Despite intentions to stay true to an original source, a director's view will almost undoubtedly change certain elements of the film. This happens in the case of Malcolm X. Spike chose not to tell the story chronologically, as the autobiography mostly does, and this adds to the film in many ways. Beginning with Malcolm Little's birth or childhood could not be as captivating as beginning with a powerful speech by the great orator. When adding in actual footage of the police brutality against Rodney Kind as well as the beautiful opening sequence of the American Flag burning into an X, the audience is almost guaranteed to be watching more closely. A different portrait of Malcolm X is the first the audience actually sees, we see his friend Shorty giving him a conk, and he's quite happy when it "looks white".
[...] Malcolm is shown reading his Bible, trying to convince himself to teach in support of Elijah Muhammad but he is unable to do so. Lee shows Malcolm's crisis of faith, and he must choose between support Elijah Muhammad or the religion itself. Lee cuts the next scene with assassination and funeral clips of Oliver Stone's JFK. Malcolm speaks out against it and says that it is justice and “chickens coming home to roost”. Lee used editing here to specifically show Malcolm's resolve and passion about the words he said, even in the advent of JFK's death. [...]
[...] In showing a more developed relationship with Betty throughout the film, Lee was showing Malcolm the man in this aspect of his life instead of focusing only on Malcolm the Icon. Malcolm remarks in the book that Betty was the correct height and age, and this is shown in the film by Elijah Muhammad's teachings about the “requirements” for a woman, where “choosing a mate”. Soon after, a member of the Nation of Islam, Brother Johnson, is attacked by the police and the events in the film and book are almost the same in what follows. [...]
[...] In the article “Spike Lee: ‘Nation killed Malcolm'” Lee states was forced to face some facts about the man's death couldn't blame the government for the death of Malcolm I had to face the fact that the Nation (of Islam) killed Malcolm.'” 8 It is interesting that he says that because he does show that either the CIA or FBI has bugged his room and has Malcolm state that he is going to stops saying it's the Nation of Islam, because they are not working alone. [...]
[...] A different portrait of Malcolm X is the first the audience actually sees, we see his friend Shorty giving him a conk, and he's quite happy when it “looks white”. Malcolm and Shorty then walk down the street before Malcolm begins to talk about his childhood, which follows the main points of the book almost exactly. Both the text and the film include the Little's house being terrorized when Malcolm's mother was pregnant with him, his father's preaching, the explanation of his mother's views because her mother was raped by a white man, Malcolm's high grades and class-presidency due to him being the “pink poodle” 1 in class, his dreams of being a lawyer getting dashed by his teacher, and his family being torn apart by the state agency's committing his mother. [...]
[...] Malcolm states in his autobiography that he “absolutely rejected my own intelligence. I simply refused to believe.” 5 In both versions Malcolm pays a visit to the women and they tell him that Elijah Muhammad says that Malcolm is the best minister he's ever had, but Elijah also believed that someday Malcolm would eventually turn against him. Ultimately Malcolm speaks to Elijah Muhammad directly and he compares himself to figures of the Bible who commit evil deeds (although Baines is the one who gives this explanation on behalf of Elijah Muhammad in the film) and states he is fulfilling prophecy. [...]
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