Pro/Con: Books vs Movies

Storytelling in all its guises

Lynne Bell

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            This week, I am taking a stance that doesn't come naturally to me. I am to argue that TV shows and films inspired by books are equal to or -gasp!-even better than the tomes that inspired them.

            My first impulse is to argue that (of course!) reading a book offers a breadth and depth of experience and emotion that is simply not possible to replicate on the small-or even super-sized-screen.

            However, a little research soon indicates otherwise. I certainly won't attempt to put forth a blanket statement saying that film is superior to the printed word. However, a story can come alive and even transcend cultures and nationalities if the right combination of actors, scriptwriters and other members of  Team Movie Magic choose to tell a great story- even if the narrative comes from the pages of a well-loved book.

            Case in point: British thriller writer Michael Dobbs' novel, “House of Cards” which was followed by “To Play the King” (1992) and “The Final Cut (1994); all featuring UK politician, Francis Urquhart, whose villainy is only matched by his ambition.

            Dobbs calls “House of Cards” his most famous novel and he marvels that nearly 25 years after its original publication, it is still relevant and being adapted for a growing audience of TV and film fans.

            Onhis website (, the author says: “I started writing the book beside a swimming pool during a moment of boredom on holiday. I had no idea it was about to change my life so completely. A quarter of a century later it's still doing that, changing my life, never knowing what to expect...”

            The story of a politician whose dangerous ambition seemingly knows no bounds was first adapted for the small screen by the BBC in 1990. The “House of Cards” mini-series was nominated for  a string of British television awards and was picked up by PBS in the States, as well as eventually airing in countries thoughout the world.

            Over a decade later in 2013, Netflix adapted “House of Cards” for its first-ever original series, starring Kevin Spacey as sinister American senator Frank Underwood, who has his eye on the top job at the White House. The series is still going strong, and like its UK predecessor, has also already received numerous awards. 

            Spacey has said of the series, “The original was about a wily, murderous politician worming his way to becoming Prime Minister. This (the US version) is about a wily, murderous politician worming his way to the White House.”

            Much of the story is inspired by Dobbs' time in Parliament, as a Chief of Staff and later, Deputy Chairman of the (UK) Conservative Party. While the protagonist is a man driven by largely unscrupulous ambition, the story explores many of the universal themes that continue to puzzle and plague humankind, all boiling down to the battle of good versus evil.

            A story that speaks to the human condition honestly-whether it's to the better or worst parts of our nature-in an entertaining fashion has the potential to reach millions. Storytelling in all its guises can open up worlds we can only otherwise imagine. 


Books are better

By Kelly Running


                Since movies have begun being made, it’s become commonplace to take the storyline from beloved books to adapt to the big screen or the T.V. screen, which is fine, but the films and television shows always seem to be lacking something.

                They stand on their own, but it’s a common belief that the movie is never as good as the book. Why is that?

                When you read a book first, before the movie is even thought of, you take the words and as you delve into the book turn are using your imagination to create the world. Although the author has created the world, books are left open to your interpretation a little bit, so when a character or a scene is described you take that in and it evolves in your mind.

                Movies and television shows can be very good. If you look at popular media these days you see The Hunger Games as a big movie franchise or Game of Thrones as a popular HBO series, others include The Millennium Trilogy – commonly referred to as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series – or Tru Blood, Pretty Little Liars, and even kids shows are subject to it with the Berenstain Bears books when I was little.

                There’s a vast amount of adaptations. Even older books like Pride and Prejudice or A Clockwork Orange have been adapted by the big screen.

                Obviously they are fantastic stories, but when they’re brought to the big screen or to television, if you’ve read the books there is often something lacking. This character wasn’t what you had imagined or this scene played out differently in your head.

                Books are able to flesh out every aspect of what is going on, there are numerous characters and the true intricacies of the writer show through. With a movie or television show oftentimes the plotline is altered slightly to make it different from the book, so it will stand on its own and the producers of the movie make this apparent. However, for the most part they attempt to follow the book as exactly as possible, yet important people are left out, scenes are mashed together, or something you thought was a huge factor in the book is minimized onscreen.

                A movie only has an hour and a half to two hours to convey the story, where a book has countless words to set the story. A book is only limited by your imagination, while a television show or movie runs into issues regarding special effects, actors, finding the perfect setting, and all the other variables that go into making a movie or T.V. show.

                So, quite often when you’ve read the book and go to watch the television show or the movie, you’re slightly disappointed in it. For example, in The Hunger Games there is a character, Madge Undersee, who is a rather important part of the story and is actually the one to give Katniss the Mockingjay pin, and the feeling the author put into this relationship was evident when Katniss later learns Madge died in a bombing by the Capitol. Madge wasn’t considered an important enough piece of the puzzle within the world of the silver screen.

                Therefore, books are better than movies because it allows you to interpret and see the story in your own mind. It’s not disappointing because you are the one that helps to bring the words to life and are not dependent on someone else to do it for you.

                Personally I like books better, but I do watch movies and television shows based on books and as long as I look at it as a similar yet separate story I can still enjoy them.

© Copyright Carlyle Observer


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