Which was better: the book or the movie?
Paperbacks, hardcovers, eBooks any would suffice as each allows the reader to physically hold the emotions, thoughts, and secrets of a character that becomes so vivid in description and personality that the reader gradually becomes attached to this worded character. They become the ideal friend, someone who is always there at the turn of a page yet gone with the slam of a cover. As the reader continues and the series progress, friendships are born and lost, settings come and go, and the plot twists and turns, yet one aspect remains the same: the loyalty of the reader. By now the reader is not only attached but invested, he or she desperately needs to know how it ends, but even more importantly they do not want the characters that they have grown to love end. This fact is reality for many avid readers and is evident across all age spectrums as readers cling to the stories and characters that helped them grow, such as Franklin or the Bernstein Bears, and to those that grew with them, such as The Hunger Games or Percy Jackson. They now know these characters from the inside out, their emotions, actions, and features have been put on full display, and the reader has grown accustom, and loyal, to the fact that these characters will never leave them. They are so wonderfully concrete in the mind of the reader that when watching the movie, the reader’s favor has already be set. They will side with the book no matter what, after all, the book is what they fell in love with.
Though there has been the occasion when a film or series, like the ever-popular Chronicles of Narnia or Divergent trilogy, is able to jockey with its counterpart for public favor, this seldom happens as physical, or real-life, characters do not meet the fantastic measures that were made through beautifully threaded words on the page. The settings may not be true to description or the people true to character, but when the plot line falters from its printed course it is as if someone has poured ice water down the reader’s back. The reader realizes that the story they have loyally clung to and spent sleepless nights reading has suddenly betrayed their trust, their imagination of how things were, and in this cold moment of disappointment and disillusion, the usual comment quickly takes root in the reader’s mind. The book was better than the movie.
Therefore, the task of making a book into a film tends to fade into the abyss of ‘so so’ production, and it seems that to even attempt a book-based movie is to mark one’s self for failure.
However, could it be, perhaps, that we have been asking the wrong question? Should it be which did the story justice or which was more prominent? Should we watch the movie without bias or remember that somethings have to be changed due to time restraints? Should we read the book after the movie or even watch it all? Many do not realize that some of the most successful movie franchises were first books but now bear almost no resemblance to the actual plot line or characters.
Like most, I too fell victim to the cliché assumption that books never make for good movies; however, it was not until last November as my mother and I were Christmas shopping in Barnes and Noble for a good read, or, as I prefer to call it, the perfect Christmas gift, that I happened across a wooden display stand decked from top to bottom in thick, hardcover classics.
Each cover was laden with a different intricate and vibrant design, and though you can never tell a book by its cover, I have to admit that, during that moment of basking in the dazzling glow of dozens of glossy, limited editions, I was tempted to drop what I was holding and feverishly grab all the books that I could carry, the books- the true classics- I had always wanted to read but never had the time. There was a light beige and red anthology of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most prominent pieces detailed with wispy, stylish flappers dancing carelessly across the cover that begged me to open it. A dark blue, brooding set of Agatha Christie’s most renowned mysteries, and a golden book of legendary fairy tales. The sight was overwhelming, for it was as if Christmas had come early and all of my literary dreams had suddenly come true.
I happily browsed each level of the tall stand, languishing in a book-lover’s paradise, until a black, white, and blood red image abruptly caught my eye. There on the second level was a large, pristine copy of Michael Crichton’s famous Jurassic Park.
Partly confused and partly intrigued, I thumbed past the enticing cover of a overly animated skeletal T-Rex surrounded by a thick red and black jungle expecting to find a mediocre copy of the movie in print, but what I found was quite surprising.
Like most young, loyal Jurassic Park fans, I was always under the impression that it had begun as a movie-a very successful movie-yet I was surprised to find that Jurassic Park’s humble beginnings had stemmed from a thoroughly researched and intricately constructed book. Tempted beyond my budget and vow that I did not want to know what any of my presents were that year, I had my mother buy the book, and I waited for weeks eyeing the glittery, red package underneath the tree that was my book, patiently waiting to find the answer to that age-old question that had prompted me to open the cover in the first place: was the book better than the movie?
And to honestly answer that question, I actually found both to be equal in quality and quantity. Though the book was far more detailed in the background and process of Jurassic Park’s origins and the characters were visibly different from the ones projected on screen, I found a story that was just as ‘good’ as its movie counterpart. While I will not risk spoiling the book for those who aim to read this famous series, I must say that it is worth one’s while to find out exactly how Jurassic Park came to be.
As a result of reading this book, I have decided to forego ever asking the aforementioned question again, because I have realized that movies and books were never made to compete as they are both separate yet complimenting works in their own right.
Therefore, while the cliché question of which was better may never disappear, one needs to remember that movies and books are like eyebrows: they are sisters not twins, not every detail should be perfectly aligned.
So, the next time you read a book then watch the movie or vice-versa, ask yourself this question. Why does it have to be a competition?
Sarah Barefoot is an English major and junior at the University of Mount Olive. She lives surrounded by golden fields and six imaginative siblings in the outskirts of Pikeville, NC. She has had two works of fiction published in Wayne Community College’s literary magazine, the Renaissance, and currently writes super-short stories in her spare time.