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.
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