The Hunt For Red October Novel vs Film

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When comparing the book and movie, The Hunt For Red October, one can clearly see that the novel is better. There are many different reasons for this, however, three main reasons seem to stand out. The lack of Ramius’ character development in the movie, changes in the story line (lack of the British), and, finally, the descriptive details of the novel and film.

The first area that we can see the novel being better is in that of Ramius’ character development. In the novel, we see Marko Ramius’ character development very clearly. We are shown who and what he is about. The novel shows Marko’s role in the Soviet Navy from when he is only a mere child, to the present. We are shown how he was raised and what his ideals are. The most important aspect we see of Ramius in the novel is his motive for taking the Red October and defecting. The preventable death of his wife, Natalia, holds all the keys to his anger with the Soviet Union.

“The life of Natalia Bogdanova Ramius had been lost at the hands of a surgeon who had been drinking while on call – a court-martial offense in the Soviet Navy – but Marko could not have the doctor punished … The doctor could not be made to pay, the pharmaceutical workers could not be made to pay – the thought echoed back and forth across his mind, feeding the fury until he decided that the State would be made to pay.” (Pg. 41)

The death of Natalia, is unacceptable to Ramius. Through excellent character development we are shown this. In the movie representation of this novel, we do not see such an in-depth view of Marko Ramius.

The film adaptation of Ramius is something that could use a great deal of work. In the movie, we are not given even the slightest bit of background information on Marko Ramius. We are just shown the character as he exists in the present day. Also, the motive for taking the Red October is completely overlooked. In the movie, we only have mention of Natalia’s death. It is one sentence, and then the film moves on. From that one line, the viewer is not able to pick up on that being his motive. It seems as though from the beginning of the film we are shown Ramius as being a cruel character. Since we do not have the background knowledge of him, we cannot sympathize with him. Also the brutal murder of the submarines Political Officer at the hand of Ramius does not lead one to feel fondly of him. We are just merely shown him killed, rather then having the knowledge of why.

Another area in which we see the novel’s superiority over the film, is in the changes made to the story line. One major aspect that was overlooked in the film was the absence of any British involvement whatsoever. In the novel, however, this aspect of the British plays a key role, for half of the Allies in the Atlantic are from the British fleet. In the novel, Jack Ryan finds himself on a number of British ships, the HMS Invincible being one of them. The HMS Invincible, a British carrier, is not present in the movie, yet it is key because this is where the messages to the Red October are sent.

The role of the British in the novel is key, and demonstrates how allies are used in wartime like situations. Without them, we are left feeling as though the United States is always ready and can never be caught off guard.

In the movie portrayal, we have no awareness of British involvement. The only time the British are even mentioned is to the source of the photos of the Red October. It is also the residence of Jack Ryan. Also in the movie, the messages to the Red October are sent from the USS Dallas, a submarine, in which Ryan boards. In the novel, this never takes place. In simplifying the story for movie adaptation, all the British simply become Americans.

Finally, one last area in which the novel demonstrates precedence over the film is in the details of the story itself. In the novel, everything is highly detailed, and there is not one moment in which the reader is wondering what is going on. Every single character is described in great detail, many of them being given a background history. Also, since Tom Clancy was able to add more detail to the novel (as it can be as long as he wants), the reader gets a better sense of exactly what is going on. They are never trying to second-guess and believe one thing means another.

“The enlisted men filed back to their duty stations, looking at one another. Their officers had just checked the “hot” compartments with radiation instrument. The medical corpsman had looked pale a while earlier and refused to say anything. More then one engine attendant fingered his radiation badge and checked his wristwatch so see how long it would be before he went off duty.” (Pg. 158)

In that specific example the reader is given great detail of exactly what is going on. The simplicity of just explaining that the men are fingering their badges and checking their watches adds to the unsettlement that they are feeling. More often then not, a movie will neglect to add in subtle details such as this.

In the film version of this great story, the director, although he did a good job, forgot to add in subtle detail. There was basically no background on the characters, including the main ones. This leaves the viewer with a feeling of disappointment, as you are left feeling cheated. The very basic character details, as well as plot, seem to leave the audience hanging. It needed more to it, and yet got by on the bear minimum. Although it was fairly true to the novel, it still needed that little extra something.

When comparing the novel and film adaptation of The Hunt For Red October, one can clearly see why the novel is of higher standing. This is displayed through the lack of Marko Ramius’ character development, in the film, to the changes in the story (lack of British in film), and finally the minimal details presented by the film. Someone who has read the book, prior to viewing the film, will clearly feel disappointed with the poor representation of this classic novel.

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