Books vs Movies

This Thursday’s Booking Through Thursday is Books vs Movies:

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

Interesting question, and I was actually talking about this in brief with Faye recently. I’m not a book purist, and I think that on average, I do enjoy movie/TV adaptations a lot, certainly on varying degrees of enjoyment. To me, a movie generally has to be more compact, but that’s because it has a lot of power to convey more in a short period of time, since movies and TV shows are highly visual. Show, don’t tell, is definitely the rule. It’s easier to reach a lot more people with movies, because they’re so much easier to stomach — what’s two hours, after all, in one day, in one week?

Books, on the other hand, require a bit more patience than a movie (since it won’t end after two hours I’m sure, unless it’s a very short book or you’re an amazing speed reader) but a well-written book can go so much deeper than a movie has time for, which I feel is great. It gives one the leeway to imagine as one wills, which can give a more powerful impact to the story than a movie, with its “set” visuals, can give. Those imaginings are highly personal, tainted by one’s own preferences, and one can definitely end up enjoying a book more than a movie simply because of the highly personal nature of one’s imagination.

Going back to the book versus movie debate, I sometimes even like it when adaptations deviate from the book, as long as the premise and spirit is the same, and this definitely has a lot of bearing on the skill of the actors and the screenwriter. For example, there was a bit of flack about the BBC 2006 Jane Eyre adaptation being rather, well, “forward”, but I thought it worked well, and I enjoyed the TV mini-series immensely. The 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation was also rather different, but it was admittedly pretty (even though I’ve found a lot of ways to poke fun at the movie).

This isn’t always the case, though. Just recently, since I had just finished reading Eragon (and Eldest), I tried watching the movie. Oh shock horror. I couldn’t get past Saphira flying down from the sky suddenly full-grown and wise. (Maybe I should have stuck to it more, since I later on found out that Rachel Weisz had voiced Saphira.) While I don’t think Eragon is omgamazingfabulous, the movie felt quite botched together. Roran not going off to find money to wed Katrina is alright, but everyone knowing about the new farm-boy dragon rider? Uh, no thank you. I don’t think I want to know how else they managed to make a rather stereotypical, predictable fantasy epic worse.

But naturally, there are also exceptions for me when a movie is better than a book. I quite enjoyed the 1999 Mansfield Park adaptation more than the book, even though I’m a staunch Jane Austen fan. Sadly, this is the only one example I can give of a movie being better than a book, but then my sister would say the same about Lord of the Rings (she couldn’t get past Fellowship of the Ring) — something we obviously disagree about ;)

Your mileage may vary.