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Debate: Is it possible for a movie to best a book?

I think it is, and has been done many more times than we know. Comic books, too, are books, and sometimes the movie is better. What are your thoughts? Please considering both sides, and be civil.
Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster


  • Short answer: Yes.
    Long answer: Yyyyeeeessssssssss
    Co-Founder of Legendarium Media - Serves as Director of Audio Programming and Community Engagement image
  • What I've noticed, when it comes to movie adaptations of books, is that it's easier to breath more interest and life into a children's book-turned-film. Some examples are "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (and I'm thinking of the older animated version) "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", or just about any Charlie Brown animated story. These retained both the look and the charm of the original book/comic and actually enhanced the experience. I absolutely adored "Shrek", "The Neverending Story", and "The Princess Bride", all of which were based on children's books I had never read. If I read the books later, perhaps I would find that experience better, but it would not make the movies less, if you see what I mean.

    In the case of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", the book was only engaging to a 4-5 year old. It is pretty much a "picture book" rather than a fully fledged story. The animated movie, however, made for a very entertaining experience even for the adults in the audience. Perhaps the same could be said for classic stories which might be tedious to read in their original form (because of their antiquated language or long stretches of Victorian preachiness) but make engaging movies...
  • I've actually read The Princess Bride, and did so after having seen the movie (probably) hundreds of times. Turns out the screenplay was written by the author of the book, William Goldman. I'll say this of it.. it was not a "better" experience. It was as good as the movie, but there were many ways that chopping stuff out of the story made for a better experience. If I remember correctly, the movie might have been a strong PG-13 if it were exactly like the book. (For the record, though... the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby is very good, though it's doubtful that Goldman will ever finish the book.)

    I know someone that adores The Neverending Story book. I made it somewhere around half-way.

    I can see, and agree that children's books are some of the easiest to make into greater movies. I liked Where the Wild Things Are, even though I thought some of the voices and plot directions weren't so good, I enjoyed the overall experience.

    Comic strips seem to always be better in cartoon or film formats. Garfield and Dennis the Menace are other great examples of this. It makes me wonder how good Calvin and Hobbes could have been.

    That said, I feel that novels can sometimes be better on film or TV than in book form. I admit that I haven't read an awful lot of books, as I'm a notoriously slow reader (a little bit dyslexic, so I have to read every word on the page to make sure I understood the content correctly). But I have read (and try to only read) books after I've seen the motion picture counterpart. What I've found is the book often is enhanced by the film because I can hear the score and see the faces.

    There have also been times where I felt that the writer of the book wasn't actually the best person to write the book, and the filmmakers were actually better able to capture the characters that were written, because they realized and understood the psychology of the character better than the author of the story actually did, and were able to keep the character from doing something that was actually out-of-character in the film version. This is true of Big Fish, where Tim Burton was able to recognize something about Edward Bloom that the original novelist did not, and saved the character.
    Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster
  • I'm quite sure I've seen many movies made from books that I have not read (or might never read). I can't compare them. In those cases it's enough that the filmmaker gave me an enjoyable experience by making a good film. Therein lies the problem: film ≠ book.

    Now, if someone made a great movie out of "Animal Farm", then not only would they have worked a miracle, but I could then attest that yes, a movie can really be better than the book! (oh my goodness, I hated having to read that in high school!)
  • Totally on the same page there. Motion picture and written word are so vastly different, that it's actually impossible for a movie version to be exactly what each fan imagined. Teach a hundred fans of a book how to make a movie, and then have each of them write a screenplay that they feel is at least as good as the book, and they'd have 100 different screenplays, based not just one the book but that book through the lens of movies that they love.
    Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster
  • edited March 2015
    I tend to prefer films to the books. The reason why is actually pretty difficult to explain.

    Many people will say that their "theatre of the mind" allows them to take the events and characters in books and imagine them in elaborate and creative ways that speak to them individually. "Their way" of seeing it, so to speak.

    For whatever reason, I really struggle with this. It's just not something my brain does like other people, apparently.

    If I am reading a book and it describes a lush forest glade with flowing streams my mind does not immediately create some lifelike interpretation of this in my head. My brain just sort of acknowledges "Oh ok, it's a forest with a stream..." and moves on. I don't get any sort of visual representation of the books description to magically materialize in my minds eye. I just matter-of-factly have a basic understanding of the setting and my logic and reasoning skills allow me to evaluate what impact the description of that setting may have on a character or certain events. But I don't "See it."

    My wife and I have had fascinating conversations about this, because neither of us can relate to each other when it comes to this topic AT ALL, which is rare for us.

    She has a vivid imagination, and she is able to truly visualize things in her minds eye with ease. Color, taste, smell, texture, etc. The lush forest glade becomes a sensory experience for her. For me it's just a few words on a page that serve as exposition telling me the scene is taking place in a forest.

    As I said, it's difficult to explain, and I've always struggled to find ways to properly articulate this. It's all very ironic, of course, because I am an Actor and my imagination is supposed to be one of my strongest strengths. And I suppose it still is... But just not in the way you may expect.

    Does this make any sense whatsoever?

    Anyways, THAT is why I prefer films to books often times. The films give me a visual representation of events, places and characters that I have difficulty forming on my own when reading.
    Co-Founder of Legendarium Media - Serves as Director of Audio Programming and Community Engagement image
  • Tyler, I think it means you are extremely "left-dominant" in how your brain functions: language, story (plot and character), action, and probably music (which is very mathematical) are more interesting to you and easier to understand. For me, left-brain activity is very tedious. This is why I tended to get lost in descriptions of the Battle of Five Armies and Helm's Deep in Tolkien's stories, I found it difficult to follow what was happening from a purely logistical point of view. But his descriptions of the terrain and weather, peoples and monsters, cities and buildings and especially the emotional impact of what was happening were very vividly played out in my mind. One of the first things I did, after finishing The Lord of the Rings at age 13, was to begin drawing pictures of the characters the way I envisioned them. Later I began making melodies for the songs and poetry in the stories. It became such a fountainhead of creativity for me in all aspects except writing... because plot and dialogue completely escape me, I think I've only ever managed to write poetry because it is like painting a little picture with words. Just don't ask me to make anything actually happen! LOL

    I find it very easy to create music. I can hear whole symphonies in my mind! But notating music is extremely difficult and requires me to completely immerse myself in its "language" for many hours straight before I begin to "get in the groove". If there is one thing I've learned in my nearly 60 years it's that you can improve your mind by challenging and exercising it, but you can't change how it works.
  • Wow... all of this gives me an entirely different way to understand why someone may believe a book to be better than the film version, or a movie to be better than the written version... even when one side or the other can be entirely incorrect.

    For instance... while someone may be able to envision a grand sequence during which Falcor is flying over Fantasia (or Fantastica, per the book) while reading it... another may just understand that Falcor is flying over a landscape, and nothing more. So when someone makes a film with sweeping vistas and creatures down below, the person that may only understand what is happening, will likely be blown away by the visuals. The person that gets swept up into their own imagination would probably be able to compare what they saw in their head to what the filmmakers designed.

    And another interesting part is that the designers that come up with the creatures, costuming, buildings, ships, you name it... they're the ones that fall somewhere in the middle. They can probably imagine quite a bit, but then apply that to the page.

    I can, for instance, imagine incredible looking creatures and characters, but when it comes to drawing them, I have a hard time applying the drawing of my mind to the page. (This is likely because of how memory works, and how we can imagine the basic details of something, but the finer details are filled in by the mind.)

    So basically, it could come down to this: people perceive the story based on how their mind works, and for some people one will always be better than the other.

    And that's even if the movie's script was practically word for word with the book.

    The other side of it is when someone perceives a character to be different in the film vs. the book, and if they feel the filmmakers lost sight of the character from the page. I've found that sometimes the author intends to use the character for some purpose of their own, rather than letting the character actually be himself and psychologically go where they should, if the author would only think as the character would think. Even the most brilliant writers can sometimes miss the path their character would more logically go though.
    Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster
  • Can films do a better job of telling a story than the novel they are based on? Certainly.

    Do they always? Not really.

    Game of Thrones the show cut through a lot of long and meandering plot lines and really streamlined the plot. Sometimes this worked well, other times it did not.

    Other times it completely goes in a direction that makes you question what the writers were thinking. Some recent examples that I can think of would be movies like 'Seventh Son' or even 'Hobbit 2' (have not seen 3 because of how disappointed I was with 2).
  • Are you the fellow that wrote that article about Hobbit 2? I was planning on writing an article about my experience watching the Hobbit Trilogy all in one day, and how the three films together make a better single film experience than any of the three apart from one another.
    Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster
  • While I'm sure that I've written enough to make an article, I have not written a complete work regarding the Trilogy.

    I will be getting the extended Blu-ray trilogy once it comes out so I can experience all three movies complete and in my living room.
  • Very nice. I'm pumped for the extended edition of Battle of the Five Armies. While it, too, is very different from the book, I found that there were some things that I appreciated being a part of the film that didn't appear in the book. Bard is one character that has a greater arc, to me, in the film. This is one area where film can benefit a book. Knowing what we "know" about the characters, even if not Tolkien written story, can help to enhance future readings of the story as Tolkien wrote it.
    Muppet of a Man, and Ghostbuster
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