Reflecting on books and movies - Nov 10th



Suppose you have been invited by a specialized magazine to write and publish a text for comparison and/or contrast. You are given 2 choices: a) write a comparison and/or contrast text on two books; or b) write a comparison and/or contrast text on a book and its version for a movie.


For this activity, you must choose one of the two. Instructions are below.


a) Compare 2 books. You may write one paragraph showing the similarities and one paragraph showing the differences of two books chosen by you. You may use the model below, but write only 2 paragraphs total, one with similarities and one with differences. You may look at here and here.



a) Compare 1 book and its version of a movie. You may use the excerpt below (taken from here) or any other as an example. It is about the book “Starship Troopers”.


The book itself is written in the genre of military science fiction on behalf of the main character: Juan “Johnny” Rico. A regular teenager from Buenos Aires, he decides to enter the ranks of the army in order to earn his right to vote and become a citizen. In the world Heinlein describes, the population of Earth (or Terra, as it is named in the book) lives in a controlled democracy, a federation ruled by the military elite. The society is prosperous, even though not everyone can enjoy the full scale of civic rights. Citizenship and the rights it grants are extremely valuable, and thus come with great responsibility. One must work hard to prove one can bear it. It does not mean that those without citizenship are in any way inferior: on the contrary, the society is described as rationally organized, and not everyone wants to be a citizen, as even without this legality, life is good. Anyways, Rico decides he wants these rights, he is ready for hardships, so he joins the Mobile Infantry. While he is serving in the army, humanity is attacked by a race of Arachnids, or Bugs, as they are referred to in the book. And so, Rico enters the war.

The storyline of the book mostly revolves around Rico’s time in Camp Arthur Currie: a place where all the rookies have to undergo severe training, physical and moral, to become soldiers. Later, when Rico is already a trooper and has some experience, he starts studying to become an officer–the true elite of the army. Rico’s studying, him gaining experience, becoming able to see deeper into the nature of the society he lives in or the war the human race is engaged in–this is the true story, the true conflict of “Starship Troopers.” In this regard, this book is a coming-of-age novel, which shows a long and curvy road a teenager hothead has to walk before he or she can become a true member of society. Very similar to the “Catcher in the Rye,” “Starship Troopers” focuses on one personality placed into a social context. The war, military losses, the Federation (which is actually a fascist state) and its propaganda: all this serves only as a background for Rico’s growth.

Unlike the novel, the movie focuses around the war itself. Filmed by Paul Verhoeven in 1997, it is a masterpiece of its own. It does share similarities with the book, and the overall storyline is generally the same. There are, however, several crucial discrepancies. They do not make the movie worse than the book: in fact, both of them are great, but each in its own way. Verhoeven’s movie focuses mostly on the context in which Rico and his closest friends live. The movie is full of cheesy militaristic propaganda praising the Terran Federation and denouncing the Bugs. These advertisements are a pleasure to watch on their own; if you remember Verhoeven’s “RoboCop” (1987), you can imagine how it looks and feels. At the same time, they do a great job describing the society of the future, conveying its spirit–even though it is not depicted in the movie as detailed as in the novel. However, the emphasis of the film is on the war against the Bugs. Combat, special effects, animatronic dolls, decorations–all this looks good and feels good. However, this is not a movie about Rico’s coming-of-age: it is mostly about him already being a true citizen, a hero, a role model. Johnny’s doubts, fears, thoughts, failures, and insights are left somewhere behind the scenes: in the movie, he has already found all the answers he needed—and this is probably the biggest difference between the book and the movie.