The book was so much better than the film. This is a statement I have read, heard and said more times then I can count at this point. It’s a statement that everyone that has ever read a book that was adapted will agree with but today I want to stand up and defend films, allow them a chance and explain why it’s unfair to compare the two different forms of entertainment. Stephen King once said ‘Books and movies are like apples and oranges, they’re both fruit but taste completely different’ and I think that’s a statement we should stand by.
The most obvious fit for ‘The book was way better’ is the Harry Potter series, examples such as ‘“Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” He asked calmly.’ and the mess that was the Quidditch world cup. Now I’ll admit I really can’t defend the whole Calmly debacle but I do want to talk about the quidditch world cup in The Goblet of Fire. Quidditch in the Harry Potter books was one of my favourite bits, it was so full of excitement and normally held so much of the story but I can understand why these scenes in the films were often played down and sometimes, such as the world cup, are totally ignored. In the books the world cup games last around 2-3 chapters, that would take up a large chunk of the running time along with other restrictions such as money. The special effects team would have a lot of work to do to recreate the scene how J K Rowling imagined it.
And this takes us nicely onto my next point. Authors are only limited by their imagination, they can do anything to their worlds and they don’t ever have to worry about anything other than making sure their readers have that image in their heads too. But with movies they have the restrictions of what can be achieved using CGI and practical effects. And this isn’t just world building, this is also to do with actors. To once again use Harry Potter as an example it’s an almost constant that Harry’s eyes are compared to his mother’s eyes, both their eyes being described as emerald green, but Daniel Radcliffe was unable to wear the contacts and it was something that was very distracting for fans.
Also let’s go back to running time and why this can often effect movies. Books can often take you hours to read and have a lot of detail, taking time to explain how characters feel, think and their history. Where as a movie doesn’t have that freedom, unless they have a narature it’s hard for them to show internal monologue. Films need to normally keep things under 3 hours and they need to appeal to a wider audience rather than just the book’s fans, this means that film makes often prioritize the bit action scenes then the scenes that allow character building. An example of this is the first Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins, early in the book there’s a scene where one of the main characters, Haymitch Abernathy, stumbles onto a stage and falls over. This allows us to see how unstable the man is, later finding out his drinking problem comes from what he went through as a teenager. But this whole scene is removed from the film, we don’t meet this character till later in the movie, and I think this is a shame as it misses out some character building.
Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t me saying that I agree with the books are better statement, I still want to defend the movies but I want to defend it as a different experience. For one thing movies are a much more social event, they’re a time for friends to get together and have a good time, go for dinner after and talk about what they just watched. It’s also so much more accessible, the shorter running time allowing people who struggle to get through a whole book to enjoy the story still. I recently read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and loved the book but knew my mum would never get through the book. I wanted to enjoy the story with her so we sat down to watch the movie and it allowed us to bond over this experience. Now this is something special we both share.
I think we need to remember that books and films are not comparable, they are two very different forms of entertainment and can be enjoyed as stand alone products.
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