From inner dialogue to background information, many elements are going to be missed as a book is transformed into a movie. It is a challenging art form to do justice to a piece of literature. It is exciting to know that your favorite book is going to come to life on the movie screen (I don’t know if they are silver anymore). It can also be disappointing since other’s visions can greatly differ from your own. We all have our idea of what the characters and setting should look.
When I was young, I wasn’t familiar with actresses and actors, so it wasn’t difficult to believe that they were the characters that were portrayed. Case in point (and I know Star Wars is not a book but hear me out), Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher will always be Han, Luke, and Leia to me. When a book comes to life with a famous person a role, it does make it that much harder to accept them as that character. Not impossible, but just a bit more work.
The setting is not going to be exactly as you picture it. It could be close, or it could be way off. It is fun to see high-definition scenery compared to fuzzy mental pictures. It was a bit disjointed though, to see the Hogwarts grounds change between films.
I try to read the book before seeing the movie and I never get my hopes up. Here are some of the hits and misses in my opinion:
The Martian: As I was reading the book, I kept thinking, “This is written like a movie”. I could be wrong, but I think the author wrote this with a movie in mind. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I enjoyed the book.
Mars looked as close as it could. I’ve seen so many pictures (I’m a space/astronomy buff) that for me it would be difficult to make it completely convincing. My question is: Why is Jason Bourne there? I thought he did a good job.
Ready Player One: If you’ve read my previous ramblings, you know that I’ve read this book a few times. I was excited when the movie was announced. I didn’t recognize the actors, so that was good. Some of my favorite parts were omitted and others made just for the movie. That was fine, a few more topical ideas allowed it to reach a younger demographic. I heard a complaint that there was too much CGI (ummm, it took place mostly in a virtual world, what did you expect?).
The Hunger Games (the first one): Visually it was very close to what I imagined. Woody from Cheers was odd at first, although he grew on me.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: If I hadn’t seen “The Office” (UK), Martin Freeman would have been perfect. He was very good in this role and I quickly forgot the previous character. Set wise, it was close to my vision… I’m glad they stopped at one movie though.
Dune (the 80’s version): Not even going to go there…
Field of Dreams: I admit I saw the movie first. It was quite a while later that I read Shoeless Joe. A few things were different, the reference to J.D. Salinger was changed, but overall, it was true to the book. It was also refreshing to see Darth Vader in civilian clothes.
The Lord of the Rings: Three long books, three 2 1/2 hour movies. There were so many scenes left out, but I understand the reason (5+ hour movies?). Visually it was stunning. Jackson picked perfect locations and I couldn’t fault any of the choices. A few recognizable actors, but that didn’t detract much. I thought the effect of the Ents was a bit cheap though.
The Hobbit: Short book, three long movies. Should have thought harder for the LOTRs. Hey, there’s that guy from The Office again (it was a good choice).
World War Z: The book was not what I was expecting, having picked it up after several seasons of The Walking Dead. But I was great book. The movie was not what I expected, after reading the book. To be fair, if the movie was exactly like the book, it would have been a yawner.
The Bourne Identity: Again, here is a book that I read much later. The book is very different from the movie, so it is difficult to compare. I liked them both.
The Chronicles of Narnia: My favorite book series as a kid. Each of the movies so far have been well realized. The actors that were chosen, look very close to what I imagined. Liam Neeson has a great voice, but I wish I didn’t know him. Side note: I always took pride in knowing-and obnoxiously correcting- that The Magician’s Nephew was the first book. Boy, was I an ass.
There are more that I could talk about if I could remember them. What movies would you add?
Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella trilogy, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.
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2 thoughts on “Read the Movie or Watch the Book”
Hi Leon, I watch very few movies but my limited experience of them is it’s best to watch the movie before reading the book. The book always ruins the movie.
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