If you love reading books and watching TV shows and movies as much as I do, then you know how excited one gets when they hear that one of their favorite books is being made into a movie or a TV series. There is no better feeling than watching the characters you have only ever imagined and events you only visualized come to life.
Why then are there always mixed reactions toward a majority of movies adapted from books? You always hear people say they prefer the book when reviewing movie and TV show adaptations. Why do people hate film adaptations of books so much? Why are movies based on books so bad? Well, buckle up because today, we are examining the cause of the books vs. movies/TV shows adaptations debate among fans and why film adaptations are often so disappointing.
If you are researching to write a books vs movies essay, these book and movie adaptation comparison ideas and examples should help you come up with good book vs movies pros and cons.
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Why People Hate The Film Versions of Books
- Casting choices
When reading a book, you create an image of what the characters look like and how they talk. This could be based on the descriptions given in the book or from your imagination. When the book is adapted to film, you expect the cast to be similar to their descriptions or your imagination but this is almost never the case.
Getting cast members who have the exact qualities as described in the book is one of the biggest problems with book to film adaptations. Often one or several things about the actors are off. For instance, they might differ in race, accents, eye or hair color, appearance, height, weight, or even age.
Such changes in the cast can result in mixed feelings towards the movie and the character from the book fans. For instance, when The Vampire Diaries books by L.J. Smith were adapted into a TV series, many book fans had an issue with the character of Bonnie Bennett being cast as a black girl and not a white redhead, as in the books. They also had problems with the main character Elena Gilbert not having pale blonde hair and blue eyes as described.
Another example is in the Hunger Games Trilogy, based on the novels of the same name written by Suzanne Collins, where a black actress was cast to play the character, Rue. She received the same mixed reactions as Bonnie, with a lot of people leaving racist remarks.
The casual watcher, who hasn’t read the books, might not even notice there is anything wrong with the casting choices in movies based on books as long as the actors do their job well. For the diehard book fans, however, the cast change can be a turn-off and is one of the reasons why people hate the film versions of books so much.
Even when the cast does look the part, their interpretation of the characters might be wrong. As a book reader, you are privy to the inner thoughts of the characters and what motivates their actions. If the director, actor, and script don’t do a good job of conveying them they can be lost in translation from book to film.
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- Faithfulness to the books
‘It wasn’t like that in the book.’
As mentioned earlier, as a book lover, you already visualized how events occur, and when the books are adapted into movies, you expect them to stay faithful to the source material. However, this is not always possible and most times the movie/TV show writers and directors change how things happen, the pacing, the chronological order of events, and the dialogues in some scenes, thus resulting in film adaptations that differ from their source material. This could be because some dialogues, wordplay, and metaphors work well in written form and do not translate well on screen or would be too cringey.
But why do directors change movies based on books, even though they were successful as books? Since most movies are restricted to 1.5 to 2-hour slots, including all the aspects of long books might be a challenge. Some scenes could get cut and never make it to the screen, especially if they are not that important or when they are controversial. Some characters and storylines might also be added to create more drama or omitted if they are not that important, and these are some of the reasons why movies are never like the books they are based on.
Books that involve a lot of internal thinking or monologues do not translate well on screen and often require the addition or omission of material for them to make sense. Changes can also be made to create suspense or raise the stakes. For example, the TV show Pretty Little Liars had to stray away from the books it is based on to create suspense.
Book fans do not always appreciate these changes and might feel like the movie adaptations ruin the books for them, especially if they deviate so much that they become unrecognizable. For instance, if you look up the reviews of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians movies, you will find hundreds of book fans complaining about how much the movies deviate from the books or saying things like ‘the books were better than the films.’
- High expectations from book fans
Taking on the task of adapting a popular book into a movie is very risky. You have to satisfy the expectations of the book readers and create a world that even the casual cinema-goer will comprehend. However, no matter what you do, there are always those who will say the book was better and hate the film versions of the books.
The book lover is the biggest critic of its movie counterpart. You place very high expectations for how you want the adaptation to be, which could be unrealistic. As these are different mediums, movies can never be exactly like the books they are based on.
Authors, especially in the fantasy and sci-fi genre, have the freedom to create worlds with whichever sceneries and rules they wish. Even with CGI and other visual effects, the imagery might not be easy to translate accurately on the screen resulting in bad book to movie adaptations.
The final product might have worlds, characters, and sceneries that do not match the book’s descriptions or what the reader conjured while reading. Also, the emotions, tone, and mood set by a book might not be conveyed well in the film adaptation.
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- Adaptations of incomplete books
In my opinion, unfinished books should not be turned into movies or TV shows. They set the adaptations up for failure since they often require a different writer to complete them or, as happens in most cases with TV shows, lead to cancellations when the source material runs out. This could be another reason why people hate the film versions of books. A different author might have different ideas for how the books should have ended, or their quality of writing might not match the previous author’s.
A good example is the HBO series, Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. The show started with very intricate plot lines and complex characters, but as soon as all the available books were adapted, the quality of the show declined in seasons 6, 7, and 8. This is probably because the showrunners had to come up with new storylines by themselves, which were not as interesting or complex as in the earlier seasons.
The last season of Game of Thrones was particularly the most disappointing to both the book and TV series fans and got a lot of criticism for bad writing.
- Low budget
Not all books to film adaptations are made for the big screen and some are done by smaller film studios and production companies with smaller budgets. A low-budget movie will obviously not have access to good visual effects and a talented cast and crew. You end up with stiff actors, poor picture quality, and unappealing settings that look cheap and ruin the movie experience.
An example of this can be seen in some works by the streaming and production company, PassionFlix, which adapts romance novels into movies.
No matter how much we all want to see our favorite characters come to life in book to movie adaptations, we would prefer well-done movies to poorly acted/directed/produced ones.
You now know why people hate the film versions of books so much. Since most book to film adaptations are often unsuccessful, does this mean books should never be turned into movies? NO! Not all film adaptations of books are bad. When done well, TV shows and movies based on books can have commercial success, and in some cases, people might even prefer the film versions.
Some of the best movies and TV shows are adapted from books in various genres, including comics, fantasy, romance, thrillers, and dystopian. For example, the Harry Potter franchise (2001-2011), the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Call Me By Your Name (2018), YOU (2018-present), Outlander (2014-present), The Handmaids Tale (2017-present), and His Dark Materials (2019-2022), among many others. They do not have to be 100% faithful to the books they are based on as long as the changes made do not take away from the quality of the source material.
So, is the book always better than the movie? This is subjective because different viewers will have different opinions regarding the book versus its movie version. As long as books continue being adapted, the books vs. movie adaptations debate will continue to exist.
Books vs. movies/TV shows adaptations; Which one do you prefer? Have you ever been disappointed by TV shows or movies adapted from books you love?
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