Some say the books are always better. Always. Others say it depends. Still others don’t even read the books and only watch the movies, maintaining that those are the best. Who’s right? Maybe all of them — or maybe none.
There are some books-turned-movies that are fantastic. The Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of this. Sure, I enjoy the book’s deeper meanings and religious undertones, but the movie boasts meaningful dialogue, beautiful scenery, well-cast characters, and a stunning soundtrack. Whenever I watch it, I know it’s the closest to Middle-earth that you can get. The Jane Austen dramas are other faithful book renditions. They keep the traditional, English way of speaking and leave out almost no scene or detail from the originals. I love seeing Jane’s witty and varied characters come to life before my eyes.
Of course, some book conversions don’t turn out so well. In my mind, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the epitome of this. What was with the green mist? That didn’t appear in the books. It didn’t do any justice to the Dufflepud scenes, and it completely ruined Lucy’s experience and temptations with the spell book. With too many unnecessary changes, the movie lost the magic, beauty, and, most importantly, Christian messages of the book. As with many books-turned-movies, the morals and style of the book can be lost when transfered to the screen.
When a scene that is crucial to the original plot or message is left out or altered, the movie suffers. Some changes are necessary, I admit, for movies are a completely different artistic medium than books. But when they change too much, it just doesn’t work. And why do the filmmakers change what they do? If it’s to make the plot more clear, move the story along faster, or adjust to the short viewing time, that’s fine. That makes sense. But when it’s to change a message that isn’t politically correct or make the story tell something that the author didn’t intend, I don’t agree. It would have been better to left it alone.
What about The Hobbit? There are several major changes to the plotline — although that’s understandable, since three movies have to be made from one book. It’s a great movie by itself, but it misses the mark as a rendition of the original. The lighthearted tone and fairytale charm of Tolkien’s work is utterly lost in the added Orcs and Necromancer scenes. See, I love them as movies. They are suspenseful and magical and amazing. But then I compare them to the book and wonder if it’s right to like them when they’re so off from the feel of the original. I’m going to settle with enjoying the books and the movies separately and forget about comparisons.
And that’s the point of this post. Comparisons are all well and good, but at the end of the day, go enjoy the book and enjoy the movie and let the dilemma between which is better go. They’re totally separate forms of storytelling, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Savor each for what it offers.
What about you? What’s your take on the books vs. movies controversy?