As we all know, most movies put out today were first known as books. It seems that the less creative Hollywood gets, the more they depend on authors to write books that they think will be blockbuster hits. And sometimes – sometimes – the book gets lost in all the hoopla of the movie and people don’t even realize or remember that its first home was a bookstore.
There’s always going to be a debate on whether the book is better than the movie, and vice versa. There are some people, for example, who are always going to think that Pride & Prejudice is the greatest movie ever without ever even cracking open the book. And then there are the people who refuse to even see The Lord of the Rings movies because they’re Tolkien purists who don’t want to see their beloved stories get butchered (I don’t interact with those people).
As for myself, I’m kind of in the middle of the road. Being an avid reader, I tend to read the book first anyway without any knowledge that it’s going to become a movie. But I’m not a snob, and I’m not going to diss anyone for not reading the book first. I mean, going back to LOTR, I saw the movies first. I had planned on reading it before they came out, but I didn’t have time, was busy reading other things, blah blah blah, and I was totally cool with that. Of course after I saw the first film and decided it was the best movie ever made, I quickly gobbled up each word that Tolkien wrote within just a few weeks.
But you know what? I still like the movies better.
The reason behind my adoration for the movies over the books (besides the Orlando Bloom factor) is probably due to the fact that I did in fact see the movies first. Seeing Tolkien’s words come to life on the screen in front of me was my first impression of the story, therefore it means more to me than the books. I’m not saying the books aren’t good, because they are. But they’re admittedly a little hard to get through at certain parts (The Council of Elrond, anyone?), and frankly it’s just a lot of pages of a lot of description.
But if you take something like, say, Harry Potter – books that I started reading from the beginning before any of the movies came out – I’m always going to like the books better. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movies. The actors were perfectly cast, the screenwriting was great (considering how hard a job it had to have been to turn a 870-page book into a 2-hour movie), and the music was a great addition to the story (only because I’m a film score nerd).
But I luuuuuurve the books. I read them every year…like going back to an old friend once a year and feeling all warm and fuzzy while a snowstorm blows outside. Yes…that’s how those books make me feel. When I meet someone (and I have) who has seen the movies but not read the books, I get personally offended. And yes, I realize that I’m crossing into purist territory when I saw that, but…come on. READ THE DAMN BOOKS, PEOPLE. Dont’ show up at a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows just because you saw a commercial on TV for it and “it looked kinda cool”. Go to your local library, check out all seven of them, devote one month to reading them cover to cover, and then I give you permission to sit behind me in line at the AMC theater where I’ve been waiting since I got off work at 5:30 pm.
So, what other books do I consider to be better than the movie? Well, any book written by Roald Dahl, for starters (excluding Wes Anderson’s movie version of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is, for lack of a better word, fantastic), but that’s probably because they’re books from my childhood, and nothing can beat that. But all the other movies have come up short when trying to recreate Dahl’s dark humor. My favorite Dahl movie, of course, is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which also happens to be the movie that Dahl himself hated because it was nothing like his book. Rightly so, I guess…the movie did change a lot of things (which Tim Burton later changed back in his version of the movie), but I still love the movie.
I told someone once that my favorite book was Harriet the Spy, and she got all excited because one of her favorite movies was Harriet the Spy. She hadn’t read the book, so I shouldn’t have let it get to me. She simply didn’t know what she was missing. But after trying to watch the movie – and turning it off halfway through because it was so not my Harriet – I just couldn’t understand it. Why did she think this movie was good? Would she still think it’s good after reading the book? Will she stop reading the book halfway through because it’s just so not her Harriet?
But like I said before…I’m not one to diss anyone for what they prefer. You’d rather watch a fairly decent version of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries (and a dismal sequel that I wish was never made) than read the TEN amazing and dramatically different books that make up the series? Fine. You’d rather watch Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson play star-crossed vampire teens than read about Bella and Edward falling in love? Fine (they’re about the same in quality, anyway). You’re satisfied with just watching The Wizard of Oz? Fine, but you’re totally missing out on the 18 OTHER BOOKS that are so different and imaginative from anything else you’ve read. You’d rather just wait for The Hunger Games to come out in theaters than read the books right this second? Fine (you’re a stupid idiot).
On the flip side, there are some movies that were better than the books (besides The Lord of the Rings). Even some that I saw after reading the book! Little Women, for example. The book is good, yes. It’s obviously a classic that will continue to live on for centuries and centuries. But the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder and – wait for it – Christian Bale (sigh) is so good that it made me glad that Louisa May Alcott wasn’t around to see it because she’d probably be jealous that she didn’t make the movie herself. I mean, the character of Laurie in the book? Meh. In the movie?
The Princess Bride is another one. I saw the movie first, obviously, years ago before I even knew that Wesley was my future husband. And then after I realized that the movie is kind of awesome, I read the book. And I decided that the book was awesome, too. Hilarious, even, and sometimes even more hilarious than the movie. But you know what? The movie had Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage. The movie had Andre the Giant making rhyming jokes. The movie had Mandy Patinkin on the ultimate quest for revenge. And the movie had, of course, kissing. After all, it was a kissing book.
Well, I could go on for hours here. The bottom line is that books will always be written, movies will always be made, and more often than not books will be made into movies. But do yourself a favor if you want to avoid any headaches: separate the two. Look at these books and movies as two separate entities. That’s how I look at the Harry Potter movies. I know that they’re completely different in their own way, and for that reason alone I will never complain about what was left out of which movie or why they changed a certain part of another. The books are their own thing, the movies are another. So stop complaining, people.
That being said…does that mean I should give the Harriet the Spy movie another chance?