Can a Film Ever Truly Beat a Good Book?


It has long been debated whether a film adaptation of a really popular novel can ever truly live up to the reader’s expectations and equal its paperback’s sucess. I started thinking about this whilst in Waterstones purchasing the Help when the store assistant enthusiastically announced that the film version was almost as good as the book, as though this was some sort of revelation. What really struck me was her emphasis on ‘almost’, as though it was never a point in question that the film could rival the book, but it was to be applauded that it had even come close.

As a self-confessed book-worm I’m concerned I might be approaching this debate with a slightly biased opinion (as you can probably tell from the title of the post) as, for me, there’s nothing better than those rare moments when you find yourself in possession of a book you just can’t put down, I’m talking about the kind of book you unashamedly read in a queue or on a 5 minute bus journey despite the fact you might only be able to squeeze in a few pages. Such books are hard to find and it’s a tough task to create films that live up to them. As they say, there’s nothing more powerful than the imagination, which is the true beauty of a well-written book, it’s almost as though you’ve dived into the page and you’re there with the characters – Elizabeth Bennett isn’t just the annoying Kiera Knightly playing the typical upper-class heroine you watched her play last week in Pirates of the Caribbean, she’s the character you’ve created in your mind, the one you feel like you know, she’s Elizabeth Bennett only. For this reason, I tend to prefer a good book over a good film.

Musing over this, I decided to buy the film version of the Help as well as the book and also started thinking about some of the nation’s favourite novels in comparison to their on-screen partners. Perhaps the most obvious – Harry Potter, the little wizard who many of us grew up alongside, his school years echoing our own, who is now a worldwide phenomenon, a massive Hollywood franchise and a brand in his own right. For me, however, this success is all attributable to the books. Whilst the films are undoubtedly addictive and highly watchable, they never quite capture the true magic that J K Rowling created in the books. A similar sensation a few years ago was the Da Vinci Code, one of those novels (much like 50 shades today) which was everywhere! Too mainstream and over-hyped to please the critics, the Da Vinci Code was never going to be an award-winner but it was literally un-putdownable and I found myself eagerly anticipating the film but left hugely disappointed. Tom Hanks just didn’t seem to fit the bill and his performance as Robert Langdon felt flat, a character who in the book had much more of an edge and oozed charisma and sex appeal. After reading the book I found myself googling the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene keen to know more, however the movie lacked depth and seemed to skim over many of the issues and ideas raised by the novel leaving me dissatisfied and wishing I’d never watched it. Another favourite of mine a few years ago was the Other Boleyn Girl, the highly scandalous story of Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary and their relationship with the infamous Henry VIII. A big fan of period dramas and historic novels, I couldn’t wait for the film to be released, but as I think many will agree it was a poor adaptation, departing in many places from the book and failing to capture the charm and shock-factor of the novel despite casting the brilliant Natalie Portman and gorgeous Scarlett Johansson as the female leads.

Continue reading “Can a Film Ever Truly Beat a Good Book?”