Do movies ruin books?

Looking at how movies transform our interpretations of the books we love.

I recently went to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and found myself unexpectedly disappointed by some of the scenes. As a book, The Hobbit was a foundation to my younger years. Every single year, from grade six to grade nine, I wrote a book report on The Hobbit. It was the easiest string of book reports I’ve ever done. My memories of The Hobbit though, were vivid, real, and fantastic, from the way I pictured the characters, to the locations, to the emotions I felt at certain places, and so, I had certain expectations for the motion picture. Yet, while I was watching the film, time and time again I thought, “that character is too serious,” or, “this fight scene is over played and way too dramatized,” and even, “how could it possibly be so bright deep inside that cave with no light!?” We’ve all heard it: movies can’t do books justice. The most recognizable form of this failure to our generation are probably the Harry Potter movies. It just became a prejudice that moviegoers were comfortable with; movies cannot deliver the same experience as a book. While I missed out on the Harry Potter craze, I did go back and start to read them after watching the movies (causing loyal book fans to sigh in sadness), and found it impossible to imagine the characters for myself. Frankly, the cover art of Harry Potter is not outrageously different than Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal, but it did replace my own interpretations. Nothing was more abrasive, though, than The Lord of the Rings’s rendition of Frodo and Aragorn. I mean, come on, they were nothing like how I pictured them! Yet, going back to the books now, I imagine the movie characters in place of the older forms generated by my own imagination. I want to try to make a case for these movies, by showing a few examples that did it right. For example, The Godfather, which was based off the popular 1969 book by Mario Puzo. The Road is another good example, which was an adaptation from Cormac McCarthy’s book whose only significant difference was that the character known as ‘Woman’ was given a bigger role in the book. Finally, perhaps one of best examples of book to movie adaptation is Silence of the Lambs, a chilling thriller that truly does the book justice. Is it possible for every movie based off of a book to do the written word justice? Not at all. Every single person has a different interpretation of scenery, emotion, and imagery. However, careful attention to detail in the book, reception of fan input, and the will to not add content to boost financial gains can help relieve the anxiety of book fans as another one of their much-loved books is repackaged into a more accessible form of media. What about you? Did a movie adapted from one of your favourite books ruin your preconceived ideas? Did you have one that surprised you with their presentation? Do you have any other examples of movies that got things right? Let us know at [email protected]

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