BTT – Books vs. Movies

Post 84:

BTTBooks 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?

I’m going to avoid the snarky comments about the ‘difference’ between a book and a movie.  I was tempted, but it has already been done. To me, the biggest differences between a book and a movie come from the way the medium influences how the story is told.

Both mediums have their strengths.  In a movie, obviously, visualizations are huge.  A writer can describe a beautiful vista or a wind-swept plain, but if the reader doesn’t have a visual frame of reference to begin with, or isn’t one to visualize landscapes in a book, a movie can better evoke the splendor or power of the scene.  There can also be much said by the look on an actor’s face, by lighting, or through music that can set the mood or provide forshadowing in a way that is not fully available in books.

Books, however, can provide far more depth to a story than a feature-length film ever could.  In film and on TV flashbacks are often cheesy, books can tell a backstory in a much more artful way.  Similarly, books are generally far superior at sharing a character’s internal thought process or motivation.  As others have said, a book also has the advantage of more time to tell its story.  Unless a movie is truly epic, people don’t generally want to sit through it for 3+ hours, which limits how much story can be told.  Obviously an over-long book can be daunting as well (particularly if it is sub-par), but it has the advantage that the whole thing need not be finished at once.

Most readers I talk to tell me that they always like the book better than the movie.  This has not quite been my experience.  For me, it often depends on which medium I come into contact with first.  For instance, I saw Jurassic Park in the theaters when it came out.  I was young enough at that point that I’d never even heard of Michael Crichton.  A year or so later I read the book, and really was not terribly impressed.  I preferred the way the story was told through the movie.  On the other hand are the Harry Potter movies.  With those, I read the books first and it took me quite a while to enjoy the movies.  I finally got to the point where I liked them for what they were and made my peace with what they had left out from the books.  I still, however, prefer the books and all of the extra details they are able to impart to the reader.

If you would like to check out some new books, see the details for my contest.  You can win any book I have reviewed since the inception of this blog.

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9 comments to BTT – Books vs. Movies

  • I totally agree – the order of reading/seeing can greatly affect the way I respond to a book or a movie made from a book. Although I always tend to think that I prefer books to movies, sometimes if I’ve seen the movie version first, its impact can be much more powerful than the book it was based on.

  • sya

    Hm. I read Jurassic Park before seeing the movie. I was disappointed in the movie for one main reason–they cut out a scene that I had particularly wanted to see on the screen. As you say, with the time constraints, there’s only so much that can go into a movie so I can’t really blame anyone for that particular difference.

  • bunnyb

    It’s true about the order of reading or watching a story. It’s rare for both to be good, I think. I remember watching The First Wives Club and loving it, so I bought the book. Apparently the movie didn’t follow the book that much. I loved the movie more because it was hilarious.

  • kegsoccer

    Lol, sorry this has nothing to do with your post, but I thought it was amusing that you started numbering your posts. It does help all of us out there excitedly waiting for the 100th post!

  • That’s exactly why I started doing it, so nobody had to go back and count to figure out how soon the contest was going to be over, since it is more dependent on post than on a date. Plus, I wanted to keep reminding myself as well, because I don’t always use the dashboard.

  • I took several classes in college the looked at the connection between film and other mediums – film studies, film & lit, and theology & film. All were interesting in their own ways, but I definitely had the most reaction and interaction with the film & lit class. I will never forget reading “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, LOVING it, and then being TERRIFIED by the movie (Stanley Kubrick made it). I think it is one of the rare cases where the literary work protects the reader from the brashness/harshness/violence of the story without ruining its point, which can’t be done with visual images, I don’t think.

  • I think you’re right about liking the story in the medium in which you first discovered it. The only time that I can think of where this wasn’t true is with Gone With the Wind. I like the book and movie equally well.

  • When I hear that something I haven’t read is going to be made into a movie, and I plan to see that movie, I try to read the book first. I do discover a lot of great books that way, like “Little Children”, “The Other Bolyn Girl”, “Thank you for not smoking”, and many more.

  • Yeah, I definitely agree with you. Usually if I read the book first I like the book more than the movie, or vis versa. Granted there are always exceptions, but still usually the first one I see or read is the one I end up liking more. I usually try to read the book first before I see the movie adaptation of it though. I like seeing how they changed it or whatever in the movie after having read the book.