Why is the Book (More or Less) Better Than the Movie?
What’s one of the main comments you tend to hear when you’re leaving the movie theater after watching the latest book adaption to film? It's that however great the movie was; the book was better, right? I’m guilty of saying that myself, because usually the book is better. You can ask anyone that knows me how upset the movie Queen of the Damned still makes me. I remember the first time I read it and how epic it played throughout my imagination. To have it play-out so differently on the big screen was actually a tiny bit soul crushing for me. Not taking anything away from Aaliyah’s (Akasha) bar scene, it's one of the best scenes of the whole movie.
However if Hollywood is reading this, I wouldn’t be against a remake of the movie, pretty please!
I've kind of gotten off topic, haven’t I? What I want to review today is the reasons why it’s so hard to make movies as good as the book. Some would blame Hollywood solely for this issue, but I think it’s an unavoidable issue in some regards yet fixable in others. So what is it that causes us to flock to the written versions of a story more so than it’s acted-out counterpart?
One of the biggest offenses made in the eyes’ of the viewers/readers is that the director missed the mark on how the book is interpreted. It should be easy enough with the screenplay coming from writing gold and all, and in most respects the movie should make itself with having such a strong foundation. However let’s flip the coin, shall we? How could one person, the director, interpret a book convincingly for every person that has read it? Well, it's simple: they can’t. Reading a book is a completely personal journey for the person who’s reading it. There’s no way for the director to know what scenes we would like the movie to be centered on and the ones we wish to take a backseat. They only have their way of perception to base their vision on and sometimes that’s enough, other times it’s not.
Another real issue is time constraints. Movies are getting longer than they used to be in the past, but it’s still difficult to cohesively place every element found in a novel on screen with the time allotted. So shortcuts are used and that usually mean a scene or two (if not more) are going to end up on the cutting room floor. Later, the avid bookworm mentally wags their finger at the movie for missing vital story building moments.
The time constraints could also be the main culprit of the movie possibly getting lost in translation. With cutting scenes and adding others to get the story across to the audience, there is a real chance of changing the writer’s vision for their story altogether. Character’s strengths and weaknesses get filtered differently while smaller events are cut that may have fleshed out the story and or characters, leaving the avid reader to feel like the movie never comes to a satisfying conclusion. Of course, every movie based on a book can’t be 4+ hours long, most people wouldn’t like that option either.
Furthermore the script has the added issue of being limited to what we can see. Depending on the writer’s style of storytelling, the reader has the advantage of being in the character’s head. While movies have to find other ways of conveying these thoughts and it’s not always executed effectively.
However, we will continue going to the movies and watch our beloved stories transformed on screen, always keeping the hope that they get it right. And there will be the lucky ones that do, only making the moment the film lives in the sun even that more exceptional. I for one will never give up hope as movies and books hold a special place in my heart. Art comes in many forms to be enjoyed, loved, learned and most definitely criticized. I would like to take a moment to thank all the artists in the world that allow us to interact with their work, the good, the bad and the ugly. Without it we would be less than what we are with it.
Do you think the book is usually better than the movie? And if so, can you think of any exceptions to the rule?