Good Question: Is The Book Better Than The Movie?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the eve of the final Harry Potter movie, there are predictions that it will be the biggest money-maker in the history of Hollywood. However, when hard-core fans compare it to the original book, which comes out on top?

There’s a long history of books being turned into films. “Gone With The Wind,” “The Godfather” and “The Wizard of Oz” are among the popular movies that started as a book. But there are far more films that flopped in transition. So, why is it that the book is often better than the movie?

“It’s not always better than the movie,” notes Eric Henderson, a film critic at WCCO.COM and Slant Magazine.

“The movie has to not be trying to be the book to be successful,” he said, pointing to Stanley Kubrick films like “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining.”

“The Shining is great. It has the basic storyline, but takes off in a radically different direction,” he said. “The book is about ghosts. The movie is about the bitter resentment of an alcoholic father.”

That approach comes at a risk, however, especially to the devoted fan base of the original book, more interested in a faithful retelling of the novel.

“Things get left out of the movies that are in the book. They have to take a 1,000 page book and mash it down to a script which may only have 100 pages,” wrote Sandie Colby on Facebook.

That’s precisely what happened in this movie version of Harry Potter. Filmmakers even took a 700+ page book and split it into two movies, but it still is leaving out characters and plot points.

“I think this one is the best one, I’m not sure how the fans are going to react, and it’s the most exciting. But it doesn’t cover all the details in the book,” said Henderson.

“Books usually let the reader be omniscient. In a movie, you’re seeing something through a camera or director’s eyes or actor’s performance. With a book, you can own it,” he said.

Recently, a popular book called My Sister’s Keeper was released as a movie. The book ends with one sister dying, but the movie changed the ending and killed the other sister. That really irritated people.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Ann Fehrman

    My wise friend Carissa once told me her reasoning for which she limits TV, movies, computer, video games….collective ‘screen time’ from her kids, and how she decides which screen time she allows them to take in to her children’s developing minds (and why her children are big readers).

    She said that with the TV and other screen time your mind is bombarded with the images set in front of it – without the abililty to control the images that they see. WITH A BOOK the readers brain will only take in (from the story being told on the page) what images their own brain and development can handle at that point in their life. The reader will never imagine more than they can developmentally handle. THIS IS WHY I THINK THE BOOK IS MOST OFTEN BETTER THAN THE MOVIE.

    If I weren’t such a scaredy cat I would look into reading and watching some thriller movies (although I did see ‘Jaws’, though I never read the book). It sounds as if some of the thrillers may be best told in movie form rather than in book form. Hhmmm….interesting.

  • Melissa Udstrand

    For the Harry Potter movies I feel they did a pretty good job following the books, this last one was really good they did give you some closer, but I do wish they would have told you who ended up head master at hog warts, I did read all the books and know the answer but for those who have not read the books they will never know….

  • guest

    Books are always better than the movies, although the Harry Potter movies did a pretty good job. This viewpoint comes from a person who loves to read. Those who don’t, will usually prefer the movie

  • Mike

    I have never seen a movie that was better than the book. Reading is a much more enjoyable and engaging than a movie with visual and sound distractions that are directed and compelled by the words of literature.

  • Common Sense up North

    For those that are fans of “The Green Mile” movie, try reading the book. Sooooooo much more in it and it explains the movie more. I read the book, then the movie. Love the movie, but the book just tells you more. Things that weren’t in the movie and yet explains things from the movie.
    Give it a try. Books are better for the brain.

  • TJanssen411

    I think Books (even tie-in novelizations made after the film is in production) allow for more coverage — whether its a deleted scene or a look into the mind of a character (two lines of thought can tell a lot of info that an actor would only able to convey through a facial expression (unless the film employs voice overs)

    not to mention that in the books the reader does the casting, directing and cinematography so it some one was reading the Harry Potter books they were well into book 4 before the first film was in theaters — meaning they’d envisioned the characters at 15 before the 11 year old actors were cast — and It’s a safe bet that the readers were far kinder to the kids’ puberty than reality was on the actors

  • Is The Book Better Than The Movie? | Us Girls..Our Views

    […] Here’s a super Good Question. What’s better? The book or the movie? It came on the other night and I know we’ve talked about this before but not for a while and we have a lot of different readers now so let’s do it again. […]

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