The Clan of the Cave Bear: Books to Film


Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 4.04.37 PM Let’s face it – the books are almost always better than the movie, aren’t they? Okay, Under the Tuscan Sun might be an exception, but generally speaking, that rule of thumb holds true.

And to prove my point, today we’ll be taking a look at one of the worst book to film adaptations ever: The Clan of the Cave Bear, the first in Jean M. Auel‘s Earth’s Children series.

The sweeping tale of a Cro-Magnon girl left homeless and on the verge of death before being taken in by a Neanderthal ‘clan’ is one of my all time favorites. We follow the journey of young Ayla as she is brought up by Iza, her adoptive clan mother, and Creb, the clan’s respected shaman all the while struggling to fit in with her new family. Through no fault of her own, she makes an enemy of the clan leader’s son, Broud – a more despicable villain you’d be Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 4.07.48 PMhard pressed to find. Broud does everything in his power to turn the Clan against her.

Ayla’s is a story of triumph in the face of extreme tragedy, although that triumph is tempered by a heartrending decision she must face at the end of the book. The Clan of the Cave Bear is a sweeping saga well worth the read, as are the second and third books in the series.

And then came the 1986 movie. Given the prehistoric angle of the story, I have to wonder who thought The Clan of the Cave Bear would possibly translate well on the big screen? I mean, just take a gander at this trailer:

I feel like I can end this post now. That trailer speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Although, I do have to wonder with today’s CGI capabilities and a more sophisticated movie-going audience, perhaps a remake wouldn’t be terrible?

What book to film adaptation disappointed you the most? Which happily surprised you?

7 Responses

  1. Oh, I totally agree! I loved COTCB and when the movie came out, another friend saw it before I had a chance and told me “don’t bother–you’ll be so PISSED” so I dodged that bullet. To be fair though, it might have been difficult to get all the nuances plus the setting right in a movie of that book then. Who knows?

    My favorite reverse, awful book to great movie is The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I slogged my way through that book (all that telling!) twice but it didn’t even compare to the film. I guess for me (because I’m in the minority in thinking the book was horrible) the film told the story without the drag on the pace and painted the richness of the lives of the five families so much better. There was a recent article on GRANTLAND arguing the wisdom of reading or not reading the Song of Ice and Fire series instead of just watching HBO’s Game of Thrones. I think that the different mediums present the story in separate, subtle ways. Which I guess is the point of separate mediums, right?

    Thanks for the review.

    1. Oh, great points, Pamala! I’ll track down that article. I think Lynne makes a great point to, about technology being ready for movies set in certain time periods. I’m very curious what people will think of Ender’s Game, when it comes out!

  2. Oh, I hear you about Ender’s Game. I used to reread a book right before I went to see the movie (Harry Potter!!) and I always left the movie disappointed. NOT going to do that for Ender’s Game and will hope for the best.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised when Hunger Games came out. It was actually pretty good. I thought they were going to completely ruin it.

  4. I adored the book Eragon, and was absolutely sickened by the movie. Horrible, horrible adaptation.. It was painful to watch. I think they spent all the budget on the CG for Saphira and had nothing let over for… well, anything else, really. Like decent screen writers.

    As for well done adaptations, I can’t help but think of Lord of the Rings. It takes the better part of 3 or 4 pages in Return of the King for Eowyn to take out the Black Rider, but in the movie how can you not love her taking off her helmet (cue: long flowing blond hair) and declare: “I am no man!” and stab the wraith? Well played, Peter Jackson, well played!

  5. The books are always better! But some movies turn out to be quit good in the end. For exampel: Lord of the Ring is awesome and the Hunger Games is reallyreally goof and I don’t agree with Lynne, about Harry Potter. It’s a great movie! But Eragon in the other hand was a terrible flop. And I think many movies could be remaked. Eragon, Clan of the Cave Bear and many many other movies! 😀
    PS. Sorry for my poor English

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