It has become quite clear there are increasingly common misconceptions about how books are adapted into movies. First and foremost I want to clarify that yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I’m in no way trying to knock anyone. However I feel a lot of arguments made by fans of books are unfairly expressed towards the movie counterparts.
As an avid movie fan, I’m constantly reading up on the latest releases, box office, reviews and upcoming information on sites like facebook and online news articles. Wherever you will find one of these sites, there is always a comment section for the world to agree or disagree as fast and hard as their fingers can type. The term “everyone’s a critic” couldn’t be more true in these sections. Some understand the art and have legit arguments while others have apparently brought back the ancient method of simply sticking their hand and thumb out, turning it up or down and shouting incoherent obscenities. Unfortunately when it comes to movies based on books people seem to have a much more critical response than usual. But way too often am I seeing it because of misunderstandings of how movie adapting translates. This leads to too many unjustly angry people spreading unfair criticisms. Let me explain…
It Is Impossible To Translate a Movie Into a Book Word for Word
Some may think this is obvious but to a lot of people this surprisingly isn’t. People judge the length of a book and then when they see the movie counterpart, don’t understand why it wasn’t an exact replica of what they had read. This is a real quote from the internet where someone was complaining about material additions/subtractions in reference to The Hobbit:
“You made one book into three movies and didn’t really follow the book. Please do one that follows the original book text – leave out nothing and add nothing.”
I’ll ask this: How long did it take you to read that book? Let’s say it was 6 hours. Movies are hardly ever longer than 3 hours. It’s simple math. Overall, visually showing things in a film will always take longer than reading. You can argue that when describing something in a book it may take a few paragraphs where in the movie just looking at a scene may show everything in a matter of seconds. But when it comes to emotions, that can end up being only a handful of words. Visually you have to capture the actors expressions, gestures and motions. Saying someone ran from point A to point B is one sentence while in the movie, it can be an entire sequence lasting minutes. This may not sound like alot but again, movies are typically 90-180 minutes long so those few minutes take up a lot of real estate. This is just a silly example but you can imagine why it’s obvious you can’t NOT leave out anything and add nothing.
Things Must Be Removed/Added and Edited for Continuity
This is a simple concept. Because they need to remove material from the book in order to fit it into the movie, they also have to rewrite the script in order to fill that gap because of inconsistencies. You may ask: Why did they remove that one specific scene but kept others? The reason is because a story builds upon itself. Scenes, whether book or movie, rarely stand alone without meaning. A successful book and movie builds upon the previous scenes to continue an overlaying purpose. When you translate one part into a movie from a book you have to also include ALL the other parts that lay before it that references it in terms of an event or character development. So when you ask why they may have removed a scene from the movie that was in the book it was because they would have had to incorporate anything related to that as well. The issue here again is time. Movies are short and scenes HAVE to be cut. Whether you think one or another should have been removed is a matter of opinion but regardless, SOMETHING has to get cut. To build upon this, screenwriters need to change things in order to bridge those certain gaps whether it is changing who said something, how they got somewhere or where the characters even are.
Too Similar VS Too Different
This debate will never stop making people upset. It’s a vicious cycle that will not and can not ever end. Many hate when the movies are too different from the books obviously, but many also hate when they are too similar. It’s impossible to please everyone and many unfair reviews are written because of this fact alone. It’s something screenwriters have to keep in the back of their mind constantly. Unfortunately it’s a battle that they will never win. Again, changes and sacrifices HAVE to be made. Lesson here, ignore reviews and watch what you think looks interesting and make your own conclusion.
Comparing Quality – Books VS Movies
Lastly, which in my opinion is the most misguided and frustrating issue, is when people ask this question: “What do you think is better, the book or the movie?” Sure you can like the book more than the movie and even the movie more than the book but its relation ends there. It’s nearly an invalid question. There is very little argument here, if you read the book the chances are extremely high you are going to like the book better simply because it has more of what you originally love and ultimately because it IS the source material. It’s what made you so excited about the movie adaptation to begin with. Again, it’s two completely different mediums. So how can one compare the two saying the opposite choice sucks VS the other? The movie was birthed from the book. It’s the parent of the book… not it’s brother or sister. They aren’t on the same hierarchy. In preferences, most cases the book wins and it’s obvious, but why should the movie be referred to as sucking? To be clear though, the quality of the adaptation is irrelevant here because that’s a different question to ask and an entirely different meaning/understanding.
In summary, movies are called adaptations for a reason. The material is not meant to be simply copied and pasted. Movies adapted from books should be enjoyed as it stands as it’s own complete work. It’s a very different medium that if you constantly try to compare between, you will always set yourself up for disappointment. If you can just try to not get so stressed over the source material and enjoy it for what it’s worth, you may just start to enjoy these movies more.