It’s Irrational, But I Do It Anyway: Comparing Movies to Books

When I was 14, I was thrilled to be sitting in a darkened movie theater, about to watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was my favorite book in the Harry Potter series by far, and I couldn’t wait to see the movie version of it. I left completely disappointed and crestfallen. All of my favorite scenes from the book had been taken out, and the stuff that was added in felt childish to me even as at fourteen. This was my first experience with being disappointed by a movie adaptation of a book I loved, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. I have felt that way with almost every movie to hit theaters that was once a book, and I can assure you, in the past seven years, there has been a significant amount of them.

Recently, I have changed my tactic when I go and see a movie adaptation of a book and it has worked wonders. I always read the book first, and usually, it’s not intentional. Before a movie came out, I would always make an effort to reread the book. I went into the midnight showing of The Hunger Games not having read the book in four years. I remembered what happened and the big details, but I didn’t remember specifics. This worked wonders for me. I left that movie completely in love with it, and thinking it did such a great job adapting to the book.

A lot of fans that I have since talked to had a hard time appreciating the movie. I was lucky, because I had read and loved the book, and I watched and loved the movie. I looked at them as separate entities, and it made a world of difference. Since seeing the movie, I have gone back and read the book, and I understand a lot of reader’s complaints; the movie and the book are more different than I had remembered. However, I refuse to be upset about this.

Being disappointed that your favorite book wasn’t your favorite movie is absolutely irrational. Plain and simple, books and movies are different. A two and a half hour movie can’t include everything from a 350 page book, and you wouldn’t want it to! Even excellent book-to-movies like The Lord of the Rings cut out so much, and most fans are able to appreciate both. A movie needs a more straightforward narrative – all the asides that books are able to logically include don’t work in a movie. Movies also reach a wider audience of people.

A lot of people who didn’t read The Hunger Games have seen the movie. Instead of being upset that the movie wasn’t exactly the same as the book, we should be excited that more people are beginning to love something so awesome. If you’re that type of person who needs every single detail in the book to be included in the movie, just don’t go. I would argue that even with all the cuts the writers made, I still felt the same emotions watching the movie that I did reading the book. The intensity and horror was still alive and well, and the ability to see the fight scenes allowed me to better understand some of the more confusing passages in the book. The Hunger Games, despite its cuts, was still a great movie.

While waiting in line for the movie, my friend Ali reminded me of the first midnight showing we ever saw together: Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince. I left that movie so disappointed, because I had been comparing it to the book. She told me that that made her hate it, too, because I pointed out differences that she hadn’t remembered. So, if you have read the book and then go see the movie, don’t ruin it for everyone else. Let your friends enjoy the movie, and try to accept it for what it is. Trust me, in the long run, I am sure you will leave much more satisfied.


One thought on “It’s Irrational, But I Do It Anyway: Comparing Movies to Books

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite HP book AND film for really different reasons. I think it’s the first time the series gets truly morally complex and the book feels like the first “grownup” installment. Plus, Sirius is indisputably among the most fascinating and multi-dimensional characters in the series. I loved the movie, too, even though it differed from the book so much, because it felt like the first time a director of one of the films had made actual artistic choices that brought the words on the page to life in a different and expanded way. So I totally agree — movie adaptations should be taken on their own, and compared with the essence of the books (I think P of A totally captured the growing complexity of the book) but not the exact, down-to-the-letter details.

    Also, as one of those who saw Hunger Games without having read the books, I can tell you that it definitely stands alone as a film, but that it also made me really want to run right out and read the series.

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