Question: What do Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, Cold Mountain, The Notebook, Gone With The Wind & The English Patient have in common?
Before we get to the answer, let me explain. Rare is the novel I have read (that’s actually a true statement in and of itself) – but, rare is the novel I’ve read where the movie version is hailed as “much better” by fans.
The book vs. movie debate rages on. No matter how good a movie is, no matter how popular, how fan-crazed a film (and that includes Twihards) – there’s always a sizable segment of the population that says the book is better. Why is that? I have no idea. To me, they’re quiet simply two different mediums, which are experienced differently and therefore, should be judged differently. Precisely why I find people who become territorial about adaptations nothing short of ridiculous. We can love both reading and viewing – but shouldn’t we appreciate their uniqueness?
For example, there are two movies currently in theaters based on bestsellers (well, more than two, but I was never one for the Conan graphic novellas/Marvel stuff so I can’t really speak to those guys). They are The Help and One Day. In my opinion, one movie is brilliant and the other is light, fluffy fun. Both books have ultra-passionate fan bases whose members hoped for the best, but I know plenty of folks who admitted they were expecting the worst. Before they even set foot in the theater. What’s that about? The Help, while the # 1 movie in America (a singular fact that delights me) is still being held up to the withering standards of readers who thought the book was better. One Day, which is doing just okay at the box office despite being a very popular read, has actors who admitted being terrified that they would not hold up to the book. Inevitable, sure — but no less unfortunate.
At the end of the day no matter how good a film is, there will always be that crowd that thinks, well, you know, if you’d read the book you’d understand the difference — you’d know just how much better it was overall – experientially. I hear this all the time. (I need also to point out that besides the Twilight books I tend to read only espionage books about spies and the governments who pursue them).
Let’s look at the very process by which we experience each. (For me at least, it’s much easier to watch a movie than to read a book). A book is by definition a solitary venture. Books were made to be enjoyed by people who are by themselves, and even if they’re in a train station or on a plane or about to fall asleep, and there are others around, there’s that solitary me-and-my-text thing. Movies, on the other hand, are meant to be enjoyed with others around and if you ask me, a sizable portion of the moviegoing experience is that collective energy inside a theater. When you walk out having loved a movie isn’t it all made even better by the fact that you’re surrounded by people you don’t know who kinda feel the same way? When I finish a book however, I’m invariably all by myself, and the first thing I want is a pat on the back. I want to be told I’ve done something sensible and wise – that’ll pay off – like when I buy a roll of stamps.
In fact, the two experiences are so different that I have to ask – why do we even compare the two? Don’t they serve different purposes entirely? Can’t they do stuff in movies that they can’t do in books – and vice versa – which is why we love them both? What do you think? Is your viewing affected by your reading?
By the way, if you’re wondering about the question I posed:
Answer: They’re all movies made from wildly popular bestselling books.
1) The Hobbit
2) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
3) The Great Gatsby
4) Life Of Pi