Ta-Nehisi Coates laments the possibility of The Great Gatsby being shot in 3-D and explains why this book, of all books, is doomed to failure in film versions. He quotes Hampton Stevens who writes:
The film won’t come close the power of the novel, but not simply because Gatsby is a book, and, as the cliché insists, the Book is Always Better Than The Movie. Film versions of Fitzgerald’s masterwork inevitably fail because of the kind of novel Gatsby is—frankly thin on story, but incredibly thick with introspection, thoughts unspoken, intricately woven metaphor, and long, dazzling descriptions of otherwise mundane things like sunsets, front lawns and angry wives that are only special because of how the narrator describes them.
As in so many of the books I love, I found the plot in Gatsby to almost be beside the point. Whenever I see it translated to cinema, the film-maker inevitably crafts a story of doomed romance between Daisy and Gatsby. It’s obviously true that Gatsby holds some sort of flame for Daisy, but what makes the book run (for me) is the ambiguity of that flame. Does he really love her? Or is she just another possession signaling the climb up? I always felt that last point—the climb up—was much more important than the romance. What I remember about Gatsby is the unread books. His alleged love for Daisy barely registers for me.
Oddly enough, this is probably why I hold the heretical position of slightly preferring the film versions of Gatsby that I’ve seen to the book itself. In the book, the women — Daisy, Jordan, Myrtle — are plot devices, not people. They are described in a few lines and their actions advance the (minimal) plot, but they exist to move the men. They are vulgar, they are liars, they are flighty, they are sad, but the narrator Nick seems unable to identify with them the way he could with Gatsby or even the racist Tom. The prose (which appears in a faint shade of purple to my eyes) is what I tend to skim quickly, in favor of lingering on Jordan and Gatsby, whenever I re-read it. Frankly, I like that the love stories get played up in the films because the women get to speak for themselves.
With all of that said, I’m not particularly invested in a new screen version of Gatsby. And especially not if a gold-hatted, high bouncing lover hovers mere inches from my face, Baz Luhrmann.