Is the book always better than the film?

By February 12, 2016

Film, TV & Tech. Leeds.


A fight kicks off in a pub. Three weedy film students vs a drunk rugby player. Who wins? Well, no one.

There’s a football match on which splits our attentions and we’re actually discussing Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. A battle of minds, I guess.

This was five years ago and the fact I still remember is daft but important. Our new discussion buddy hated that two hour film missed scenes from several hundred page novels. Little did he know that he was arguing with newly qualified film experts; we had listened to an hour lecture on symbolism once. We suggested he weigh up the differences between the two mediums. He claimed Tim Burton’s new film was too scary for children, especially in 3D. Maybe somebody had had a little accident in the cinema. (It’s only taken me five years for that comeback, which shows my mind needed that memory alive. It needed it to compensate for its shortcomings and look clever in the future.)

When we talk about book adaptations, like Pavlov’s dogs we’ve been programmed to drool the same thing: “The book’s better. The book’s better.” It could be the critics, with their thick-rimmed glasses of doom, who puppeteer us with the fear of looking culturally clueless. It’s sacrilegious to say otherwise. It’s also very funny.

HPMy girlfriend once silenced a group of our friends when she happily said that she thought J.K. Rowling’s novels didn’t quite compare to the Harry Potter films. Like a good boyfriend I cowardly sided with the majority and flattered her with agreement after. But I do agree with her, and now it’s in words I risk being stalked by a twig armed mob, shouting fake latin at me. That is a risk I am willing to take for love. The films can’t take credit for J.K.’s vast imagination, but they’re not weighed down by occasionally oversimplified sentences. The films also helped us common scum to learn how to pronounce Gryffindor and Hermione. They’re two reasons why I like the films more than the books.

roomI got interested in this battle between books and big screen recently when I went to see Room. There’s a great review on this site. I would’ve been facetious and subtitled it “Room for improvement” and ended the article with the sentence: “The only award it will probably win is Mumsnet’s Parent of the Year.” I say this but I’m kind of lying. I almost cried. This was also at a beautiful scene which was free of any well-composed music to dictate my emotions.

A guide to discussing book adaptations by @Squirellking (Yes it’s two Ls. I’m an idiot.)

You can use these either as a catalyst for intellectual debate, or a punch up in Wetherspoons. The choice is yours.


I really enjoy TV and Radio adaptations as there’s more space and I love the anticipation for the next episode or chapter.

Personal experience

Once I’ve seen an actor’s face I find it quite hard to paint my own image of character in my head. Book lovers like to imagine and experience the tale before seeing the screen version as the experience is often more vivid and exciting. I imagine this is probably the same for Fifty Shades of Grey, because what is sexier than your own imagination, eh? I heard that the film was really boring as well. Yes, heard. That’s right. Though it was like everyone had seen it, the amount of people jumping on the BDSM wagon. Which leads me onto…

Raising awareness

“Oh look! That film or telly thing was a book!” After watching the Nazi dystopia The Man in the High Castle, I’m tempted to read the book as it looks different to the telly show.


I love reading but I am also lazy. Unless you have a busy life, and don’t mind Game of Thrones with sped-up squeaky voices, we all watch things at the same pace and therefore know how long it takes. However, we all read at different speeds. Can you read War and Peace faster than the BBC’s recent version? I double dare you!

Because we don’t like change

It’s often hard to break out of the habit of saying the book’s better when you might actually think it is not. But this in turn provokes debate, which hopefully is what may happen here. But a good kind, where people natter happily with friends, and people can connect and relate. Which passes the time. And isn’t that really the reason why we tell stories and talk to people?

By Lewis King, t: @Squirellking