October 5, 2017 – I fondly remember the days when major movie releases would have tie-in novels. They helped make the film, its logos, its marketing campaign, ubiquitous in bookstores and supermarket racks. That didn’t register as obnoxious branding to me then (it may now). If nothing else, they encouraged reading, especially for the kids who claimed they didn’t like to do it. The tough knucklehead rednecks that would pick on me for reading Narnia in 6th grade could be seen with the paperback novelizations of horror and action movies when we had those MS book pledge drives.
Peeking in between their covers could give you an entirely new twist on the film’s story. My best friend reported that the novelization of The Abyss went in-depth into the alien beings motivations. Leafing through the Return of the Jedi paperback revealed that Princess Leia used The Force to strangle Jabba to death. A glance through the Halloween novel adaptations – perhaps the one for Halloween II – depicted a weird Druid ceremony that made Michael Myers what he is.
The Halloween series paperbacks sell for exorbitant amounts of money on Amazon. That damn knucklehead kid probably has a fortune packed away in his mom’s basement, if he didn’t toss his books.
Sometimes, a novelization would go off movie script, so that they clearly couldn’t be accepted as canon in the film’s universe. The end of the X2: X-Men United book had Jean Grey alive and with stars in her eyes at the end (but, this was a unique feedback loop; X-Men was based off of comic books and the man who wrote the novelization, Chris Claremont, wrote the most legendary of the X-Men comics for well over a decade.)
Some movie tie-in novels went down ridiculously trippy experimental paths, probably because they could? If they’re merely little billboards to advertise the movie, who cares what’s between the cover? I could swear – and this needs serious corroboration – that the novel for Jaws 2 had a segment from the point of view of a dolphin! And then Jaws 4, that abominable cinematic disaster, had a book tie-in that tried to bring in voodoo to explain that shark’s connection to certain characters. Absurd.
Five or six years ago I picked up the novelization of The Omen, written by the film’s screenwriter David Seltzer. You can find some fascinating distinctions from the film. It details the Satanic cult background of Father Tassone (Father Brennan in the film), which also included some oddly common contemporary political terrorism activities designed to foment an Armageddon, essentially framing a right-wing Cold War world view in the context of God v Satan. Mrs. Baylock, the devilish nanny so well portrayed by Billie Whitelaw in the film, is also given some extra background – we learn what her last name means, and that the toilet paper in her bathroom doesn’t need to be replaced. Why the latter detail was necessary I can’t be sure, and I really don’t need to know.
Will movie novelizations ever grace bookshelves again?
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