The Right Stuff
Different mediums of storytelling have different capabilities when it comes to delivering the message to the intended audience. Books are good at providing details with description while films are proficient at providing the visual dimension of a story. Although films provide entertainment memories because of the visual dimension, they fail to provide details that a person will not mention in usual conversations. On the other hand, a book will provide details that are enough to create visual images in ones mind, evoking a lot of imagination. In telling the story about test pilots involved in high-speed aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base and astronauts selected for Project Mercury that was United States first manned spaceflight, the book by Wolfe, The Right Stuff, delivers the story better than its adapted film with the same name. The film is a shortened version of the detail while the book provides details as well as factual content without any errors.
For the overall message intended by the author, the book does a better job than the film did. Although the film provided a visual element that is not present in the book, it fails to provide the same details compared to the book. The intended purpose of the author was telling the story of the test pilots and their wives. The wives knew that their husbands had a little chance of coming back home because of the nature of their work. One of the places that the film fails to provide good storytelling is at the start. While the book opens by explaining calls from wives of other pilots to Jane, the film starts with scenes from an accident then shows an elderly man coming to break the news to a woman standing in her front door holding a child. Clearly, the film did not provide details of what happened to the pilots’ wives before the news was finally broken to them. This detail from the book shows the lives these women and men led. From the book, the reader is made aware of the women’s fear for the loss of their husbands.
Another important point to note is that the film leaves out some of the content from the book since it would be difficult to show all the details. The book contains 448 pages telling one story while the film only goes for about three hours. The book provides vast descriptions absent in the film. A perfect example is during the crash. At this time, Conrad Pete is handed the responsibility to explore the crash site. Several details are explained such as the pilot head missing from his body only to be seen on a tree together with his helmet. The film does not show this part. Rather, only the crash is shown. With such details missing from the film, it becomes less effective in showing the risks that the test pilots took, which made their wives worry so much.
The film also makes some factual errors such as in the first scene where a plane crashes. The plane crashing was a Bell X-1, which had no record of crashing prior to the speed record-breaking flight by Chuck Yaeger. There were only three built with the first being the one used by Yaeger to break the record. With the book, all the details, including the planes that were used, are told. Further, the book provides a better explanation than the film does. Although the film uses a narrator at the start, the book does better at explaining. Another example of factual error in the film is suggesting that Yaeger broke the sound barrier on the first flight in the Bell X-1. The truth was that it took him several flights until he could exceed the sound barrier. With such incomplete facts, the story told in the film is not correct, considering some important details that complete the account are not told. From this scene, one can think that the test pilots were new considering majority were young.
In the film, one has to derive their meaning while the book provides an explanation for everything. For instance, in the tests and training, the book provides explanations for the medical examinations while the film leaves this to the viewer’s interpretation. This leaves the viewer with many unanswered questions since no explanation is provided. On the other hand, the detailed explanation provided in the book will tell the reader everything they need to know to understand the story whereas the film leaves this to the viewer’s conclusions. At the start, the movie shows pilots flying planes. However, the book explains that they are testing the small plane with an aim of breaking the sound barrier, something never accomplished before. Again, the details provide an explanation to the events in the book, giving them meaning while the film leaves the viewers to make a guess of their own. This way, the film is not effective in delivering the intended message.
When reading the book one creates their imagination from the description of characters, objects and events. On the other hand, the film provides images for the viewer, leaving little room for imagination. However, this is not to say that the book did not provide any images. In fact, the book provides better images through creating imagination in the reader’s mind. For instance, when providing the description of a place, the book will concentrate on each of the objects found there including trees while the film will provide an overall image of the scene. With extra description in the book, the reader considers the scenes with deeper curiosity as well as keenness to details. For instance, the film shows the scenes such as the explosion with an overall view. Therefore, one will only look at the broad picture without considering the details of the scene, such as broken tree branches.
On the other hand, the book will explain the details, such as the trees around, which allow the reader to notice some details unidentifiable in the film. For instance, one would not give much regard to a tree or plant in the film compared to when the author provides an explanation for it. This happens to explain the details of the first accident mentioned in the book. Here, the author describes the trees, how the sun shines down on the trees, as well as how this light penetrated the trees through a thousand places to create an image. With such details, every intended meaning is explained and delivered to the reader. One can imagine how the trees would look like as well as how the light penetrated through to reach the swampy ground. On the other hand, the film leaves out such details that a reader can associate with to understand the overall message intended by the author.
Finally, the film is an imagination of another person. Watching a film adapted from a book is the same as watching the imagination of another person about the story. Although brilliantly thought out and executed, it denies one of their imagination. With this film, the story is not accurate because of errors. This makes the story different. One of the examples is the detailed explanation provided in the book concerning the accident site. One would expect to see the Conrad character going down a swamp covered with tall trees blocking much of the light in search of the crashed plane. Additionally, one would expect to see a disease in the tree where sap is coming out, only to realize it was the head of a person cut off from the body in the crash. Not all this is provided in the film. The film provides the unique imagination of the film director.
In conclusion, it is clear that the book tells the story better than the film does because of its ability to provide details that a film cannot. Although the film provided very good images and action, it missed details and provided some incorrect information. It was not able to cover the story as the book did. For instance, it would have been hard for the film to tell about the pilots who had died before Jennings. However, by mentioning that the wives had been calling saying that something had happened and mentioning how death was communicated, showed that such accidents were common. The film was not able to achieve this. Therefore, the details used in the book made it better at telling the story.