The Children of Men by P.D. James

As a general rule, books are better than the movies they’re based on. Because books don’t have budget or time constraints, it’s often hard for screenplay writers to get all the scenes, ideas, and characters from a book to the big screen. Though I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books, I hear fans are usually disappointed with the movies because so much was left out. On the other hand most people were happy with the way The Lord of the Rings movies turned out. There have been a handful of times where I liked the movie more than the book. K-Pax was an awful, uninspiring book but a decent movie. Contact was a great movie but a very long and dull book.

I bring this up because I just finished reading The Children of Men and find myself in unchartered territory. I really liked the movie (read my review here) and the book. The problem is the book and movie are VERY different from each other. The only thing the book and movie have in common is that mankind is unable to have children until, miraculously, one woman becomes pregnant, and the main character is a guy named Theo who tries to bring the woman to a safe place where she can give birth.

The similarities stop there. Characters that appear in the movie are nowhere in the book. And where some characters do overlap, their relationship they have with Theo is very different. The book doesn’t contain any of the politics or violence that is found in the movie. Instead there’s a strong but subtle spiritual element to the book. The movie is much faster paced and in some ways more entertaining. The book, though slower, I think depicts a more realistic picture of what mankind would be like if people stopped having children. 

Even though the book and the movie The Children of Men are very different, they’re both done extremely well. This was the first book I’ve read by P.D. James and thought she had a beautiful but straightforward writing style. Alfonso Caron is a great director (he did the best Harry Potter movie to date) and did an excellent job of depicting his view of a hopeless world.

I can’t think of another book or movie that’s based off the book that were so different yet so enjoyable. So when it comes to The Children of Men, watch the movie or see the book or read the book then watch the movie. It doesn’t matter. They’re both enjoyable. Just be forewarned that the stories are very different from each other.

(And for those who are unfamiliar with the works of P.D. James, you’ll find her book in the mystery section of the bookstore. Though The Children of Men doesn’t fit into that category, the rest of her books are mystery novels.)

The Children of Men by P.D. James