Opinion: Adapting a new style: books vs. films, and why they’re a great pair

Mike Richards is a senior English major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Mike Richards

I can admit it. When I was younger, just a wee little child, and a movie would come out that was based off of a book, I thought “Whoa, they turned the book into a movie — I’m sure it’ll be the same and more fun!”

I had teachers in high school that would have us watch the movies instead of reading the books. We all high-fived and thought they were the coolest people, letting us watch movies instead of reading and letting our imaginations run wild through pages and pages of well-constructed thoughts and words and creating stories and new worlds to travel through, giving us a sense of freedom.

I didn’t read much as a kid. I regret that to this day as I play catch up, and it was a pinnacle day in which I came to the decision to better myself.

Now to my point.

As you can see, I’m guilty of taking the lazy route and thinking that, if I see a movie adapted from a book, it’s basically the same thing. And this thought couldn’t be any more wrong.

I say this on the opening weekend for “Gone Girl,” the Gillian Flynn novel that David Fincher has, to my undeniable excitement, adapted it to film. Flynn was at the helm of writing it and, for a period of time, it was thought that she had changed the whole ending.

What? How could you just change the ending? Doesn’t that ruin it? Doesn’t this open it up for forums and posts about how it has been tarnished and everyone involved should be ashamed? Well no, not necessarily.

I’ve heard plenty people say, “The book is much better,” which at times is pretty true.

I don’t believe the point is being grasped, though. There is a special art in externalizing all of the internal workings of the novel. It has to appeal to the visual senses as well. Just because one thing works in written form doesn’t mean it can transfer to cinema in a visually stimulating way.

For example, you could be Paul Thomas Anderson, who, for his upcoming film “Inherent Vice,” decided to write a script word for word from the Thomas Pynchon novel, from which he adapted it, but that doesn’t work for everyone. It works for him, and I’m glad it does. I bet you didn’t know “There Will Be Blood” was based off of the Upton Sinclair novel, “Oil!” The man is a genius.

There comes a special joy in experiencing both sides, both pieces of art. If you watch the movie, you will be able to visually understand all of the scenes and characters and how they act about. If you read the book, you can channel the consciousness and understand the psychological makeup of the characters. To understand and appreciate both (just as long as both are well done and complement each other) is a joy that you will be able to carry along with you for life.

I’m a strong advocate for reading, but don’t cheat yourself out of the fun by skipping ahead.