She by H. Rider Haggard
She with Randolph Scott
Leo is told by his uncle that there is a civilization where they have the secret of eternal life and he sets off with his friend Holly on a dangerous journey through unknown territory to find it.
In both the movie and the book Leo’s ancestors have visited this land before and left behind the legend and some clues on how to find it. But in the movie Leo’s uncle sends him off with Holly to find the element of eternal life that they have scientifically proven existed and is sure that Leo will find it. In the book, however, his journey is more motivated by what happened to his ancestors there in the past and much of what they have heard about this place they think is myth and story.
I like Holly’s character better in the book where he follows Leo on what he thinks is a wild goose chase because he loves him like a son instead of going off to find the secret of eternal life for personal reasons. He doesn’t seem too bright in the movie and bumbles about a bit where as in the book he is educated and philosophical.
She Who Must Be Obeyed is much more believable as the great power she is supposed to be in the book. In the movie she has lived a long time and rules the natives but there is not much more to her. She is more extremely bossy than actually powerful. However in the book her age has brought her wisdom and she has terrible power that is close to magic. She is so beautiful it is dangerous to look at her and she can literally strike people dead. You can understand why the natives live in fear of her and why people are powerless to resist her.
Leo is in many ways the same in both. He is out on an adventure, caught up in what has happened in the past, caught in a web that She has created. His actions and reactions are more understandable and excusable in the book where he was so obviously pitted against a power greater than his own. In the book you get the sense that he has lost a fight and is pulled in against his will but in the book it looks more like weakness in his character. His love interest in the movie annoyed me in the movie, given to speeches and the like, but in the book she is more tragic and noble in the way she stands by Leo and stands up to She.
Both have a lot of drama and spectacle. In the interest of making the movie more exciting they have taken out all the discussions between Holly and She about history, philosophy, religion and the general state of things losing some of the depth of the book but understandable for the medium. I definitely come down on the side of the book in this case because the characters are all more dynamic and well rounded, and the story grander but the movie was fun and well worth watching for anyone who likes the classical adventure genre.