Books versus the big screen: Which is better?

Sofia P.

Staff Writer

The fight between books and movies probably began when movies became a more common form of entertainment around the early 1900s. Most people choose nowadays to go to a movie and watch the adaptations of books rather than actually reading them. This leaves those who love reading to scorn the movie-goers, for they believe that reading the novel is superior to watching the movie adaptation. Amongst any group of teens, there are those who have definite opinions as to whether they prefer to watch movies or to read books.

The avid movie watchers has been watching book adaptations since the 1930s. Two of the most favorite movie adaptations of all time, The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, were written with no idea in mind of the commercial success they would have not only as books, but as movies. Gone with the Wind is considered one of the highest grossing box office movies of all time, second after James Cameron’s Avatar. (Gone with the Wind would take the title of highest grossing box office movie of all time if the differences in the value of the dollar between the time periods in which these movies appeared were taken into account.)

Movies have the appeal of being less time consuming than books, and they provide instant entertainment. Junior Zoey Monette and freshman Capriana Bellanton agree that the reason they choose to watch the movie instead of reading a book is because reading just takes too much time. Why read something that might take days when one could just watch the story in about two hours? A person could spend eight hours watching the Harry Potter series or could spend about a month or two reading the seven books.

While watching movies may seem easier than reading the books, this practice comes with its own disadvantages as well.  Watching movies does not truly allow viewers to become as attached to the characters or to understand them as well as the book readers would. An example being the Harry Potter books because to fit the entire book (some of the Harry Potter books range from 600-800 pages) into the average movie screening time- about two hours—producers have to fit more of the events into the story rather than character interactions, taking away opportunities for audiences to truly understand character emotions. Movies take away details when making the books fit within their viewing time, ultimately changing the book in some way. Even with a book as small as The Wizard of Oz, movie producers ultimately cut out chapters of the book to fit in catching show tunes. Which is more charming and captivating for the audience? That is for the viewers to decide.

Although most book adaptations are not inherently bad, many argue that the book is better than the movie. However, many people still choose to watch a movie rather than read the book, which would take significantly less time. There are simply some stories that are better to watch. The anticipation in Jurassic Park would not be the same without watching the glass of water vibrate to the dinosaur’s footsteps or simply seeing the dinosaur chase the heroes. It is much cooler to see a dinosaur rather than imagine one. Freshman Vanessa Silva says that she prefers to watch movies because she does not have to try to comprehend what the author is saying or try to picture any imagery because the screen presents all of the imagery for the audience. Her point is not invalid, seeing as this is one of the biggest reasons most would say they prefer not to read books. Many in the movie watching community see this as convenience. Why would a person waste so much time on entertainment? At the same time, readers see this as a lack of resolution to be able to finish tasks people set out to do. If a person can spend hours on Instagram or Twitter, why not with a book?

Most readers probably disagree with Monette and Bellanton about the fact that movies are better than books. This probably has something to do with the fact that that Hollywood likes to make movie adaptations of successful books or books that have potential in the cinema but maybe were not as good as a book. When going from the imagination of the reader to the silver screen, directors and movie writers always change something from the book to put into the movie. This results in the story not being quite the same as the book, and even the smallest of differences will make fans enthusiastic.  Freshman Nayellie Celis thinks that the movie adaptations are not corrupt, but when movie producers change the plot or characters, it is a little aggravating for book lovers. Celis said, “Books are better, but people who don’t read the books are obviously going to like the movies.”

Celis also says that one of the biggest reasons book lovers tend to look down on movies is that they enjoy how detailed books are in comparison with movies. Mrs. Matilda Arnold, Spanish teacher, agrees, saying, “With books, you absorb more, and what I read is more real to me than what I see.” The fact that books leave room for imagination rather than just giving the reader the scenery or what the characters look like is probably what makes books more real and magical during every reading. Not all movies are going to have realistic ways to recreate the book, and this can lead to viewers feeling as if the story is not as captivating. Every book reader can say that in some adaptation or another they did not like the way a character was portrayed or how the actor looked compared to how they pictured them. The reader’s own creativity is what makes reading books better than watching movies.

Whether people prefer to imagine on their own what characters look like, or if they prefer to have an actor play portray a character on screen, both books and movies are loved by millions of people around the world. The conflict will probably still continue for years to come, but it is still important to give both sides their due credit.



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