Jo Talks Books: On Why The Book Will Always Be Better Than The Movie

Hey everyone! For today’s topic, I am talking about the widely accepted idea in the book community that the book is always better than the movie (one which I wholeheartedly agree with, by the way) and why that is. Now, I’m not going to say that every book to movie adaptation is terrible, because it’s not, but it’s definitely true that something is “lost in translation” as it were, when a book is made into a movie. The thing about books is that they are so subjective, which is one of the things that I love about them actually, no one will ever read the same book in the same way. As readers we all have different ideas in our heads about what the world and characters in our favourite books look like and whilst that is an amazing and wonderful thing, it makes the translation from book to film pretty difficult because there is no way of pleasing every single reader. Your vision of what a character looks like, will probably not be the same as your friend’s, the same as it will be different from the filmmakers’ version of what a character looks like. Filmmakers have to choose the actor/actress who acts the part the best and this may not necessarily fit with the description given in the book or the picture that you have in your head (that is not to say that whitewashing in the film industry is not an issue, it is) and so it’s very likely that the actor/actress playing the role will not look exactly as you expect them to. This isn’t always a bad thing though, I mean think Emma Watson, she was way prettier than the Hermione Rowling wrote about in the Harry Potter books, but I think most everyone will agree that she was perfect for that role. For me, it’s always more important that the actor/actress plays the part well than that they look perfect. In a perfect world, the actors and actresses who played our favourite book characters on film would look exactly like the characters are described in the book, but it’s not a perfect world.

Most writers do not have a say in the script for a film based on their book (there are some exceptions, when the writer writes the screenplay for instance but for the most part this is true) and just as we as readers probably have different interpretations of the events, characters and settings in a book from the author, the filmmakers will have a different interpretation. After all that’s what films based on books are, the filmmakers’ interpretation of events.

There is also the obvious reason why books are always better than their movie adaptations and that is timing. Whilst we book lovers would happily sit through a six or more hour spectacle that involved every solitary detail from the books we love, movies are for everyone and not everyone will want to sit through a movie that long, and *gasp* some people may not have read the book at all and they won’t care if every single detail from the book is not there and let’s face it, much as we would love it, it’s just not practical. That means that some scenes have to be cut for time. Books have an unlimited timescale, even with editing, but movies have to run for an hour and a half to three hour period (that usually seems to be the maximum) so it’s unavoidable that some things will get cut. These are usually little things that aren’t really important to the book’s plot but that we book lovers enjoy and miss when they aren’t there (like the “have a biscuit scene” in The Order of The Phoenix). There are some times when more important things are cut out of a movie, but that is the filmmakers’ call to make and they can’t keep everything which means that you are inevitably going to be disappointed because you won’t be able to see every little detail of your favourite book on screen.

Movies are primarily dialogue, characters interacting with other characters and transferring a book from words to visuals plus dialogue can be difficult, because although books obviously have dialogue too, a lot of the dialogue can be inner (for example in The Hunger Games where much of the book is made up of Katniss’ inner dialogue) and this is hard to translate onto the screen. You don’t get the same insight into a character’s mind in a film as you do in a book, if a book is doing it’s job right then you feel every emotion the characters feel, you live and experience their adventures alongside them, whereas when watching a film, you’re more of an observer.

As well as omitting certain scenes from the book, the movie may add in scenes that weren’t in the book, which is a cardinal sin for lovers of the book, because as readers, we feel like our favourite books are perfect and they don’t need anything added to them. I don’t feel like movies should have scenes added to them that weren’t in the books, because you’re supposed to be portraying the author’s vision on screen and if it wasn’t part of the author’s vision it shouldn’t be there (the entirety of the Allegiant movie for example, was a disgrace, because it didn’t even resemble the book) unless it really adds something to the story (which most added scenes don’t). As readers, we want to recognise the story that we loved in the movie we’re watching and when the movie we watch doesn’t at all resemble the book we loved, then that makes us very upset (and rightly so).

Nearly everyone reads the book first, so of course you are going to think that the book was better, you can’t help but make comparisons even when the book and movie are so different that they can’t really be compared and whilst a lot of us book lovers also love movies, I think it’s fair to say that books are our first love so naturally we will love the book more, we read it first, it might have been there for us at a time when we needed it and no matter how hard the movie tries, it’s not going to come close to the magic of the first time reading one of our favourite books.

There are of course exceptions to the book is always better than the movie rule (as there are exceptions to any rule), though I have to admit I’ve never seen any film adaptations that I thought were better than the book but I reckon it’s usually when the book was badly written in the first place, so the movie can only get better!

So yes, seeing a movie adaptation of a book that we loved can be disappointing, but at the end of the day, books stay with you in a way that films don’t, so better to be disappointed in the film than disappointed in the book!

Over to you! What do you think of book to movie adaptations? Do you think the book is always better? Why is this? What are your favourite book to movie adaptations? What are the worst ones you’ve seen? Have you ever seen a movie adaptation that was better than it’s book counterpart? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another discussion post for you guys next week, talking about ghostwriters. In the meantime though, my next post will probably be my Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday.

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9 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On Why The Book Will Always Be Better Than The Movie

  1. Bookmark Chronicles July 17, 2016 / 11:36 pm

    I so agree that books are almost always better. And by always I mean that there is only one movie that I like better than its respective book. I don’t mean this to be rude (not to you but in general) but one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone tries to give their opinion when you’re talking about a book they’ve ONLY seen the movie. They don;t understand that its not the same and that they’re missing so much! lol

    • iloveheartlandx July 17, 2016 / 11:39 pm

      Yes they totally are! No I get that, it’s so annoying when someone has only seen the movie of a book you like and try to talk to you about it because it’s not the same at all!

  2. AngelErin July 18, 2016 / 2:06 am

    I think usually the books are better, but I try not to be too picky with the movies. I agree everyone’s vision of the book is not the same, but as long as the movie is close to the book I’m okay. They just can’t do a book to movie 100% because it’s a different medium for the story. Great discussion post!

    • iloveheartlandx July 18, 2016 / 9:03 pm

      Yes, I try to not be picky with movies, but it’s hard sometimes. Same here! I just want it to be a good and faithful adaptation, it doesn’t have to stick to the book 100%, just enough that it resembles the story I read. Yes, I definitely agree with you there. Thanks!

  3. Agnes July 18, 2016 / 2:30 am

    I think the problem with movie adaptations is that they can’t always incorporate the characters’ inner thoughts the way the books do, so a little depth is lost there. It also seems like not all adjectives or adverbs can be translated into visuals or acting choices. I think some movie adaptations have to compensate for this by adding different elements. A movie adaptation of a book that I think worked better was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, because Greg and Earl have so many short films that are better shown than told.

    • iloveheartlandx July 18, 2016 / 8:54 pm

      Yes I agree with you there. I’ve never seen Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, but it does sound like the sort of book that would work well as a film.

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