Book or movie: the classic comparison

Suzi Starheim

Order of exposure can affect audience

With the Harry Potter and Twilight series hitting their high points on the big screen, it may be considered a wonder that people spend time reading novels before seeing the films they’re adapted from.

However, according to some, reading the novels prior to seeing the films may greatly influence the opinions of moviegoers.

Robert West, an emeritus professor of journalism and mass communication, said while he has been teaching Popular Culture and Contemporary Entertainment for almost six years, most of his students agree movies don’t typically match up well to the books they originated from.

“Books have pages and pages of detail while movies will show you the same scene in 10 seconds,” West said. “Books lend more to the mind.”

In his class, West and his students look at movies, television series, comedy and print media to see what type of ideals society has.

West’s students read the novels “The Maltese Falcon,” “Angela’s Ashes” and “Alice in Wonderland.” They then watched the film versions of these novels and West said the class’s opinion was nearly unanimous.

“A book takes it inside people’s minds,” West said. “Movies can’t do that well.”

West said the difference between the book version and movie version of a story was especially noticeable when his students read and watched “Alice in Wonderland” because of the element of fantasy associated with the novel.

In addition to sometimes fitting in all the out-of-this world information, West said a large contributing factor to the mismatched nature between novels and their movies is a result of timing issues.

“You can’t put everything from a novel into its film,” West said. “You just can’t fit it all in unless you want a 20-hour movie.”

Assistant professor Gene Shelton, who teaches Media, Power and Culture, said one of the reasons he feels movies don’t match their original novels is because of the producers making the movies.

“Producers often take a lot of liberty with character image and scene images when they transfer a book into a film form,” Shelton said.

Shelton also said he feels true lovers of literature see and imagine the characters from their favorite novels in ways movies and actors can’t always capture.

“Imagination can take you places a film can’t,” he said.

Shelton said while he has read books and watched the corresponding movies to them, he can’t think of books that he has enjoyed more in film form than in print.

“Sometimes, a film can become a simplified, Cliff’s-notes version of a novel.”

Contact news correspondent Suzi Starheim at [email protected].

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