Don’t Judge a Book by its Movie


“The movie got so many things wrong!” “The movie ruined the book for me.” “The movie was so exciting! How could it be based off such a boring book?”

Those are things most people ask (or at least secretly think about) at some point in their lives, with at least one book and its movie. The Hunger Games (All 3 or 4 of them). Harry Potter. The Lord of the Rings. Well, and the Hobbit (Somehow made into 3 movies). Everyone has heard of the books, and everyone has probably heard of their movies. And then, of course, you will hear the insults fly from both sides of the entertainment industry, comparing the plot of the movie to the plot of the book, and how one’s better than the other, so on and so forth.

I sort of think that they really should not be compared. Well, to an extent, but not with the kind of harsh slamming criticism people these days award them. Because they’re not really the same thing. Let me explain.

First, I really hope that I don’t have to digress to explain that human beings are unique and different, and that all people will have a different perspective on stuff. Full stop. Period. Whatever. I’m done with that. Now, back on topic.

What do we call a person who follows his instructions word for word, guidelines and all? Dependable? Well, sure, but I’m talking about a person who’s job is to adapt a book into a movie. Well, for one thing, that movie will probably be a full week of watching, and probably will take a decade to produce. So that’s number one. The book and the film just can’t be the same because of length. Subplots will have to be shortened or removed and minor characters cut from the script.

There’s also, well, opinion. What do people see that is important in the story? For some, it’s how the characters interact and grow in response to one another. For others, it’s the world the story takes place in. Still others like the problem the characters are trying to solve. All these play a part in deciding how to adapt a book into a movie.

So we looked at one story in which both the book and the movie were good and drove their points home. But let’s go on to movies and books in general, and here’s the standard people should compare it too: does it tell a good story?

Many movies have been able to tell good stories even if they were only loosely based on the book. The director and scriptwriter are usually separate from the author, but they too have ideas and creative talent, and the ability to turn ideas into a good story. Philip K. Dick‘s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott‘s movie Blade Runner is a good example of that.

Now let’s take an example that wasn’t done 33 years ago.

There’s one semi-controversial movie that I’ve heard about recently. I’ve heard people praise The Hobbit movies due to the fact that compared to the book, which featured an entirely male (as far as dwarves and dragons go) cast, the movie had Tauriel, a female elf as an addition to the story. Some supported the addition, some were upset that Tolkien’s story was not followed. I didn’t watch the movie myself, so I can’t exactly pass judgment on the addition. But what I can and will ask is, was the addition meaningful? Did it help to tell Peter Jackson’s story? If so, fine. Then she was a good addition. If not, then someone should have pointed it out before it was released.

So just think about that the next time you watch a film adaptation. Don’t go in to look for discrepancies in comparison with the book, that’s just being a troll. Go in to watch the story, and even if it was different, if it was a good story, so what?

It’s still a good story.

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