Why Book to Film Adaptations Often Fail to Impress

I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of movies that have been adapted from books that impressed me as much as the original books did. And I don’t think there are any that I’ve felt were better than the books, but then, that may be because I’m biased towards books when compared with the movies. Even so, you have to admit that most adaptations fall short of expectations, especially for those who’ve read the books and loved them. Those who haven’t read the books may wax eloquent about the slickness of the screenplay and the stunning visual effects, but for those who are first book lovers and who only go to the theatre to experience another form of the story they so loved, it is more often than not a mild disappointment, because:

  • A book allows you to give vent to your imagination, so the sky is the limit when it comes to dreaming up the look of characters and locations. The movie on the other hand, forces you to conform your imagination to the actors on screen and this messes up the entire experience. Although there are a few pleasant surprises, on the whole, watching a movie adaptation of a book does not come close to actually reading the book.
  • A movie cannot capture the essence of the book because it has a very limited time frame in which to cram all the pages of a book into a visual story. The scriptwriter and director thus take liberties with the book – they cut what they think is irrelevant and retain other scenes. But no matter how interesting they try to make the movie, most of the book’s soul is lost in translation. To give you an example, the Harry Potter books are written with a subtle comedy which just did not translate on screen, no matter how much the writers tried. The mischievous nature of Fred and George and the impish and sometimes wicked nature of Peeves the poltergeist have to be read to be enjoyed – the onscreen versions were pale imitations of the real thing.
  • And finally, most adaptations change the book so drastically that you don’t even recognize the original story except for a few stray references. Not all such adaptations are bad however, and some do make for entertaining movies. But if you’re looking to compare them to the books, it’s akin to comparing apples and oranges – you like both, so if you’re asked to choose between the two, you’re probably going to say that you prefer one of each and would rather not choose.

People do prefer the movies because of the visual medium, some books are different.