4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

The Hunger Games was released in theaters on Friday, March 23. Like many others, I saw it on the same day. The reviews have since been rolling in. I personally enjoyed the film and give it a hearty thumbs-up . . . yet I still believe that reading the book is a superior experience.

As I pondered this question again, I decided to re-run an early post of mine for Deep-Fried Friday. I have tweaked the post slightly, but here it is.

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months! You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews. The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back. I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote: The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that? Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License. The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains. If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original. If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting. If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood. Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen. I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles. It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing. Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours. One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books. Well, of course. Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words). Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words). That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But not really. Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen. Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality. Imagine your perfect man. (Didn’t we do this back in high school?) He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious. Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real. It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality. Our imaginations are wonderful things. When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be. Then someone renders a reality version. And it isn’t the same. It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!). But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book. If you still remember specific dialogue, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation. Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time. You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate). It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book. I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

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Friday Fiction: You’re So Vein

I am not a vampire expert, but I feel reasonably well-versed on the literary phenomenon of blood-suckers and eternity seekers.  It began with a late Saturday night reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which my college roommate interrupted by coming home early and startling me to the point of my heart skipping several beats.  Stoker’s Dracula still strikes me as one of the most frightening vampires because he came across as something entirely different from what he truly was – you know, evil.

Anne Rice then wrote The Vampire Chronicles, which I absolutely had to pick up.  Interview with a Vampire was a new perspective on the vampire tale.  This main character, Louis, was not a monster; you could root for him.  In fact, you could understand the dilemma he faced in needing to drink something he considered vile in order to survive.  Now he did have a friend named Lestat that was about as trustworthy as a drug-dealing baby daddy with a few arrest warrants.  The story of that vein-drainer was told in her second book, The Vampire Lestat – also an interesting read.  But by Queen of the Damned, her third one, it seemed she had lost her groove a bit.

I researched vampires at that time, however, and discovered some interesting facts which I still recall.  For instance, Dracula was named after Vlad Dracul, a ruler of Wallachia who was known for murdering his enemies by impaling them on long stakes driven into the ground.  Another interesting point is that many cultures have a vampire myth of some kind – tales of a creature who survives by drinking the blood of others.  The interest in blood as a life-giving substance was likely due to an ancient understanding of life and death.  Pre-surgery and scans, people couldn’t see the offending disease or injury at times, but they knew that if you lost too much blood, you died.  So what if you got the blood of another?  What effect would that have?

A few years down the road, having read the Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris, I picked up the first Sookie Stackhouse book – in which a charming Civil-War-aged vampire woos a contemporary, small-town waitress and they solve mysteries.  At least, I guess that’s what happens in the series.  I read the first one and stopped.  I love Charlaine’s writing, but the series that spawned True Blood was a bit much for me.

And then comes Twilight and its three sequels, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.  Now Stephanie Meyer takes the sympathetic vampire a vast jump forward into a modern-day Romeo.  We all know it’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.  The vampires are the Montagues, and the humans are the Capulets.  Bella and Edward have an impossible love story:  How can they ever be together?  She did change up some of the vampire myths; like how Edward merely sparkles in the bright daylight, rather than being burned by the sun.   And no coffins.  It’s a hopeful story.  In fact, other than the division of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, all’s well that ends well.  (Wasn’t that Shakespeare too?)

Other vampire books I’ve read include:

Eight Grade Bites

Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer

 

 

 

 

Vampire Rising

Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising by Jason Henderson

 

 

 

 

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula

Casa Dracula series by Marta Acosta

 

 

 

And I’ve barely bitten into the vampire genre.  You could fill a large bookstore with vampire titles to seek your teeth into.  (Okay, enough with bad clichés.)

Anyway, I’m wondering what I should tackle next.  I can go either way on whether vampires are horrendously evil or inexplicably charming; whether they should be stabbed with a stake or served a tantalizing meal of rare sausage and blood soup; whether being bitten by a vampire involves certain death or passionate lovemaking for an eternity.   I just want a great story.  And I like hearing how people interpret the vampire myth differently.

So what vampire novels do you like?  Are you a fan of the vampire genre in general?  What do you think about our obsession with the vampire myth?

For my own self, by the way, I’m totally Team Edward.  I can’t imagine wanting to date a dog.  And getting nibbled on the neck can be kind of nice.

Friday Fiction: 4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months!  You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews.  The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back.  I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote:  The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that?  Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License.  The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains.  If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original.  If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting.  If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood.  Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen.  I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles.  It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing.  Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours.  One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books.  Well, of course.  Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words).  Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words).  That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But not really.  Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen.  Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality.  Imagine your perfect man.  (Didn’t we do this back in high school?)  He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious.  Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real.  It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality.  Our imaginations are wonderful things.  When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be.  Then someone renders a reality version.  And it isn’t the same.  It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!).  But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book.  If you still remember specific dialog, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation.  Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time.  You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate).  It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book.  I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

(And while we’re at it, how is Water for Elephants?  I read and liked the book, and now I’m wondering whether to see the movie.)