Movie Goers Can’t Help but Compare Mr. Mercedes to the Book
When you finish watching a movie based on a book, what’s the first thing you do as you come out of the theatre? You’re blinking to adjust to the light. You may have tears in your eyes, or you’re still laughing. The residual effects of the movie remain as “thought slime” affecting even the way you stumble out of the theatre.
You ask each other, “Did you read the book? How did it compare to the book? Which was better?”
If you haven’t read it, don’t you vow to your friends? “I’ve got to read the book!”
Right? And often I do, and a higher cost than the movie! But who cares?
ATT Mini-Series Mr. Mercedes Hooked Us
Did mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel, Mr. Mercedes, grab your TV viewing attention? My husband and I struggle to find shows we both enjoy watching, and I admit I had my doubts when it started. How can your mind grasp someone deliberately driving into a crowd of already desperate job seekers, who have already been waiting for interviews throughout the night? Because some of the real terrorism we’ve seen on the news, showing the series at this time seemed in pretty bad taste.
However, it was Stephen King, so we made it through the first night, ready to see episode two. By their third episode, we wanted to know what happened. So I bought not just Mr. Mercedes, but the Bill Hodges trilogy.
Comparing Mr. Mercedes the Book
Since I had already faced the objections I had in the movie, I dove into the book with gusto.
If you’ve already seen the movie, or in this case part of the film, you have solid visuals to represent the characters in your mind. Personally, I like that. Some of you do not and would rather picture the character yourself. Which do you prefer?
Differences started to surface as I read the book, but they didn’t disturb the enjoyment of either. We were traveling in the car for 10 hours, so I read parts to my husband as he drove.
Hodges’demeanor, looks, even though he reminds me of an old oak tree with plenty of bumps and scaly skin, his sweet gruffness made me fell in love with Bill Hodges in the movie. If you’ve watched the series, doesn’t he remind you of someone you know and love?
That picture carries back to the book for me. I have to admit that I don’t usually imagine what the person looks like as I read. I read for the sake of the emotions and thought process, and most of the time I don’t see any character.
Bill Hodges may change more in the movie than the book. He is not the drunk in the book that he is in the mini-series.
“When drinking broke up his marriage, he assumed he was an alcoholic. …Only now that he has his forty, alcohol no longer interests him that much. He forced himself to get drunk a few times, just to see if he could still do it, and he could but being drunk turned out to be no better than being sober. Actually, it was a little worse.”
The novel did not feature Ida, Bill Hodges’ neighbor. I rather like his attitude towards her in the movie series. He calls her an admirable woman, in spite of the naked pictures of herself she showed him. She still seems like Charlie Sheen’s mother in the first episode but starts to develop a personality in later episodes.
There was less in the book about the store drama between the manager, the female clerk, and Brady. The book devotes many pages to the letters from Brady. You also know what he thinks about his customers and people in general, but most of them occur outside the store when he visits them at home.
The job opportunity never came up in the book, so he doesn’t have a chance to picture himself slashing all the people in the restaurant and pulling a fire truck from his mother’s side.
The actor, Harry Treadaway, fit the part and portrayed the book as accurately as anyone could have, in my opinion. He is Eddie Haskel incarnate, grown up and big trouble, always nice on the outside, with horrendous thoughts.
The movie makes many changes from the book but they don’t detract from your enjoyment of either the book or the mini-series.
When the Intro Seems Too Long
Maybe you are a screenwriter and know how to inform the viewer subtly that something is going to happen. It seemed to me that the first part of the movie progressed too slowly. Our son got impatient. Yes, watching folks in line is boring unless Sheldon Cooper is in the line.
But the long introduction was necessary for developing the stories of some of the characters in line so that the horrendous act to follow got more empathy.
It is easy to get jaded to visual images when we see bland-faced news anchors reporting horrific acts followed by the weather report then children raising money to help an endangered species, followed by the threat of war with North Korea.
Both the book and the movie took time to engage the viewers’ emotions, with a focus on the young mother, Janice Cray, waiting through the night with her baby for the remote chance of getting a job.
King’s Technique to Keep the Reader Engaged
While you know something is going to happen, or there would not be a movie, King speeds the anticipation in the book. By recording normal conversations between the crowd waiting to apply for jobs he engaged the readers. Then he inserted a shocking prediction.
“Life is discovered on other planets!” shouted one of the young men who had been staring at Janice Cray – this was Keith Frias, whose left arm would shortly be torn from his body.”
Minutes later you read this.
“Hey!” Wayne Welland said, surprised. It was his final word.
The car accelerated directly at the place where the crowd of job seekers was most tightly packed and hemmed in by the DO NOT CROSS tapes.”
In my opinion, the differences won’t impede your enjoyment of both the book and the movie. If you are enjoying streaming the series or watching it live, I warn you that the story of Mr. Mercedes and Bill Hodges does not end until the end of the third book of the trilogy. I bought all three and raced through them during my glorious vacation in Sedona.
If you are an author, you owe it to yourself to read this trilogy if for no other reason than to admire how he can weave tales so expertly that you keep turning the pages
“Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy, Revival, and Doctor Sleep. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.”