Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why the Movie Shouldn't Always Be Like the Book

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Have you ever seen a movie rendition of a book and been outraged?

"They got it all wrong!"

"They didn't use my favorite character!"

"Did the director even read the book?"

Hollywood has murdered its fair share of books.

I hate to see a good book ruined as much as the next person, but I also think that movie-makers should have significant flexibility when adapting books.

I think most novelists dream of seeing their stories on the big screen, even if they don't really think it will happen. Sure, I've dreamed that dream myself.

Agatha Christie didn't need to dream, because it happened often during her lifetime. She and Shakespeare are purportedly the best-selling authors of all time. Many movies and plays were made from Christie's books during her lifetime, and she had input into some of them, particularly the plays.

Christie believed that the unique medium of films/plays allowed and required different things than the written word, so she was one of her own most liberal adapters. She even changed the ending to her book Witness when she adapted the stage play.

I agree with Agatha Christie that acted media (movies) should often be somewhat different than the books they were based upon. Theme is most important. There is an essence to every story that can be captured by both books and films, and that essence is what readers/viewers connect with. There's no reason to change details in a movie for the sake of doing so, but directors should have the flexibility to do so if their unique medium justifies it.

All that being said, books usually are more long-lastingly powerful than movies. That's why I prefer to watch a movie first, then read the book. I'll enjoy the movie (assuming it's good) and then enjoy the book that much more.

What do you think?

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at


  1. I agree with you! You have a great explanation for the differences of media. It used to bug me, but as I've gotten older, I've been better able to put the book version and the movie version in separate camps and so enjoy both. I prefer seeing the movie first and then reading the book, too. I don't think I'll ever completely stop feeling a little cheated by a movie version, especially when it shortens a story I adore, but I will then try to tell myself, "It's better this way."

  2. I agree. Sometimes things in books just won't translate well to the screen. I appreciate it when directors stay true to the spirit of the book, of course, but I also like it when they make adjustments to the story so it can better convey its message.

  3. I think I am beginning to be more understanding of why books made into movies are changed. I actually tend to read the book first before the movie, which could be why I'm even more disappointed in the movie version :)

  4. Interesting post. I normally read the book before the movie, if we have the book, just because it takes ages for us to watch a film.
    Directors should be able to have some flexibility with the script and so on, I agree; a case in point is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I personally thought it was a very good adaptation. Although quite different to the book, it still captures the themes and the feel, and the added/emphasised things worked really well. For example, the 'green mist' of temptation.



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