Books vs. Movies

Books and movies are both stories produced for our entertainment, but is one truly better than the other? It seems every time I watch a book-turned-movie I’m disappointed. Inevitably the book is always better and I curse Hollywood with dark magic for destroying a favorite story of mine. Well, maybe that’s my own imagination talking too much.

I do believe a great story can be told through both books and movies. (So don’t start posting comments calling me a movie-Nazi.) But I can’t think of a single movie I’ve watched and thought to myself, Wow! That was so much better than the book. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy watching a good flick while munching on some butter soaked popcorn. I am human after all.

Jack ReacherHollywood loves to reinvent popular books on the silver screen. I’m just not convinced their interpretation is always correct (or even close). Consider the actors chosen for some of the books turned into films. The recent movie, Jack Reacher, is a perfect example. However you feel about Tom Cruise is moot when considering the character described in Lee Child’s book series. Jack Reacher is supposedly 6’5″ tall with a broad 50-inch chest and weighs about 250 pounds. Seriously? Maybe I’m thinking of a different Tom Cruise.

Hunger Games is another good example of character differences. In the story, the blonde curly-haired Peeta Mellark is a baker’s son. Consequently he never goes hungry and his family is considered part of the privileged merchant class in District 12. Readers in my book club pictured him as a sweet boy with a little extra dough around his middle. Whereas the movie avoids portraying Peeta as a chunky teen and opts for a hunky muscular adolescent instead (I guess the teen/tween market for ticket sales is too big for Hollywood to ignore).

world war zMany movies are successful at drawing the crowds, but that doesn’t mean they represent the original story the author created. The film World War Z has little more than its title in common with Max Brooks’ novel of the same title. I enjoyed watching Brad Pitt’s action-packed movie version on the massive theater screen, but it’s not a good representation of the book. The movie focuses on a resourceful main character and his fight to keep his family safe while helping save the world. (Um, typical action movie plot here.) In the book, Pitt’s character is only one of many who give their accounts of the Zombie War throughout the globe. The novel falls into the horror genre and explores the global human fear of the end of the world.

Movies are in fact an interpretation of the combined efforts of a director, producer, screen writer and cinematographer. These few people decide what’s important enough for me and the rest of their audience to see on the big screen. It’s a carefully constructed experience – no imagination required for the viewer.

A book is much more personal to its audience than a movie. Every reader brings their own experiences to the interpretation of a book. Every book needs its reader’s imagination to be involved in its story and create a world unique to their own mind. There is no cinematographer to decide details on the setting for us. We, as readers, get to picture what it will all look like as we digest word after word. This gives us endless possibilities within our own imaginations. Interpretation is everything. Readers make their own perfect movie version of every novel they read because they visualize it in their minds.

So which is better: books or movies? Because two things are different doesn’t make one better than the other. I enjoy the entertainment and inspiration they both bring me. But because they are indeed different, I need to judge them as such. Otherwise, a comparison to the book usually leaves the film in the dust.
What do you think: books or movies? Do you prefer one over the other? Are there any books-turned-movies you’ve enjoyed?

Almost Home

When Emily rose from the icy depths the tents were gone. Smoldering remnants of her beloved camp surrounded her. Disorderly black ash replaced her once pristine lab and temporary home. The pungent odor of fuel burned her nose and throat.

“Mike! Susan! Roberto!”

Her eyes watered as she scanned for her friends past wafts of smoke. After spending almost a year together in this frozen wasteland she hadn’t considered them just co-workers for a long time.

She lifted a thin piece of sheet metal on the edge of the blackened devastation. Her eyes swelled and her stomach churned. Susan’s bright red boots were the only recognizable feature on the charred body in front of her. She fell to her knees and sat back on her heels trying to swallow the hard knot in her throat.

There was nothing left of her camp. Remembering her supplies were just delivered two days ago, she knew there would be no help coming to her for another month. She was on her own.

Emily stood up. Her eyes examined the rubble for anything that might be of use to her. She managed to find the remnants of the camp radio. Unlike its owner Mike’s coat was untouched so she zipped it shut over her scuba suit. She needed something other than flippers on her feet though. Acid bubbled up to the back of her mouth as she recalled Susan’s singed red boots.

She never visited any of the other camps. She only knew they existed from speaking with the pilot, James, who brought her supplies. He was supposed to take her home next month. She remembered him telling her of another camp less than fifty miles east. If she could make it there, she’d find help.

She had no food or water, but somehow having her knife on her hip gave her comfort. As she trudged along through the thick snow her thoughts raced. She tried to shirk off the panic by calculating in her head the last ice measurements she took. All the numbers in the world couldn’t seem to keep the fear inducing questions from springing back to her mind though.

The sunshine was constant and she found it difficult to know what time of day it was. How long had she been walking? While time escaped her the cold lashed against her face, splitting her pursed lips.

snowy footprintsHer body begged for rest. She sat down on the arctic powder shivering. She pulled her knees to her chest resting her head on them. Burning relief washed over her eyes when she closed them. When she finally raised her head again, the fur trim on Mike’s hood danced throwing dusty flakes on her lap. Ice painted her lashes silver making it difficult to see anything but the dazzling white converging on her. But she rose up and stumbled on.

Ducking against the brisk air’s punishment, she looked down as she trudged on. She stopped abruptly at the sight of footprints partially erased by the ravenous wind. She turned full circle squinting in search of another human being.

“Hello?”

The wind mocked her with a response. She followed the prints convinced they would lead her to the savior she couldn’t see.

Emily surrendered to disbelief at the second set of fading footprints. She stared at them looking toward the direction they were leading her. One set mimicked another appearing to be the same in size and shape. Her breath halted and her heart sank as she placed Susan’s boot on top of one of the impressions. Hysteria enveloped her entirety as she matched the boots to the other set of prints as well. Tears would burn her cheeks if the wind hadn’t already stolen them.

Blue ice stretched to the horizon, fading into the blinding rays of another waning winter sun. Her defeat gave way to euphoria as she glanced down. Her body tensed and her violent shivers forced her to her knees. Crawling on the ice, she peered forward into the vastness. She thought she saw smoke swirling from a chimney surrounded by bright yellow and orange tents. Her mind continued with tricks when she heard feet crunching against the snow that lay ahead. She was ready for her rescuers. With warm thoughts of home her heavy eyelids closed as she laid face-down on the snow-covered ice beneath her.