Let’s settle this once and for all: Books versus Films

“I don’t need to read the book; I’m waiting for the movie.” Sound familiar? Then this is the year for you! According to IMDb.com over two dozen book-based movies are scheduled to be released or begin production in the next two years. Hollywood has turned to the bookshelves to bring some well-known titles to the silver screen. But is the movie as good as the book? Yes. No. Depends.  

Books and movies are two entirely different ways of telling a story. Books require the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks, to picture the flirtatious looks and hear the conniving whispers. Movies don’t need such an effort – they give everything right to you. Reading is like cooking a meal while going to the movies is like dining out. You get fed either way but the process and experience are vastly different. 

I tend to run into problems if I have read the book before seeing the movie. Hunger Games is a perfect example. As a movie I thought it pretty good. The acting was excellent, the costumes and special effects superb. BUT – I was so annoyed at the way the Mockingjay pin was explained. If you read the book you know what I mean. And if you haven’t read the book – what are you waiting for? There were subtleties, backstories and nuances in the book that simply couldn’t be brought to life. As a line by line visual retelling of a story – it failed. However, as a stand-alone movie it was definitely worth my $11. 


How to portray? 

Gone With the Wind is widely considered a classic in both book and movie form. The opening line of the book – “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when captivated by her charms…” sets the stage for an ordinary girl who doesn’t rely on her looks but rather her wit and personality to make her attractive. The problem in the movie is that Scarlett (as played by Vivian Leigh) is indeed beautiful. The book reader gets to see the character development and growth that makes a plain girl pretty, but the movie viewer just gets a pretty girl. Same result but lacking in depth. 

Well known actors present another problem. The recent film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables was a masterpiece, and Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were outstanding. But as a friend jokingly pointed out – what are Wolverine and CatWoman doing in France? Anna Karenina’s Kiera Knightley is a talented actress but will she be able to adequately portray “the quivering light flashing in her eyes, the smile of happiness and elation that involuntarily curled her lips, and the graceful precision, the exactitude and lightness of her movements…” as Anna sees her love? Or will she always be the girl from that Johnny Depp movie, Pirates of the Caribbean?  

I love movies and books, just as I love ceviche and chocolate. Independently and separately. And while I am eagerly awaiting the movie version of The Great Gatsby, my true Gatsby is nothing like Leonardo DiCaprio.  


Megan McCluskey moved to Cayman in January 2012 from New Jersey. A life-long reader and admitted book geek she is also a proud mom, pop culture junkie and die-hard fan of the New Jersey Devils. Megan can be found in-person at Books & Books in Camana Bay, online at [email protected] and every Sunday in a hammock with a good book or three.