Books vs. Movies
The timeless art of literature battles against the arguably unmatched cinematic experience.
A battle of the ages lies between the discussion between books and movies. Which truly is better?
Movies – Big Screen, Big Impact
With the continual improvement of technology, movies really have come to the forefront of the entertainment industry, becoming without a doubt the go-to for the vast majority of people.
When it comes to setting, there is something just truly beautiful about seeing something come to life, whether it be ancient cities or alien species. We sit in pure awe as what we never thought possible is brought to life. The time taken and all the decisions made by the set designers can bring us incredible places that you cannot help but get swept up in, and they can bring places to life in such a way that a single shot can cause a strong emotional connection. I’m sure anyone who looks at the sign for ‘Bates Motel’ will have the exact same chilling feeling.
The next thing I considered were the adaptations that we see in films. We have seen some incredible stories come to life on the screen, and there really are some that can only be on the screen - not in the pages of a book. In my opinion, there are not as many books as there are films that can create a tense and dramatic action scene effectively. Much too often it seems there is just a page of utter confusion, and it takes a really good writer to combat this. I feel that movies have the upper hand here, as action and fight scenes can look incredible.
This can also apply for horror movies, as the visual impact of horror can be truly terrifying. However, this can be a debatable concept. This statement may be true when you’re sitting alone in the dark, but if you’re watching the film with friends, talking and playing with your phone, the horror can often become comical. When with a book, you will always be totally alone and absorbed in the horror, which would truly encapsulate your fear.
Whilst books can go into as much depth as they like, movies have to try and limit themselves to prevent a four-hour film. This is becoming less of a problem now, thanks to television series that can carry a much more in-depth story. A fantastic example to use would be HBO’s ever popular (and soul crushing. RIP Robb) series of Game of Thrones; this personally life-altering series has managed to capture everything we loved about Game of Thrones, and the readers love it more than any newcomer. An extended story can work negatively though, as some are stretched unnecessarily by the production company in an attempt to simply provide more for the fans (and perhaps for their pockets?) when it was not needed. In particular, I am thinking about the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, which I personally felt was dragged out. Being a huge fan of the book, I was upset knowing it could have been fitted neatly into two films instead of three long films.
Another negative when it comes to filmmaking is not necessarily for the fans, but the production companies nowadays. The budget needed to create projects like this is giant. What this means is that popular actors are drafted no matter the quality of the story in an attempt to make a film sell. This can really disappoint people and can potentially damage the actor’s career.
There is one last arrow to fire with the case for movies, and that has to be the use of music. Music, I strongly feel, is the finest thing that human beings can do as a species, and its use in film simply amplifies its greatness. Everyone alive has cried at a movie, whether it be ‘Titanic’, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ or when that little Ewok died in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and his friend tried to help him up (I’d had a bad day, ok?). A perfect example of this would be of course ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from ‘Titanic’. Imagine if that had been replaced with anything from Pitbull. The effect would be far from emotionally stirring, but would certainly highlight the importance of the score.
Books cannot battle that, as although you can get more involved with the characters, the emotion you might feel cannot compare to how a film could make you feel with a simple melody.
Books – Let’s Read into it
The stories that lie within the pages of a book are unequivocally brilliant. The depth of the story can be staggering and you are able to easily understand the emotions and mindset of every character, allowing you to get much more involved. This is certainly where movies fall flat, as script writers need to find a way to convey subtext without needless exposition. The stories can also be much more complicated and can have as many characters and story arcs as they wish; there is not quite as much need to trim a book as there is for a screenplay.
The setting of the scenes can absolutely destroy movies, as although technology has come a long way, there is no limit to imagination. Your imagination can see impossible buildings, it can help you smell the rain in the air and can help you feel the cold marble of the floor against your hands. It’s an incredible thing to see the impossible on the screen, but I don’t truly believe you can feel quite as connected to what you see as compared to something you feel when reading.
There is something amazing about books though that a film cannot compare. Being engrossed in a film is hard, but when you are alone with your book you are not just a reader but part of the book. You are less of an observer and more of the character. You can emotionally connect to people in films, but when you connect with a character in a book you feel as though you are looking into your own soul, and you can truly understand each and every step your hero takes.
Watching a film means you have to dedicate a few hours to dedicate solely to watching said film, which can be particularly frustrating. Although a television series can combat this, a book allows you to dip in and out of the story whenever you want to. Whether you’re reading for five hours on an overnight flight or getting in five minutes whilst waiting for the bus - books make the perfect companion.
The ability to be so diverse can really only be seen in books, as books can cover topics from crime and thrillers to educational books - learning from a tv show is near impossible.
Book to Film Adaptations – Dangerous Waters
This also becomes a sore point when people go to see a film adaptation of a book. No matter how well a production company does, they will always miss off some of the story, and that has disappointed a lot of fans in the past. This is particularly obvious when the book is immense, like many of the Harry Potter books, as there is so much more to the story that people loved, which unfortunately had to be cut in order to prevent a film being too long.
There are many other problems that movies can face when adapting a film. Not only is some of the book lost but there have been huge problems with casting choices. There has been a lot of controversy at the announcements of some actors, be it for their acting ability or even how they looked. When someone reads a character, they begin to picture exactly who they want and what they look like. When the film comes around, that man or woman could be very different. A couple of obvious examples have to be the casting choice for Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.
One strong case for the film adaptations though is that they can alter an ending. If the author creates a fantastic book but its ending is a very disappointing anti-climax, thus angering readers, the films can take this opportunity to alter the ending so the readers can see what they wanted to happen. An example of this was the recent ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’. This can be a big saviour for a film, but can also destroy it. There have been a number of big films that changed the ending in hope of surprising the audience, only for that to be criticised and people agreeing they liked the book ending better.
Does this mean then that a movie can ruin a book’s reputation? If all the wrong decisions are made, is the book in danger of becoming obsolete, forever associated with a disastrous film adaptation? I think that it can. There are many cases that do not follow this train of thought, but in the instance of the film ‘Eragon’, the book was beloved, the film hated beyond belief. Since then, the love for the franchise has practically diminished. People loved the book, they raved about it, right up until the movie’s release. Since then, I haven’t heard much from those same people and the sequels were still released up until 2012. By no means am I saying the series are bad, having never read them, but the hype around them certainly has gone.
There is a peculiar phenomenon though from global giant Disney. For years, every child (and adult) has enjoyed the films that they’ve been churning out. Whilst we cannot seem to let it go, one thing that’s important is how the stories that a lot of their films are based off are, in reality, dark and sometimes horrifying. Look at the real ending of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and you understand why that was not considered part of the original screenplay. Films then have the ability to take a brilliant (albeit dark) story and alter it enough to actually create a family classic. There are other movies where something very similar has happened; there are plenty of books that people could find dull, but make for excellent television. Personally, I struggled with ‘Les Miserables’ but both the theatre production and the movie I loved.
Conclusion - To Sit on the Throne for Eternity
So, it is time to answer the big question: Books or movies? Well, the books so far have not had many negatives, which would make you think it’s the automatic winner. However, for every bad thing that a movie can do, it can do more things better.
One thing is certainly true though, no matter the outcome. Books and movies work wonderfully together. People can see their favourite stories come to life. Absolutely everyone adored seeing the Harry Potter series come to life and there are many books on my shelf at home which I hope will do the same in the near future. The same rule applies when people can watch a fantastic movie, then realise that there is a book and love it all the more. I was the same with Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’. I loved the film, and as soon as I knew that it was a book I went straight out to get a copy so I could go through the whole journey with Mark Watney again. Likewise, people are re-discovering Stephen King’s ‘It’ due to the upcoming film. I ordered mine last night, realising how much of an idiot I was for not having read it yet.
The choice is tough. However, the logical answer for me has to be books. The timeless craft has been going for millennia and whether the story’s old or new, they can be incredible reads. They capture a moment in time and sitting down with a book is one of the most relaxing things you can do. They educate us; they teach us of history and the future. You fall in love with characters that are simply wisps of imagination, and you get engrossed in settings and worlds that do not exist.
Also, try standing on ten DVDs to reach that top shelf. You won’t reach and your stuff will break.
Surprise, surprise, the book bias book publisher chose books. What a waste of your reading time.
By Sam Platt (Digital Marketing, loyal to Robb Stark and lover of Ewoks)