Stacked up: movies against books


Alice Yu

Displaying the relationship between the two main characters of The Fault in Our Stars, Augustus Waters and Hazel Lancaster, this promotional poster represents one of the philosophical ideas presented in the story. Source:

I’ve been told to “get out” of a room for multiple reasons, either because of my stupidity, annoying attitude, or just as a joke in reply to my opinions, but the most recent time was because I prefer film adaptations over the original novels. I understand the disappointment behind the remark, but I’d like to clear up this misconception.

I like watching film adaptations more than reading the books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read the original book; in fact, I strongly believe that people should read the novel before watching the movie.

As a lover of motion pictures, I’m addicted to the culture of mind-blowing graphics and the on-screen chemistry, but the story delivered in a film will never match up to the plot of a book.

Besides the fact that reading novels opens up the world of imagination, the main and ultimate reason that I will always read novels is because I’m given a chance to experience the writing style of the author.

A recent and relevant example is my journey while reading The Fault in Our Stars. John Green’s humor and wit brings light even in the darkest turns in the plot and the philosophical remarks tucked inside regarding the mysteriosity of life brings a completely new mental adventure to readers. Even with all the computer-generated imagery skills in the world, a motion picture cannot fully express Green’s wit as well as Green does himself and since collaboration with the director, Josh Boone, is a must, Green will have to relinquish control.

As the creation of the author, the original novel is authentic. While the author still retains rights to the storyline, once it becomes a film adaptation, the plot, events, character development, all of the elements of a story, goes under the director’s control. The author may still have a say in the script and story-telling aspect, but the control over the portrayal of the plot split up.

As the authentic creation of the author, the original novel will show a different and arguably better world to the reader compared to a film adaptation. With an undefined limit on ways to reveal information, be it with an omniscient view or the character’s personal thoughts, it’s much easier to understand the background story of characters. If all the personal thoughts of Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars were to be included in the film adaptation, there’d be an overwhelming-verging on the point of annoying-amount of voiceovers that would take away from film’s plot, rather than enhance the plot, like it does in the novel. But even with such hardships, it’s not to say that there hasn’t been a successful film adaptation before.

Having made it on not only my list of favorite novels, but also my list of favorite films, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help is not only delivered with humor while reading, but is also portrayed with just as much personality in the motion picture directed by Tate Taylor. Although there were events and moments that were cut from being shown on the big screen, the character developments crafted by Stockett were shown through on-screen with the phenomenal acting of all the characters, from the sassy attitude of Minny, to the awkward nature of Skeeter, conveying the omniscient information while remaining true to the original book.

But more often than not, film adaptations butcher the original plot, taking a novel’s name but creating a new but not improved, distant version of the intended story.

The Percy Jackson series’ film adaptations infamously destroyed the original plot, even creating a character that has the wrong hair color, something that hair dye could have easily fixed, and adding unfamiliar elements into the plot, such as moving battles to different places. Although these deviations from the plot were major turn-offs, it was the lack of character development that made the film adaptation so painful to watch.

Though City of Bones did not have the best character chemistry, what was there didn’t make me grimace, but one major deviation from the original plot left me confused and frustrated. Switching out the ending for a new and more heroic one forced the films onto a different storyline that is far from the plot presented the in novels. There are lines that should not be crossed in terms of excluding events from film adaptations and the film version of City of Bones crossed a line, essentially stealing the title of the series but creating different plot twists.

With two sides of the spectrum that The Fault in Our Stars could possibly end up on, one being that the film delivers just as much emotion as the novel does, the other being that the film is so wrong that the viewer slowly dies inside as they’re watching, I can only hope that the powerful chemistry that I’ve seen between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort from the trailer is a true representation of the emotional package wrapped in the motion picture.