Books vs. Movies

Art by Chris Brockman.

Art by Chris Brockman.

While I enjoy the occasional trip to the movies and streaming television shows, reading was my favorite way to consume stories before anything else. Getting lost in the pages and my own imagination has always been a great way to spend an afternoon, following the ups and downs of the characters on the page. That being said about myself, it perplexes me when I come across questions like, “Why read a book when there is already a movie/show out?” The very sentiment of the question befuddles me, just completely bamboozles me. It may help that I grew up simultaneously reading the Harry Potter books and excitedly rushing to see the movies as they would release, but in my mind the question is why not read the book?

The Song of Ice and Fire series, adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones, follows the stories of several characters in the low-fantasy continents of Westeros and Essos. I actually wound up watching the HBO adaptation before getting into the books; I was drawn in by the fantastic acting that brought a large and interesting cast of characters to life. I had finished all the episodes released before I even got around to cracking into the first book, a Game of Thrones, and wow did I regret waiting. Visual medium can convey a lot more directly in the form of what a character and their world looks like with casting choices and set design. One area that movies and TV find themselves strictly limited in is the internal monologues of its characters. A good actor can convey what emotions may be going on in the character’s head but only in text can you really settle down and get comfy in the head of Eddard Stark, and can fully understand what is going through his mind. Similarly, budget can limit the scope of the visual translation of a world while in your own mind the battles can be huge and ferocious, the castles massive and ancient, the monsters disgusting and horrifying. In the case of the ASOIAF books, the level of description and detail that George R. R. Martin gives breaths a certain life into the world that’s hard to compare with.

Being such a big fan and Constant Reader, I have to give a mention to Stephen King adaptations otherwise this blog just wouldn’t feel complete. Movie/TV versions of King’s work can be very, very hit or miss. Part of it goes back to getting inside the character’s heads. A large amount of King’s work heavily features the internal thoughts and emotions of his characters and trying to tell the story without them is like watching a sit-com without the laugh track (awkward, uncomfortable, makes you realize how bad the joke actually was.) A few good adaptations have managed to stand out from the rest; the Shawshank Redemption, the Green Mile (both prison stories, huh), Stand by Me, Kubrick’s the Shining, and many others. It, in particular, is one adaptation that hardly compares to the original novel. The 80’s made-for-TV miniseries is fairly corny and hasn’t aged well, though I am terrified of Tim Curry now.) The novel on the other hand, I had to put down for a few days at a time on several occasions. It’s dark, disturbing, and completely unsettling in a way that the show just doesn’t convey.

I’ll just end on a simple note. Read books, seriously you’ll be better off for it.