Opinion: Stop Judging Movies by Their Books
I don’t read as much as I should. While I enjoy reading, I take my time reading and especially starting a new book. With that being said, I tend to focus on reading novels for upcoming movies. I started this by reading the entire series before The Hunger Games and The Hobbit, then focused on the novels The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Giver, and most recently, Gone Girl (read my review here).
I love reading and I love watching movies. But I absolutely hate (a word I generally don’t throw around willy-nilly) when people say “the book is better than the movie” or “I don’t want the movie to ruin the book.”
Movies based on books are exactly that: based on. They’re not supposed to be word-for-word the same. Instead, they’re supposed to be interpretations. Interpretations call for a variation from person to person.
I always like to compare it to artists who cover a popular song. It’s a re-imagination (or re-intepretation) of something we already know. It’s not, however, done to erase the original song. Use this example in the age-old debate of books vs. novels. They’re separate versions that shouldn’t be compared to each other.
It really boils down to how we’re wired cognitively. When we read a novel, we don’t have an explicit picture of what’s going on. Instead, we’re forced to use our imaginations (something I don’t think kids nowadays do enough) to create the entire story in our minds.
With this in mind (pun intended), I have to ask: why are people so shocked when a movie doesn’t turn out to be how they expected? This was a huge complaint with The Giver film adaptation as well as parts of Ender’s Game.
There’s really no way to get everyone’s version of a novel into movie form. Instead, take the movie for what it is and give the writers, director, and filmmaking team a little creative freedom. Sometimes it works out to the film’s benefit, like when The Hunger Games decided to give President Snow a few scenes that weren’t in the novel.
If you give it a fair chance, it’ll likely pan out.
Furthermore, it is also impossible to go into as much depth as novels. When you spent 300-700 pages with a particular character, the setting, and etc., you’re bound to feel more connected to them. When this novel has to be whittled down to a two hour movie, of course they’re going to leave things out. They have to pick and choose what is important (something David Fincher’s recently-released Gone Girl did flawlessly in my opinion).
If you come into a movie with this mentality, you probably won’t feeling disappointed or unsatisfied. Instead, you’ll appreciate the novel while hopefully tolerating the film adaptation.
In the end, I challenge you to think of these as separate iterations. Appreciate each adaptation for what they ultimately are (especially since they’re ultimately for different parts of your brain). Some movies will stick pretty true to the novels (The Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Hobbit) while others will use some creative differences (The Giver and AMC’s The Walking Dead) to attempt something a little different.