10 Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Movies

November 17, 2009 at 5:05 am (Other) (, , , , , , )


Okay if you are a reader, you already know the answer to this one.  Why is it that when they turn a book into a movie, the book is almost always (there are a couple of exceptions) better?  Here are my ten reasons:

  1. In books it is easier to see what is going on in the characters heads.  This actually makes character action and motivation make more sense.  Instead of just running through the dark and then for some reason veering toward the deserted and creepy building we can sometimes hear their thoughts and the character can explain and justify their logic.
  2. There are no shiny, beautiful people on the screen distracting you from how the characters should look.  Even ugly characters, when transferred to the screen, are usually played by some beautiful person who has had a bit of dirt scrubbed on their face to make them look dowdy.  It doesn’t really work and it takes away from the character.
  3. Plots make more sense in book form because the point of the book is to tell a story, not be visually spectacular.  I will Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as an example here.  This book had quite a lot of action in it already and yet when the movie was released huge chunks of the story were removed and replaced with even more action.  The entire dragon chase sequence around the school, ending with Harry crashing into the roof did not exist in the book.  It didn’t add a single thing to the story and because of this lengthy sequence the movie dragged on and still didn’t make any sense because key pieces of information were never revealed.
  4. Books are completely portable.  I know people keep trying to tell us they aren’t and that we need to read on computers and all manner of other things, but compared to carting a television around, books are extremely portable.  And yes, we can watch movies on laptops and phones and portable DVD players but when the picture is that small, I have to wonder what the point is.
  5. Books don’t need batteries or a power source to run.  You open them, you read them.
  6. Reading books takes longer than watching a movie.  Some people would argue that it isn’t an advantage to be time consuming but in terms of the cost to enjoyment ratio I would very much like my enjoyment to go for more than an hour or two.
  7. There are never bad special effects in books because you create the images in your own head and they come out flawlessly.
  8. The characters are never destroyed by bad acting (though bad writing is another story).
  9. The soundtrack is whatever you want it to be and you aren’t being constantly forewarned of any actual tension by a spike in the music so you can genuinely be surprised by the next plot twist.
  10. Curl up on the couch with a DVD case in your hand and see how relaxed it makes you feel.

Yes, you may now all proceed to tell me how incredible movies are and how much better this or that movie was than the book.

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21 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I love this! And totally agree with you. I’m tweeting…

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Dr. Tom Bibey said,

    With a book the reader can internalize from their own perspective and imagination, and it is different for each person. The reader can make a book their own personal story. This can done with movies too, but you’re forced to accept too many facts if the visualization is done for you. It isn’t as much fun that way for me either.

    Dr. Tom Bibey

    drtombibey.wordpress.com

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think that is the main reason – movies force their perspective onto you far too much. Thanks for the visit.

  3. Galen Kindley said,

    This is a very thoughtful and on-point list. I’d never considered most of these, yet felt books were almost always better than movies…now I know why? I’m wondering, could I hire you to do the same kind of analysis for my bank account?? (Grin.) One thing I do like about movies, they can help you form a visual image of setting and characters. Hogwarts, for example, is easier to visualize for me because of the movie. Interestingly, I liked the book Goblet of Fire, but felt like the movie cheated me out of the first one quarter of the book.

    Best Regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      There are definitely great points about movies (I am a major movie addict when I’m not reading). Next week I’m going to look at why movies are better than books because there are quite a few movies out there that would have made terrible books.

  4. Melonie said,

    Movies do tend to get me keyed up in ways books don’t. You’re right: there is nothing relaxing about curling up on the sofa with a DVD case. I don’t mind so much reading on computer screens — but there is something irreplaceable about a good old fashioned portable book full of paper pages.

  5. Elizabeth Ditty said,

    As an avid lover of both books and movies, the thing to remember is that they’re really two very different media, and stories are often more suited to one than the other.

    If you look at most of the movie-to-book adaptations, the book versions are poor replacements for the films. Going the other way, in the majority of cases, I’ll concede that books are usually at least slightly better than their filmed counterparts (though there are, of course, exceptions to prove the rule).

    In general, a film is a much more heightened emotional experience, but because of that it can be fleeting. Generally speaking, we’re with the characters for a shorter period of time, but we’re experiencing (or at least should be experiencing) the most intense period of their entire life’s arc.

    In books, you get a less heightened but more rational and drawn out experience, which is why they often stay with us longer and hit us in ways that films don’t. We’re with the characters for a longer time, get to know them better, and see more nuance in their stories.

    These differences, in my opinion, do not make one medium better than the other. They’re simply two distinctive beasts, and they’re both wonderful in their own ways.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I very much agree with this point. They are two different experiences, which is why I wonder why so many people want to turn books into movies. What makes a great book does not necessarily make for a great movie.

      • ditty1013 said,

        Yes, that’s very true. The reason it happens so often is that you have a built-in audience when you turn a popular book into a film. It costs less to advertise and is easier to create a marketing campaign, and you get spikes in book sales, too.

        The transitions are usually best when films stay faithful to the tone and theme of the book rather than the page-by-page content. But you’re never going to make everyone happy, certainly. Good discussion you’ve got going here! :-)

      • Cassandra Jade said,

        The Golden Compass was a great example of this. It stayed so true to the book (except that it stopped before the end of the first book) that it really was just like a watered down and less inspired version of the book (incidentally I’m still annoyed that they named the movie the Golden Compass and not Northern Lights which was the original title of the book). Thanks for the comment.

  6. Crystal Clear Proofing said,

    BRAVO! Excellent post and excellent points made for – HOORAY! – BOOKS!

    I’ll take a book and my own imagination any day over a movie! Did I say, “BRAVO!”?

  7. Carol Kilgore said,

    I love books and movies. I love books for all the reasons you said, especially being able to get in the characters’ heads and having the story experience last longer than a couple hours. But there are a few movies I’ll watch again and again because they’re a magicical blend for me of all the best parts of each coming together.

  8. Juliet Boyd said,

    I think the problem here is not books or movies being better than each other, it’s adaptations. An adaptation can never capture everything in the book – I don’t suppose many of us would want to sit in a cinema for a ten hour stretch anyway.

    If a story is written directly for the screen it doesn’t have that in-built disappointment factor.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      A lot of my friends have a policy of not reading the book if they want to see the movie. My problem is I’ve usually read the book long before someone thinks of turning it into a movie so I don’t have the option. I always end up comparing the two and coming to the conclusion the book was better. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Cassandra Jade said,

    I really should have added to my list: They just are. Maybe that is reason number 11.

  10. markp427 said,

    #5 is true, except when it comes to the Kindle. I’ve played around with one – a couple of coworkers have them – and I have to say, call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to embrace this technology (even if Stephen King is a fan). A book should be made of paper, period.

    And yes, books are much better than movies. (The lone possible exception being Lord Of The Rings, but even then, it’s a toss-up).

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  11. Becca said,

    You are spot on with every one of these!

  12. Why do we expect good books to make good films? « Juliet Boyd – Would it work better if…? said,

    [...] to make good films? 19 November 2009 — Juliet Boyd I recently read a post here on Cassandra Jade’s blog that gave various reasons why books were better than the films made of them and it got me [...]

  13. Rhiannon Hart said,

    YES x 10!

    This is what I incoherently mutter to my boyfriend over red wine. He loves books but he’s also a film buff and student from way back. He also brings home the most inane DVDs and says, “But the effects are supposed to be brilliant.” I’ve told I don’t give a flying fig about effects about a million times. I’m going to print out your list and staple it to his head.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Maybe that is going a bit far, but you could always sticky tape it to the DVD case. Thanks for the visit.

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