Ending the Film vs. Book Debate

Mia Harley, Reporter

There are countless movies today that are film adaptations of books, and people need to stop comparing the two. 

In the 2020 Academy Awards, four out of the nine films nominated for Best Picture were screenplays adapted from some form of written work. Since these films adapt popularly read stories, they are often meticulously compared to the original source material, and are put down when they branch off from the story readers know and love. 

Despite being similar stories, books and movies are completely different art forms, and should be respected individually. 

Novels written by an author are completed works that tell their story to its entirety. When a screenplay writer adapts a novel, they have certain limitations. 

“Not every movie adaptation of a novel stays true to its source material,” Roane State writer Jennifer Harris said. “Sometimes the book is too long for a movie to include the entire storyline.” 

Screenwriters need to tell their story in 90-minutes to two hours so, depending on the original work, they may need to condense the story or expand details in order to fill the length or time a movie studio requires.

“Books have the invested time of the reader to expand on closer details and give insight into characters that couldn’t possibly be created in two hours of film,” writer for The Collegian at University of Massachusetts Araz Havan said. 

In the case of the Academy Award Best Picture nominated film “Little Women,” the screenplay needed to shorten the plot from the original novel. The amount of details, events and time that occured in the novel could not be transferred completely onto the screen due to time constraints. Since audiences are used to a specific length of movies, they most likely would not sit through four or more hours of film to cover the story in its entirety. 

In contrast, “The Joker” was adapted from a series of comic books, and the screenwriter needed to add a lot more detail in order to develop the back story and dialogue to fill up the movie. People seemed to either love or hate the film depending on their previous associations with the character, either from reading the comics or watching previous film and television depictions. 

The Academy of Motion Pictures analyzed both “Little Women” and “The Joker’, alongside seven other films, and decided to recognize them for their own merits and artistry. They did not compare them to any of their predecessors. 

Therefore, we as consumers need to recognize that books and movies are two different art forms, and can both be enjoyed without deciding on a “superior” version. If you liked reading the book, enjoy it, and if you liked the movie, appreciate it for what it is. You don’t need to forever debate the little details, but enjoy each form of creativity for what it is: art.