now, but that actually really works in the movies favour rather than against it (see: the trailer for R.O.U.S's scene). And I think that's enough gushing specifically about the movie now.


The 30th anniversary edition DVD? It includes a bunch of extras that I really enjoyed. I particularly loved the behind the scenes documentary that went over their casting decisions and things (all of the Andre stuff made my heart hurt).

Now... The book:

(Answer: Yes. Yes it is. But that's not all it is.)


My thoughts on the book are a little bit more complex than my adoration of the movie. I will start off by saying this though: I did love it.

What I didn't like, at times, was the narration. 

Basically, in the book, the author has written a fictionalised version of himself into the story...and The Princess Bride is supposed to be a book by S. Morgenstern that he loved as a child and wrote an abridgement of. Of course, in reality, S. Morgenstern doesn't exist and Goldman is the author of the entire thing, and the version of himself in the book isn't the real version.

It's an interesting narrative style for sure, but where it went wrong for me was that Fictional-Goldman was really, really hard to like. 

The Fictional-Goldman is cynical and bitter. He would frequently body shame fat people (including his fictional son -- although in reality, he has daughters) and there's a couple of racist remarks, homophobia and a load of misogyny on his part. Fictional-Goldman seemed like a crappy human, is what I'm getting at (I'm sure Real-Goldman is a lovely dude though, because it seemed like he was deliberately writing his fictional self as unlikeable).

So. Having to read through his perspective and having him chime in on the story from time to time irritated me (his mid-story commentary wasn't all bad though, I'll admit, but some of it wasn't necessary).

But the actual Princess Bride bit? I still loved that part. Really, really loved that. And I went into it not expecting to gain much more from the book than I got from the movie, but I was proven wrong. 

We get more backstory on how Buttercup ended up engaged to Prince Humperdink, more info on Humperdink himself and the country. And we get more of Inigo and Fezzik too, more backstory, more scenes and I loved all of that.

So. Book vs. Movie: which is better?

Well...


I genuinely loved both. I think the execution of the narrative style worked better in the movie than the book, but the book also added a bit more depth to the story and characters that the movie couldn't manage to do given time and budget constraints.

I think that the movie is still my favourite, if for no other reason than I loved it first and it was so perfectly cast.

Also, as a side note on the book: personally, I adore the cover of this edition, but if you're going to buy a copy I'd recommend getting this one instead because it includes about 80 pages of extra content (sort of an epilogue/snippets of a would-be sequel called Buttercup's Baby).

Ratings:
Movie: 5/5 stars
Book: 4/5 stars (it really did just lose points due to my intense dislike of the narrator in the beginning of the story)

Later.

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