In the midst of the hype over the release of The Hunger Games this weekend, I heard a very familiar argument that I have heard over and over on the unending question of whether a book is better than a movie or vice versa. The release of The Hunger Games, like the release of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings or Twilight seems to raise this question. The general answer that I hear from most people is always the same: “The book is always better”. I say “not so fast”.
Movies and books are two totally different mediums. There are things that you can get from a book that you can’t get from a movie and also there is something that you can get from the movie that you can’t get from the book. I think the argument is moot, but if you want to find a definite answer to this question, let’s break it down:
Books offer an intimate form of storytelling by way of simply connecting the author and the reader. There are no producers, directors or actors in the way. You can wrap your mind around the story and fall into “a hole in the page” as writers call it. The vision of the world inside the book is provided only by the limits of your imagination. Plus, there are narrative structures and background stories that on film might seem slow and boring, or just plain confusing. The downside is the emotional involvement. We care about characters and events on the page but you don’t get the fleshed out visual that you can get from a movie. Plus the community experience isn’t there. While it is possible to have 100 watching the same thing at the same time, it is impossible to have that same collective experience. Sure there are book clubs and fan groups, but it just isn’t the same.
Movies offer a visual, three-dimensional world in which you can immerse yourself. They offer a palette that contains a range of emotional content that might come off rather flat on the page. Plus, you can get a measure of involvement with the characters because of the fact that you can look right into their eyes and you can interpret what they are thinking and feeling. The downside is that much of the full dimension that you might get from a story or a character is limited by time so that only the essential pieces remain. Very few films make time to flower our their stories to involved 20 or 30 characters. There simply isn’t enough time.
What’s your opinion?