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Lights! Camera! Turn the page!
For many avid readers, these are the words that should begin any heart-racing, mouth-dropping, or sob-inducing story. Books are movies in one’s mind; the reader “watches” as the hero or heroine fights off a foe, denies then admits his or her love for an inhumanly gorgeous stranger, or confronts loss and the tragedies of everyday life. Books take a reader into another world, and many readers wish that they could reside in their favorite books forever. Movie adaptations were made for this very purpose, to physically show the story that could only be seen in one’s head. However, many readers believe that some adaptations don’t do their books justice.
When an author writes, he or she has an idea in mind; the problem is that no two readers see the exact same things. The plot will always be the same because it’s made of actions, but the characters and settings are determined by descriptions, connected to emotions and personalities. Thus, when directors cast actors and start building backdrops and studios, they set debatable details in stone and this is what upsets many readers.
Movie adaptations can often understate important details and scenes. Take Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In the book, the Dursley’s are neglectful and vicious. They go places and leave Harry with a neighbor, making Harry’s presence on their zoo outing special and rare. Compared to the movie, the zoo is Dudley’s birthday treat, and the Dursley’s merely tolerate Harry joining them, making them seem unpleasant at most.
Another great example is shown with The Hobbit. During the riddles movie scene between Bilbo and Smeagol, Smeagol heightens the tension by circling Bilbo and hungrily gnashing his teeth. But the audience doesn’t get the tediously building tension that the book provides, with Smeagol sitting in his raft until Bilbo struggles for answers. The audience also does not learn about parts of Smeagol’s past the way the book’s Bilbo does.
Hollywood even has a tendency of changing plot lines and characters. In the book, Dear John, Savannah’s friend, Tim, is the same age as her and has a younger autistic brother named Alan. His age and his close relationship with Savannah make it understandable when Savannah leaves John for Tim, unlike how the movie awkwardly portrays Tim as a decade older with an autistic son, Alan.
Similarly, there is a plot change in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When Lucy finds the wardrobe in the book, the kids are exploring the house. While not entirely different, Lucy and her siblings are instead playing hide-and-seek when she stumbles upon it in the movie.
Directors, actors, and producers try to bring words to life on movie screens, but no matter how many green screens, masks, and effects they use, they will never properly portray a book unless they keep every detail and can see into every reader’s mind.