It’s a well known rule that the book is always better than the movie. I mean, there’s definitely some exceptions, but it’s actually a pretty reliable rule. Why? What is it that makes the book so much better? I’ve got a few ideas that I want to throw out there.
A large portion of a book is character thoughts, emotions, and internal stuff. These things don’t translate very well to screen without doing a narration. And for most movie makers narration doesn’t fit well with their vision. (It killed in Clueless, though!) So in movies we don’t get to know the characters as well, and many of the deeper points are lost in translation. The 2005 Pride and Prejudice comes to mind, with entire minutes of Keira Knightly just staring thoughtfully into the camera, all of Elizabeth’s wit and sarcasm inaudible to the viewer.
Books are written for the long haul. While there are definitely some books that can be finished in one long sitting, authors can assume that readers are willing to read their book over the course of days or even weeks. Movie adaptations have to squeeze ALL OF THAT into a measly two hours. It makes them feel hurried and shallow, and often our favorite moments are the ones that don’t make the cut. Harry Potter fans are still sore over the loss of Peeves.
Your imagination is more powerful than special effects
Don’t get me wrong, special effects are getting pretty dang good. In some cases (Jurassic World) I could never imagine something so terrifying myself. But often, especially with whimsical fantasy, unrealistic things look better in your mind. Unicorns, for example, always look stupid to me on film. Like, literally, it’s just a horse someone glued a horn onto. Just, no.
Books Reflect YOU
When you’re reading a book you put yourself into the narrative. You interpret the characters and events, emphasizing the things and moments and feelings that most reflect your thoughts and feelings. You see it through the lens of your life and who you are as a person. It’s one of the reasons we connect so strongly with books, and also why our tastes vary so much. But when you watch a movie the actors and the director do all of that interpretation for you. It can be completely amazing to see when it’s done well, but with our most beloved books the interpretation of the movie makers is often different than our own. I think that keeps us connecting as well with it, but it can also change what we feel the heart of the narrative is, and that’s a big deal.
What do YOU think makes books better than movies? Let me know in the comments!