For Better or Worse? Thoughts on Movie Adaptations

The Hunger Games was adapted into a movie in 2012. Both the movie and the book offer different experiences.

Many times, a film adaptation will capture parts of a plot the book can’t for us. The protagonists’ voices, and settings in films help audiences decide how they feel about the characters and their experiences, helping them understand what the book didn’t make clear or have them consider. Here are some of my thoughts on whether or not movie adaptations are better than the books. 

The Hunger Games

I was actually inspired to read the book because of how fascinating I found the movie plot. Though I would say this book series was better than the movies at first, seeing Mockingjay in theaters really gave me more than the book. Mockingjay was incredibly difficult to follow when reading, but the movie really brought the intensity of the characters and their emotions and frustrations to life. The only thing I would say is much better in the first books was how much better they  explained why the characters were forced to fight to the death in the first place, instead of just going right in to the selections.

Book score: 5/10

Movie score: 8/10

Life of Pi was adapted into a movie in 2012.

Life of Pi

Though the book was very effective in revealing the characters’ state of sadness and fear when stranded out in the ocean, I thought the acting and visual effects were intense and impressive. You couldn’t easily imagine how massive and overwhelming the waves were during storms by reading. Though I have to give it credit to the author, Yann Martel, for writing the beginning of his book in such a way that the reader really felt the emotional distress of the protagonist, Suraj Sharma does an incredible job at representing Martel’s Pi. 

Book score: 6/10

Movie score: 8/10

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Though the movie adaptation of this book series was very dark and grim, much like it is when reading, the book was more effective in leaving you stressed out about the well being of the character. She seems more mysterious in the novel, not only because we cannot see her, but because she is intimidating in multiple ways: both because of her intelligence, her tattoos, and her pasty skin and swift movements. On screen, she is still portrayed as mean and incredibly smart, yet we get more of a casual feel for her. 

Book score: 8.5/10

Movie score: 5.5/10

Dr. Seuss’s the Cat in the Hat

To put it shortly and bluntly, this movie was really creepy. I specifically remember having nightmares about the human-like cat that appeared in these movies, feeling uncomfortable and afraid he would visit me. The books were definitely more suited for younger audiences because of the warm and cozy, funny and lullaby-like sound they give off. I don’t think the “Cat in the Hat” is one of those books that are captured at all in the same way in a movie. It is better off left untouched. This goes for the other Dr. Seuss movie adaptations at all. When the characters are so digitized, or move at all when they were originally simple illustrations, it’s just creepy.

Book score: 10/10

Movie score: 1/10

George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series was first adapted into the Game of Thrones TV show in 2011.

Game of Thrones

After spending about two years of my life trying to get through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, it is difficult for me to decide whether or not I liked the show (Game of Thrones) or the books more because of how amazing both really were. Though I started reading the books before getting into the show, I would say that because Martin didn’t write everything that ended up in the show, I would say I’ve enjoyed watching the show for a much longer time. The show uses all of the most important characters and doesn’t involve too many unnecessary moments or details, yet it had enough for fans of the show to make up their own conspiracy theories about the ending. I thought the casting was also well done. I frequently watch older episodes to this day.

Book score: 9/10

Show score: 10/10

Frankenstein

Many movie adaptations are super effective in building up fear in viewers about what this monster is up to, however, I would say that Mary Shelley’s original novel does an even better job at instilling fear in readers, Frankenstein coming off as much creepier. In Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 adaptations, Frankenstein’s monster is portrayed more so as clueless and innocent despite his role as a murderer wandering about, yet in Shelley’s novel, the monster is actually very witty and adapts to human language and life on his own, and quickly. Unlike in the novel, Frankenstein stalks his creator, kills his friends and family out of revenge, and is aware of his cruel and terrifying nature. What makes Shelley’s novel better than the movies, in my opinion, is how her monster’s sophisticated nature makes him much more horrifying. 

Book score: 10/10

Movie score: 6/10

A line from George Bluestone’s 1957 study, Novels into Film, adequately describes the benefits of adapting films from novels so that the audience or reader can understand the plot from multiple viewpoints. In his study he states “We observe that the word symbols in written language must be translated into images of things, feelings and concepts through the process of thought. Where the moving picture comes to us directly through perception, language must be fulfilled through the screen of conceptual thought.” 

Though with great literature authors never fail to keep readers hooked, perhaps because people tend to watch movies and shows more today because they more often enjoy film adaptations of movies and shows. Will there ever be a time when more people read for fun more than they watch TV or movies again?


Clara Gomes is the Long River Review assistant webmaster and a poetry panel reader. She can be reached at clara.gomes-ferres@uconn.edu. 


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