“The book is ALWAYS better than the movie.” Ever been told this phrase before? I know I have multiple times. There are various reasons why people have stayed true to this statement. However, I have come to the realization that there are reasons why people have continued to feel this way. In all honesty, I have become tired of hearing the same backlash on some of the films that have been based on books. Sure, not all books that become movies are great films. But, there are plenty of films that were either just as good if not better than their book counterpart ie: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion and I’d like to share with you my thoughts and reasons why most people agree that the book is usually better than the movie. Here are three BIG reasons that should help clear up this world-wide speculation:
1. The readers have already painted a picture in their head.
A beautiful pasture with overflowing rivers, flowers growing all over the fields, a towering mountain high in the distance, an awe-inspiring rainbow cast down through the clouds, and birds fluttering through the air. Got the picture? Ok, well what happens when the director changes the setting or tone of the story and decides to go in a different direction?
For example, a lifeless meadow with thorns (instead of flowers), dead animals (instead of birds), and a thunderstorm (instead of a beautiful rainbow) creates the setting of the story. Instead of a mountain, how about a volcano gushing lava out of the top of its head? See what I mean? Once you have read the story, you already have this picture perfect setting stuck inside of your brain. But when you go to see the movie in the theater, you are disappointed because it’s not exactly how you pictured the setting to be.
The same thing goes for the characters. Whoever the main character(s) is/are in the book, you immediately try your best to relate to them and picture how they look and act like in your cranium. Is the character strong, menacing, smart, dumb, or caring? Is the action in the movie what you expected from the story? Were the famous lines stated by the characters used in the film? All these things add up the readers perspective. However, when they watch the film, they are usually for the most part disappointed because it wasn’t EXACTLY how they read or pictured it from the story.
2. The directors are forced to ‘cut down’ material from the story.
How many pages is the length of an average novel?: 200 to maybe 500 pages long? That’s probably pretty close. How much time can it take to read a novel that lengthy? A few days maybe? A week perhaps? Now ask any director to take all of those pages with all the dialogue and cram it into one movie. How long could that film possibly be? I guarantee it would become at least a ten hour film. That is one heck of a movie!
My main point here is that the director is forced to take out some of the “unnecessary” material he/she feels is not important for HIS/HER film. The director will also condense many scenes that appear long in the story but will be much shorter in the film. Whatever scenes he/she feels are important from the story will take place in the film in some way shape or form. However, there may be scenes from the story that were not chosen and were left out for various reasons. This will most likely lead to plenty of fan criticism who have previously read the book before going to see the movie.
A prime example of this is the book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Even though I have not read any of the Harry Potter stories, I have seen every one of the movies. I have to say that I enjoyed all of them. However, true Potter fanatics know what I’m talking about when I’m referencing The Half-Blood Prince. I won’t go into details, but from what I hear, there were MAJOR changes from the book to the movie. There are also many key details that were left out in the film. So of course if you’ve read the book PRIOR to watching the movie, you will be let down because director David Yates decided to change or tweak elements from the story to fit his style of direction. That’s not to say the people who read the book hated the movie, but rather they were disappointed by the execution of the story.
3. No one can truly understand the tone, setting and characters from the story better than the author themselves.
It should go without saying this, but without the writer to offer his/her input in the creation of the film, the person who may be most disappointed is the author themselves. A good example of this is Steven King who wrote one of his most famous and well-known novels titled The Shining. A few years after the books release in January of 1977, Stanley Kubrick decided to direct arguably one of his greatest films in the year 1980. That film would be titled Stanley Kubrick’s: The Shining.
This film in my opinion is one of the greatest horror/psychological thrillers ever made. Jack Nicolson kills it as this depressed and deranged man who becomes succumbed to the spirits and ghosts that live at the Overlook Hotel. Shelley Duvall also plays a tremendous role as the caring and loving mother who must put up with a selfish husband who is there primarily to continue his writing in peace without any distractions. Finally, there’s the little boy Danny who enjoys gulping down a bottle of “redrum” every so often (for those of you who have seen this film, you know EXACTLY what I’m referring to).
The film has become a cult-classic over the years and is constantly referred to as the film that began Nicolson’s stardom to fame. However, one person who blatantly condemns the film from beginning to end is non-other than Steven King himself. In a recent interview back in October of this year, King continued to give his strong stance of opposing the film since its initial release on May 23, 1980. King was interview by Rolling Stone and uttered a few harsh words towards Kubrick’s interpretation of his beloved novel saying:
“I don’t get it. But there are a lot of things that I don’t get. But obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t,” he tells Rollingstone. “The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.” And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.”
Wow those are some cruel words from one of the best writer’s of our generation. As you just read, King highly dislikes the film because it did not quite fit the interpretation that he had in mind when he wrote the story. Even authors can sometimes become upset when their precious tales are misrepresented. Steven King can obviously attest to this.
So there you have it! These are three BIG reasons why the general audience may prefer the novel over the film. If you are a film fanatic like myself, let me give you some helpful advice when reviewing a movie that is based on a book; “Watch the film first.” It is ok if you decide to read the book first, just understand that it will NOT have the same impact on you unless you have already seen the film.
Keep in mind that it is the director’s interpretation throughout the movie NOT the authors. Even if the author was allowed to give some input to the film (ie: J.K. Rowling) it will always come down to the directors choice of the script. The same thing goes when you read the story. Understandably so, you’re rendition of a story will be completely different than someone else who read the same book. This is why any argument is difficult when trying to compare the movie to the book. It makes a BIG difference if the book had been read prior to watching the film or vice versa.
So what do YOU think? Do you usually enjoy the book over the movie? Which do you choose to do first: watch the movie or read the book? Comment below and share your thoughts!