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Book Versus Film

Updated on March 10, 2012

Book versus film, it's an argument that is always going to rage, and rightly so we are blessed to have both types of media to engage all of our senses. And believe me, I don't want to see either of them disappear, we need them.

As a kid I was a comic book reader and have carried that through to today, progressing on to Graphic Novels. My favourite author in this genre is Alan Moore. His novels have spawned many films, but he has distanced himself from them because he has always held the ethos that what he has committed to page has been done so for a particular reason. The novels are meticulously written with a fantastic amount of detail, that even the greatest screen writer couldn't do justice to. When you read one of these novels you have the ability to flick back to a certain point and remind yourself of an image or a happening because you're not dictated to by the projectionist. This fear of Moore's has been borne out in a lot of the films that have appeared on screen based on his ideas. The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, bears no resemblance to the exceptional written works that are available. V for Vendetta, was an improvement but still doesn't reach the heights in anyway that the written word and drawn images that were imagined by Moore and David Lloyd.

Personally I am quite a slow reader, compared to my friends, so reading a decent sized novel is a huge achievement for me! But I never shy away from doing so because I receive great satisfaction from digesting exactly what the author has ccommitted to the page. The greatest satisfaction I get from reading a great piece of writing, is that it is me who decides what the Dust in Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials looks like, or what the scar on Harry Potter's head actually looks like. But I know that everybody is going to have a slightly different perception of these pieces of information that we read.

Just before Peter Jackson went on his epic task of creating screen versions of probably the greatest fantasy stories ever written, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, I started on a journey of reading Novels that I knew I would be going to see at the cinema. This has lead me to be both incredibly fulfilled when I go to see one of these films, and also bitterly disappointed. Yet even though I know if I continue this strategy it will probably lead me down the same path again and again, I won't stop.

It must be an incredibly difficult scenario for a screen writer to convert a massively known and loved piece of literature in to something that will work on the screen and have an appeal to a different sort of audience. As well as being sympathetic to the original work to ensure that fans are not disappointed, they have to remove and add things from the story so that it will work in film. More often than not, we find that parts of a story have to be ommitted because of if most novels were put up on screen word for word they would all be 10 hours long! and this is probably what frustrates the book reader most, Why miss that bit but not that bit?

We live in an era where technology and things that 'take less effort' are becoming more and more common place. This observation would lead us to think that taking the easy optiion and going to watch the film of the book will be the winner. I sincerley hope not, having started on my quest of book versus film I know I will continue and suffer the emotional roller coaster of elation and upset. But this is what we are all about! Everybody is differen, and thank the Lord we are, otherwise we just wouldn't go forward.

Every Saturday night my eldest son (12) chooses a DVD from my collection and we watch it together and discuss it from every angle. His most recent choices have been, Let Me In and Let The Right One In. The Hollywood and original interpretation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's classic Vampire story, Let The Right One In. He then asked me if I had the novel, I said yes, and asked if me if he could read it? He is now ploughing through 500+ pages. I think I have now passed on my eternal dilemma to my son, and I'm very proud!


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    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 5 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      @ChristyWrites cheers for the comment! What about sequels? :-)

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      An interesting look at books versus films. In general I prefer books but occasionally one is made into a good movie. Now as for the sequels...

    • barry1001 profile image

      barry1001 6 years ago from North Wales

      Agreed, I was frankly amazed that Zack Snyder could even bring Watchmen to the big screen. It had been branded "unfilmable" for years!

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 6 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      @barry1001 - Cheers for the comment! As I have mentioned in the Hub I'm not the quickest reader but always feel a great satisfaction when I have read a decent sized book. I had previoulsy been retro active with books and usually seen the film first, but remember with great satisfaction making it through the TLOTR epics before the films and the feeling of being able to make a quailified judgement on what Peter Jackson was quite fufilling.

      I agree with your Alan Moore comment, as an avid Graphic Novel reader I've been disappointed with most of the screen adaptations, but would say that Zack Schnyder's Watchmen was a valiant effort, but was an impossible task!

    • barry1001 profile image

      barry1001 6 years ago from North Wales

      Good hub, you make some good points, especially about today's technology. In general books are usually far superior to the films and most Alan Moore adaptations are terrible!

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 6 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      @thatmovie guy71, more and more now, I think that there is a tilt towards having someone on board that has a love for the what they are producing/directing. Guys like Joss Whedon and Benecio Del Toro are a case in point. The recent Avengers film (Whedon) and pieces like Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro) show a love for the character and story that others may not be able to convey when they are just financially and time driven. These guys have grown up with these films in there heads and know that there are many people that share their passion for what they are doing and they wont committ something to screen that doesn't live up to their ideas.

    • profile image

      thatmovieguy71 6 years ago

      A very intriguing hub - very well written! In most cases I feel that the book is usually better than the movie, but there are always exceptions. A few movies that I felt were better than, or at least just as good as,the book are To Kill a Mockingbird, Into the Wild, The Godfather, The Exorcist, and There Will Be Blood.

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 6 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      I think what I hope is that the feelings that are being conveyed here are felt by everyone. It would be sad to see the written word disappear because it easier for he consumer to watch a film. I know for one, as I have said, I can't imagine a world without either!

    • RSamuel92 profile image

      RSamuel92 6 years ago from Greece

      @RachaelLefler I agree totally. That's exactly what happens with film based movies, most of the content is degraded or upgraded so that it's nothing like the book. One good example is Percy Jackson and the Olympians, that movie adaptation was terrible and it vaguely followed the original plot line. I agree with you for most of the Harry Potter films too, at least the first one for me, because I saw the first film before engrossing myself in the books. ^^

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 6 years ago from Illinois

      I didn't see the movie Eragon because a lot of my friends saw it opening weekend and warned me that it was nothing like the book. I thought that although the movie versions of Harry Potter were good adaptations, one problem I had with them was that they made Hermione prettier than she was supposed to be and took out her bucked teeth, a flaw that I share so it made me relate to her. They also took out Hermione's social/political activism and the foundation of SPEW, and her concern for the welfare of house-elves and other sentient magical creatures and the rights of muggle-born and half-blood wizards/witches. That was another reason I liked her. Harry's scar also looked wrong compared to how I pictured it and based on the cover illustrations. Those little details didn't bother me too much and I still enjoyed the movies just as much as the books. Ella Enchanted also bothered me because they used an actress in her mid-to-late 20's or early 30's who was gorgeous with brown hair and brown eyes to play an only average-looking, red-haired, green-eyed, 13 year old girl.

      I think the books are a better format in general though because movies omit details and tend to polish the physical and character flaws that make some characters more interesting or easy to relate to. Hollywood only allows pretties on the big screen, which is a major flaw for me because I think perfection is boring and I like characters that represent the broad spectrum of possible human appearances. Few movies allow non-standard physical appearance in main characters but plenty of books do. Movies also tend to censor political messages of the original work in order to get more asses in seats.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      One of my more memorable "book vs film" moments was when I was just about 20 pages from the ending of Eragon, then the film spoilt it for me. It was a terrible mess of a film, and could've been pulled off so much better. The book was gripping, and I stayed to the (near) end, but I just couldn't wait to see the film. How I was disappointed....

    • dkm27 profile image

      dkm27 6 years ago from Chicago

      If I have seen the movie, I cannot read the book from which it was made. I can't even read the book jacket flap or the back of the book. Too much information just spoils the book for me. As a reading teacher, I always wanted the kids to read the book first of course. I loved it when they spotted the differences between book and movie. So glad your son lets a movie inspire his desire to read. Wish I could do that!

    • Birgitta Zoutman profile image

      Birgitta Zoutman 6 years ago

      I love both. Without sounding like a total saddo, books were my friends as a kid, like gabriel said being able to imagine what harry's scar looked like and for me being able escape to another world another life was magic. More often than not I do prefer the books, either because a film cant do the book justice or because I like my imagining of it in my head better. But going to see a movie is an experience in itself and I love it, and cinema can bring literature to people that they might not otherwise have thought to read or look up. Some books have led me to watch the film some films to read the book. I devour books and never tire of reading but enjoy the adaptations too, we need both :)

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 6 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      Agree with you on all points!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I can enjoy reading books and also watching the movies made from them. However, I always prefer to read the book before viewing the movie.

      Some books are difficult to convert into screenplays, so the movie either leaves out much of the book's story, changes so much it's nearly unrecognizable or simply tries to capture the "spirit" of the book.

      I'm rarely as pleased with a movie as I was with the book from which it was adapted. Sometimes I'm very disappointed.

      That said, part of my reason for watching the movie (especially of a book I truly loved) is to discern how both the screenwriter and director visualized the story and decide if I agree with what they did.


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