OK as a reader it’s a no-brainer. the book that a movie was based on is always so much better, so much so that I almost refuse to see movies of books I have read as I am almost always so disappointed. So here are the reasons why I think that a book is always better than their film adaptations.
1 Casting and the difficulty portraying a character we have already imagined
Writers use their skills and create people using words that we as a reader interpret using our imagination to make images of people in our heads. There lies the problem because the actor is always different from the character imagined first by the writer and then by the plethora (I like that word) of readers (who will all imagine the characters slightly differently from each other).
Sometimes they succeed as in Julie Walters as Mrs Weasley or Judy Dench in Notes from a Scandal (from the zoe heller book) but sometimes the studios feel like they need a star so they cast one at the expense of accuracy.
Sometimes however even the physicality of the character and the actor are at odds, for example in the books by Lee Child Jack Reacher is described as blond blue eyed and very tall at 6ft 5in, Tom Cruise who was cast for the part is a short arsed brunette however.
2 Changing the Plot
So annoying, OK sometimes I know that it is difficult to fit everything that happens in a 500 page book into a movie but sometimes it takes the piss. For example in the US adaptation/remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo they totally change the ending. Even the wonderful Harry Potter movies which are, I think written for the lovers of the books in mind change details all the time, for example the fate of to the elder wand is utterly different in the movies (destroyed) than the book (entombed with Dumbledore again) and completely omit backstory for the marauders map.
Some screenwriters completely change everything, The Running Man book (Stephen King) is so completely different from the 80’s Arnie movie of the same name that there is only the idea of a man being hunted, the title and couple of names the same, everything else is rewritten. I read the book years after first watching the movie so it didn’t matter to me but the book has a far deeper story-line.
3 Books allow for a longer time to tell the story
Often TV or serialized dramatization works much better than movies, mainly due to the timescale that this involves. Many of the plot and detail cuts come from a lack of screen time. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is currently showing in America and the first season only takes us partway into the book with the whole book likely to take several seasons and they will probably expand and change things as they go, which I guess gives something more to the person who has already read the book.
4 Whilst reading books we get into the characters heads, in movies we watch other people doing stuff.
Even if we are told the thoughts and feelings of the characters in a movie it still does not replicate the phenomena of seeing out of somebody else eyes that happens when we are reading a book. This allows for greater empathy with the characters both good and bad when their inner worlds are revealed. In movies the best we can get is hearing the thoughts of another, but as its not in our voice, its not as compelling.
5 Some movies are great
That is not to say that there are not great movies based on books, there are. Literature and genre fiction is a huge feeder into Hollywood and it has always been that way. I can only appreciate the movies fully, if I hadn’t read the book before. Shawshank Redemption and Bladerunnner are two of my favourite movies based on the Stephen King novella in the collection Different Seasons and the Philip K Dick novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, neither of which I have read, yet, but both these are fairly short books and therefore the filmmakers had more scope to add content whilst still staying true to the original. But as I haven’t read them myself I would be very interested if any of you have, what do you think?
Well that’s enough of me waffling on with my opinions, my 8 year old disagrees with me and some of you might, but that’s the point of a discussion post, let rip..