This is one movie that is better than the book, right? Wrong.

Nope, not this one.

The Bone Collector is a good book by Jeffrey Deaver—not his best by a long shot, but pretty good—and it’s a disappointing movie even though it stars Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, and Queen Latifah. I read the book some years ago, and I watched the movie yesterday. The book, by the way, is Deaver’s first (of many) Lincoln Rhyme stories.

So what’s wrong with the movie? It’s certainly not the acting, which is just fine. The visuals are also convincing—a bit too dark, in the literal sense, but they’re a good match with what I visualized from the book. The usual issue with movie adaptations of books occurs here: no interior monologues, therefore no direct access to Rhyme’s thoughts, especially how he copes with being a quadriplegic. But the biggest problem is the implausibility of events in the plot. This raises an interesting question: why is it that some events can seem totally implausible in a movie where they don’t in a book?

My hypothesis is that it’s because “seeing is believing”: since we can see what happens in a movie, it must automatically be real. In some cases—space travel or wars in space—we don’t expect reality, but in the gritty streets and sewers of Manhattan we certainly do. When reading a book, however, we can craft our own reality in our minds, so we unconsciously give the creators more latitude.

I should mention two other discrepancies between the book and the movie, discrepancies that many have commented on. The minor one is that Rhyme’s home health aide or caregiver—whatever title you prefer—is a white male in the book but a black female in the movie. The more significant one is that Rhyme himself has changed from a white male to a black male. That could have made a big difference in terms of plot points, such as how Rhyme’s fellow cops treat him, but neither change makes the slightest difference in the movie. That’s probably all for the best.

Finally don’t watch The Bone Collector if you’re prone to nightmares. Enough said.

Categories: Books, Movies & (occasionally) TV