‘The Lost City Of Z’ Book Is A Different Beast

Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street

I've always been a sucker for old school adventure movies. The type where an expedition heads off to some exotic land in search of treasure and encounters far more than they bargained for. And while such movies are rare these days, they seem to be on the comeback trail. Kong: Skull Island was a success, there are new Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider movies in the works, and then there's The Lost City of Z, which is based on the book of the same name. But what differences are there between The Lost City of Z movie and book?

Both are based on the life of an actual explorer, Percy Fawcett. Fawcett was a British adventurer who became obsessed with finding the mythical Lost City of Z in the Amazon, and went on several expeditions to try and find it. Then, on one such expedition in 1925, Fawcett and his team disappeared in the jungle — never to be seen again. No one actually knows what happened to Fawcett, but the book by David Grann — which got its start as a 2005 New Yorker article — gives the most-detailed account of his ill-fated expedition. And when it comes to the differences between the movie and the book, the biggest disparity comes down to structure.

The book is a nonfiction account of not only Fawcett's life, but of the aftermath to his disappearance. It attempts to answer the question of what happened to him, while also offering up evidence for the existence of the city that Fawcett died searching for (the book theorizes that the archeological site Kuhikugu, later discovered near where Fawcett had been searching, was the actual City of Z). Because of this, the book doesn't read like a straight up adventure into the jungle, but as an investigation as to what happened to Fawcett and whether or not Kuhikugu is the City of Z — complete with author's own account of physically retracing Fawcett's journey.

The movie, however, is more linear. It's more of a straight biopic than the book, and follows Fawcett along on his quest. One thing it does not do, however, is veer far from the facts. There aren't any extra expeditions in the film that were invented for Hollywood, and much of what occurs happens in the same way as detailed in the book — just often in more dramatic fashion to match the medium.

Like all movies that are based on books, differences are to be expected between the two versions of The Lost City of Z. But the differences have more to do with the structure than the story, as both do their best to try and tell the insane true and tragic tale of Percy Fawcett.