Sometimes when I’m bored at work I try and start some controversial conversations on Facebook with the AwesomeBooks crowd – my favourites are either the ebook vs physical book debate, or the ‘is X film as good as the book?’ Then I just sit back and watch the thread burn.
Without fail there’s always at least one person (and you know the kind) who comments that the book is never as good as the film! And this seems a bit of a consensus among hardcore book fans – but why is that? Why is it that we have such an aversion to film adaptations?
I got thinking about it – is it simply that we’ve been unlucky in that most people who make a film adaptation do it pretty badly? I mean there are some good exceptions right? Lord of the Rings is fantastic, I really enjoyed Divergent and The Hunger Games but did I like them as much as the books? I don’t know! That seems unlikely based on how many great films are out there.
However, maybe it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the films as such, maybe books just have it easier. I mean think about when you meet someone for the first time – if the person is something special you might know straight away that you think this person’s amazing and you want to see them again and again. These people are those fantastic films that win awards and you watch over and over again and recommend to your friends, because even though you’ve only sat through 90 minutes of it you loved it that much! But with most people it takes time to get attached and build up a friendship and get emotionally involved – these people are like books. Books take time to read, some hours, some days, some weeks and as you invest so much time you get more and more emotionally involved. You start to care about the characters and what happens to them. Maybe we just prefer the books because we’ve invested more time in them and have had more time for them to become important to us.
Plus, with every thing you read you throw a little bit of yourself in there as you imagine each character and scenario. Films, as my sister pointed out, are just one person’s perspective, books have a little bit of you in them.
But going back to the whole time-investment idea. Perhaps this is why TV adaptations of books tend to be more successful that the films. Take Bones for example, that was based on Kathy Reichs’ books, and is now in it’s 10th season. Pretty Little Liars is coming up to it’s 6th season, Game of Thrones is currently airing it’s fifth season and then of course there’s Sherlock, Elementary, Dexter, Gossip Girl and a whole load more! Again, maybe we prefer a TV series adaptation because we have more time to get involved with the characters and the creators have more time to explore the details which seemed key in the books, but a film may not have had time for.
So maybe it’s just that people prefer books in general – but what happens when someone makes a film and then a book-tie in is written? Are they are good, do people think the books are better? Well based on the number of people who read books based on films, opposed to those who just see the film, probably not.
That said, maybe it’s about time we stop comparing books and film, even when the plot / characters / source is the same. We need to understand that, while both are methods of storytelling, we use each for a different purpose. Films are about taking it easy, instant gratification, sitting back and watching, they’re a passive activity. Books are involved; books take time, books take emotional investment and, often, books require you to think. We turn to books and films for different reasons. We don’t compare water and alcohol in the same way because we consume them for different reasons; we know alcohol might not be as good for you as water but it’s still fun at the time and a drink of it every now and again can be great! That said, you wouldn’t want a couple of shots of vodka in the middle of a hot summer day, after a long cycle – that’s when a glass of water comes in! And of course there are some people who don’t drink alcohol and, probably some who prefer a cup of coffee or a soft drink to water, but the point is, for most of us, there’s a space for both in our lives and maybe it’s about time we stopped comparing books and films and tv series based of each other and started just enjoying each one as an independent piece of work?