“The book is so much better than the movie.”
It’s oft-used refrain when talking about any movie based on a book. There’s The Help, The Kite Runner, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, and now the latest will be The Great Gatsby, which comes out May 10.
Over and over, people will say that the book is so much better than the movie. I suppose it’s a way of showing that they actually read the book and are therefore more than just movie and TV consumers.
But this sentiment irks me because a book and a movie are two different beasts. One tells and the other shows.
First of all, a book will contain more details than a movie simply because a book is a medium that lends itself to details. An author must write everything out. If he wants to convey a character’s emotions, he needs to describe the character’s actions, body language, or facial expressions or he could say outright what that character is thinking. Either way, the author must provide details in order to make the picture clear for the reader.
On the other hand, a movie doesn’t need to give the character’s inner-monologue or describe actions or expressions; the actors can show the audience visually.
Another difference between movies and books is that books tend to have more scenes. Part of the reason for that is another scene in the book doesn’t take much more time (for the reader) or money. The author just needs to write a few more pages. Meanwhile in a movie, adding another scene is costly and can lengthen a movie past the point that audiences will watch. American audiences generally expect a movie to last two hours. Putting in more scenes from the book can make a movie go three or four hours.
Think of Gone With the Wind. which is four hours long. Has anyone ever watched that in one sitting?
Lastly, a book requires much more work on the part of the reader because he must visualize the story. Based on the author’s descriptions, the reader imagines how a character appears and talks, what a setting looks like, etc.
Movies are much easier to grasp. The director has done the visualizing for the audience, so we just need to sit back and watch the film. No imagination required.
Saying a book is better than a movie is an unfair comparison because the media are so different.
One gives you a blank canvas and a paintbrush; the other hands everything to you on a silver platter.