Books are often better than the film versions
Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07
Some of life's debates can irritate even the closest of friends. The Dallas Cowboys versus everyone else, whether it's OK to wear white shoes after Labor Day - sometimes these arguments are silly, but other times, people have decided opinions. One such example is how people prefer to hear a story - either in the original book form or in the movie adaptation. A perplexing question: Which is better, the book or the movie? Well, it depends on whom you ask. But as a general rule, folks prefer getting their entertainment in one form or another.
Movies definitely have their appeal, but for those who like to read, the book has hands-down advantages. First, reading the book gives a sense of completion. Movie adaptations typically have to cut plot sections or minimize a character for time or other artistic decisions. The book, though, by its nature, is in its original, entire form. Everything makes sense, and it all ties neatly together. MSN Encarta columnist Martha Brockenbrough said, "So it's true that books often are better than the movies they spawn, if only because they have more time and space for storytelling." Of course, a good movie also will have that sense of completion. Most readers allow a movie some leeway in not having every little minute detail. But when filmmakers leave out huge plot sections, most fans get quite irate because it's not the same story anymore. For instance, the Harry Potter phenomenon has produced three movies. The first two charming films almost tediously explained everything in J.K. Rowling's books. The most recent film, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," took a different approach in that it did not include one of the major plot revelations that appear in the book. (Harry Potter fans know what I mean.) Didn't the producers read the book? It's examples like these that make readers leery of movies, because there are just some things you don't leave out. The second, and probably more powerful, advantage of books is the sense of ownership a reader gets after finishing the story. This feeling appears if you've read the book before or after seeing the movie. It's not that you know all the little tricks or devices in the book but that you feel a connection to it. Movies require observation; books require participation and involvement. These characters aren't 2-D images anymore - they've become real to the reader. The language comes alive, the action seems more immediate and important because it was written down for the reader to interpret, not an actor. This is what a book can do, and a movie will never achieve this kind of escapism simply because you enjoy the fruits of someone else's imagination, not your own. In some ways, it is unfair to compare the two media because they are totally different. As Jim Butler, entertainment writer and former movie reviewer for The Eagle, explains, "I made a conscious effort never to read a book that could be made into a movie ... When you read a book, you form ideas on what the characters look like, etc., and the actor picked for the movie might not fit at all." This is what fans want. It's the whimsy, intensity or other emotional appeal the author provides in a book that readers are looking for in the film. When it's not there, then readers can be disappointed with the movie because the book's biggest attraction is lost. A good piece of entertainment will be good, regardless of whether it is in print or film. But like so many things in life, choosing the book over the movie comes down to personal preference. However, beyond one's personal preference, books are just better. They're better for unwinding after the day, better for the spirit and better for inspiring the imagination.