Should We Even Turn Books Into Movies?

4:51 PM


Spoiler alert: I don't know the answer. But I'm gonna talk about it anyway.


Ah, yes. Book vs. Movie. It's a common debate, especially in the bookish world. Did you hate the movie adaption of that book you love? Did you love it? There are some book-to-movie adaptions that most people seem to love (Hunger Games) and some that anyone who has sense obviously hates (Percy Jackson). Almost all of the time, however, this seems to be the common sentiment: 
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Let's be real here: In my opinon, this is usually true. Which gets me thinking (and that's always a dangerous thing):

Should we even be turning books into movies?

I might just be stoned to death for this, but I love movies and shows as much as I love books! I love stories. I love the feeling of a book in my hand. But I'm also a more visual person, and I love seeing a good story play out on screen. I think it's a different form of storytelling altogether, and I appreciate it in its own way. I think there's a reason why books made into movies are often disappointing or don't capture everything they should, and I do believe that reason is that they're two different languages of storytelling in the first place. Things are going to get lost in translation.

Books leave everything to the imagination. The writer uses words to form a picture in your mind. You see into characters' heads. You get their points of view very often. The style of writing conveys feeling and emotion. Different kinds of writing mean different kinds of stories. When it comes down to it, the purpose is to let you build a picture in your mind, and it makes you think hard. A book can be a wonderful, incredible thing. It's an experience all on its own. 

Movies and shows just tell stories in a different way. You don't necessarily see inside the character's head as much. There's a main character, but it's harder to get straight into their thoughts. You see the setting -- if it's done well, it's visually lush and detailed. Setting, character movements, dialogue tones, and music all set the scene and feel of the story. It's all laid out for you visually, and it can tell a story that's just as rich but relies more on what you see right in front of you. 
it's always the right time for a steve gif.
Basically: when you take a book and try to put that story onto the screen, you're going to miss things! There are details in books that have to be left out of movies (Hunger Games is full of examples like this, and that's a book/movie deal I actually enjoyed). Books and movies have to have different ways of pacing the story -- you can contain things in a 500 page book that you can't cram into a 2-hour movie without making it awkward. People aren't going to be happy with the movie adaption, because the book wasn't made to be shown in an onscreen format. And I think that's okay. 

What you're asking now is "hey, Aimee, do you actually think we should keep making movie adaptions of books? What's the point of this, anyway?" 

I don't really know. 
yes, I know, I'm being evil here.
I think about this a lot, though. 

I think we should focus more on making original screenplays that are designed for and look awesome in a movie format. I think we should use the visual aspects of movies, the acting and music and everything else, to our advantage. I think we should think of more original movies instead of trying to take books and turn them into movies, messing with that whole different-format deal. 

That being said! I really enjoyed the Hunger Games movies. I think they did an excellent job, as book-to-movie adaptions go. I'm super excited for the Unwind movie, whenever that comes out, because it's going to slay me if they do it correctly. If they're going to do it, there have been successes that I think were done well, even if they're much better as books. 
waitin' for the Unwind movie like
But is it necessarily the filmmakers' fault that their adaptions are disappointing? Maybe it's their fault for trying to make that translation in the first place. And maybe whoever did the Percy Jackson movies should be imprisoned because yeah, those are unspeakably bad. But for the most part I'm inclined to give them some slack for trying to translate something that works in book format into a two-hour different format. Like I've said before. 

Basically: This is something that floats around in my head a lot and I can't really take a side because I don't think it's a black-and-white deal. So what do you think? Let us discuss all the books vs. movies things. Has there been a book/movie adaption you've enjoyed? Have you ever enjoyed a movie adaption more than the book? (I have and it is called Inkheart.) Basically, how do you feel about the whole thing? Do you have more of an opinion than I do? Let's talk about it.

30 comments

  1. YES YES YES YES SO MUCH YES.
    I love stories. And I'm tired of people going around with this weird cultural presupposition that books are ALWAYS better than movies. Like you said, they're two totally different formats, but they both tell stories. For me it's the quality and the story that matters, not the format. I love reading books and watching movies equally. And can we stop assuming that just because people like watching movies a lot, those people somehow are stupider? I'm a very visual person too, and besides, many movies can be thought-provoking as well.
    As for books being made into movies, idk. Most of the time I think it's fine, but there's some books that are better left alone.
    I think I liked Inkheart film-form better than the book too. This is probably going to make me look like a terrible person, but honestly, I feel like the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie is slightly better than the book. Idk, I feel like the movie just has more interesting dynamics than the book. Also I enjoy the Poirot show with David Suchet much better than Agatha Christie's original Poirot novels. Her books are just kind of dry.
    So yup. That's my ramble.

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    1. Exactly! I mean, books are incredible, but I've always been fascinated by the ways you can tell a story on a screen, too. (And plays. I've always liked plays. But that's a bit of a different medium in itself.) There are definitely films that have captured the spirit of the book (like Inkheart) and made me like them even when I didn't enjoy the book itself, so that's great!

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  2. I'm so torn on this. I like the Inkheart movie and the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. It just depends how they do it I guess.

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    1. Yeah, I don't have a clear answer either. Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don't, and there have been adaptions I've enjoyed! It's such a tricky thing, I think, because it's so difficult to translate between mediums like that.

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  3. I love it when books are made into movies! But I am usually disappointed... (Like with The Maze Runner movie.). The Giver is one movie I actually liked better than the book. I feel like they did such a great job with the visuals and really made you feel things more than in the book. *shrugs* Just my opinion.

    Basically if there is a movie adaptation of a book I read, I will most likely watch it. (Even if it's a fanmade 2 hour long film with mediocre acting. True story, by the way. I might have also cried when I found out about it.......)


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    1. Ooh, I haven't seen The Giver -- but perhaps I should? I wasn't the biggest fan of the book but seeing it visually could help.

      Yeah, I almost always watch the adaptions of books when I know there's one. It's just cool to see it visually, even if the movie isn't the greatest. And there are definitely some I'm looking forward to!

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  4. YES to focusing more on original screenplays. They're some awesome book-to-movie adaptations (I'm thinking mostly of LOTR) but as a general rule most of them bore me. I think it's because they're two such different mediums, and the way you structure plot and character development in a book are not the same as you would do it in a film or TV show. It doesn't always translate well.

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    1. LotR is just the best, isn't it? I think that's a case where they really captured the feel of the books even if it wasn't perfect. I've seen those three movies so many times and always enjoyed them. But I would prefer to see original screenplays, instead of rehashing old things over and over. *sigh*

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  5. An interesting discussion. I think most of the problem with book-to-movie translation is when screenwriters miss the "feel" of the book. LOTR felt like LOTR, even though the movies took a fair number of liberties. The Hobbit series did NOT feel like the book. Don't even get me started on how off Eragon was, even though they did a fair job following the "facts" of the book.

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    1. Yes, exactly! You could make a movie with a slightly different plot from the book that was still great because it captured the spirit of it, and some do a better job at that than others.

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  6. I pretty much always prefer books to their movie/TV adaptations (except maybe The Princess Bride because that movie is straight up legendary). I loved the Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games movies (who doesn't) (though I'm still mildly frustrated by some things they changed), and the first Narnia moviel. I also enjoyed the Hobbit movies, though for all my attempts to seperate them from the book in my mind I still don't think I will ever get over how different they are and just...argh. I liked the first two Harry Potter movies, but I think after that they kind of got off track and didn't feel like Harry Potter. I think the Book Thief movie is a good example of how movies and books are entirely different mediums of storytelling. The movie was pretty close to the book, but it still felt really different because the way the book is written is such an integral part of it. Anyway, I agree with you wholeheartedly on needing more original screenplays.

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    1. Same, I almost always prefer the books and I don't think it's because the movies are BAD (in some cases), but rather that it's just a totally different way of telling the story and we get attracted to the original first.

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  7. Excellent points. Books and movies are different forms of art and don't translate perfectly.
    As to whether or not books ought to be made into movies though I think hinges on whether or not the producers of the movie and the writer of the book mutually respect and understand each others work. I don't really know for sure, but I believe it is possible Percy Jackson fell apart because there was a lack of respect both ways. Rick Riordan sold the movie rights to his book and then had done with it, disrespecting his own work. Because of that, the producers saw no reason to care about it either. On the contrary, everyone involved in The Hunger Games seemed to set their desire on honoring that beautiful work.

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    1. Exactly! It really works when everyone involved cares and tries to keep with the spirit and feeling of the story, even if the details change a little. (Which, as in the case of The Hunger Games, worked well in my mind.) Excellent point as well!

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  8. I think that they should. It creates visuals that people wouldn't otherwise have.

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    1. And that's true! Hunger Games gave me so many cool visuals of the arenas and the outfits and the world, and it really made my view of the book and the story so much richer. It's an interesting way to take on a story!

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  9. I think one reason people don't like book's movies is that the actors, locations or just plain feeling doesn't live up to their own visualizations. (probably a J thing)

    Often I like both (almost) the same. Movies are great, and even better when they have a book's complex plot backing them.

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    1. Yes, that's definitely true, and it can really be irritating when a cast or a setting messes with the thing you had in your head. I've enjoyed both equally, and I usually don't hate the movie adaptions of books. It's always interesting to see someone else's visual of the story.

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  10. I liked the Insurgent movie better than the book. The book felt kind of rushed, but the movie had a lot of work put into it.

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    1. Hmmm I haven't seen the Insurgent movie! But I know I've definitely experienced movies like that before.

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  11. I definitely agree with your sentiment on moviemakers doing some more original work instead of stealing source material from novels.
    I don't think that there shouldn't be book-to-movie adaptions though, because I love seeing my favorite books made into good movies (like Lord of the Rings) and when done right, they can be pretty excellent.
    When done wrong however...well, we know what that's like too.

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    1. Yeah, I'm really not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I've loved seeing some of my favorite stories onscreen, and it's such an interesting way to translate a story into a more visual medium. So I don't think they should stop! I'm just really not sure *how* I feel. xD

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  12. I think I actually feel more strongly about musicals than books on this one (because I can only think of one musical-to-movie adaption that isn't an embarrassment to the theater and that is Pirates of Penzance).

    Anyway, I think, personally, it's fine. It doesn't bother me. Do I think that it's disappointing when movies don't measure up to an original story, but books and stories and legends have been a part of the film industry for a long time. Like the 1911, "Siege of Troy," it isn't the kind of thing that's going to measure up to The Illiad, not a bit. But that's where they got the story from.

    Personally, I like to see my books on screen. I think it's fun! And I don't think it threatens original movie works, either. I think if it's something someone wants to make, and it's worth it to them, then I can't criticize the spirit behind the work. Though, the inaccuracies... I can still do that. :)

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    1. Yeah, I'm not necessarily bothered by it, and it is fun! There are lots of adaptions that I've enjoyed very much.

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  13. I definitely agree with everything you said in this post! I guess my opinion is that I always like the book better, but I love seeing it on screen anyway (most of the time). I think the two types of media are not necessarily comparable, even with the same story, because they are so different. I like to see actors take a slightly different take on a character from what I had thought of, though. It's really interesting. And to see the setting with people interaction and music is always nice.

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    1. Yeah, I think we agree 100% here. xD *is bad at replies*

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  14. The film adaptation I enjoyed more was both parts of Mockingjay. I thought those films were soooo visually stunning (the light?! In like every. single. shot it was PERFECT) and Jennifer Lawrence = queen, and ALSO I felt the book was badly paced and too rushed, whereas the two films gave the story more time. A lot of people criticised the films saying "the franchise just wants to make more money by dragging it out" (cough Breaking Dawn cough cough) but I think it was a wise story decision.

    APART FROM THAT, I can think of 0 examples and it does really bug me bc people are like "I love Harry Potter!" when they haveN'T READ THE BOOKS AND HAVE ONLY SEEN THE FILMS and I don't know if I'm just a super annoying book purist but that just really gets my goat.

    Also when I imagine my own book getting made into a film it MAKES ME PANIC. Did you know Hemingway put in his will that Catcher could never be made into a film? GOOD FOR HIM I SAY.

    PS Thoughts on Lurhman's Gatsby?

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    1. MOCKINGJAY MOCKINGJAY MOCKINGJAY. It made me so happy and, you know, miserable because feelings. the Hunger Games movies in general felt very true to the books and I loved seeing them onscreen.

      As for the Gatsby movie...oh, so many mixed feelings there. I LOVED the feel of it, and the colors, and the music, and the general way they captured the feeling of the story. The casting was perfect, too. So I enjoyed it! But I don't think it captured the story and theme itself the way it could have. But I still enjoyed it.

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  15. To be honest the only movie I preferred over the book was The Boy In Striped Pyjamas. And I didn't even see the film (Shut up Grace).

    I disliked the Percy Jackson and Diary of A Wimpy Kid films. They were made by a person high on... life, of course. They were so gosh darn happy that they got the books mixed up.

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