“Daybreak at Gale Crater” | Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The book was way better”

or “I read books”

Every time any movie adaptation of a book is released, there are hordes of people who’ll chime in with “the book was way better” or “they completely fucked it up in the movie” or “they left out so much stuff” or another variant of the same thing when all they’re trying to tell you is “I read books”.

We get it. You’re so cultured with your book-reading and all, I’m surprised they haven’t given you a Nobel Prize in Culture — what’s that, it doesn’t exist? Oh, maybe they should create one and name it after you.

I read occasionally. Not nearly as much as I should or would like to. I also watch movies and enjoy both forms of storytelling and understand their limitations and features. I’ve watched almost every movie adaptation made of books I’ve read and you know what, I’ve liked almost all of them. And yes, in general, the books have been more entertaining, but that’s because they’re a very different medium. I try to judge movie adaptations of books I’ve read as if I haven’t read the book or even pretending that there is no book. If the movie can stand on its own, then it’s a good movie.

Did they leave stuff out? Of course they did — it’s 90 minutes* versus more than fifty-thousand words. Did the story make sense to someone who hadn’t read the book? Then it’s good storytelling.

When you read a book, you’re the director, costume designer, make-up artist, casting director, composer of the background-score, SFX supervisor and much much more — yes, the author is giving you directions, but ultimately, your imagination is completing the picture. And if you’re a slow reader like me, then over the course of the few weeks it takes you to read a book, you’ve lived with these characters, stories and their lives, day-in and day-out. Of course, you’re not going to agree with another director’s vision a 100%.

So next time you go watch a movie adaptation of that book you love, just leave your version at home and try to enjoy the story in the medium it’s being presented in — sure, you’re still highly likely to find that “the book was better”, but at least you’ll give yourself a decent shot at enjoying the movie. And lastly, when discussing the movie with others, discuss the movie.

“The book was better” is not a movie review.

*Lord of the Rings franchise excluded, obviously

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