Let’s accept & appreciate film adaptations for what they are: not the book

Growing up, I always read the book before watching the movie, the cycle almost always ending in disappointment.

The characters in my imagination didn’t match the characters on screen. The film left out plot points. As the credits rolled, I would often think the story I read had just been ruined by the movie.

Instead of this constant disappointment—or avoiding movie adaptations of our favourite books altogether—we should adopt a different perspective. A film’s enjoyment shouldn’t be solely based on how well it matches its source material. We should move away from comparing the book to its movie counterpart not only for our own sanity, but also to appreciate books and films as two separate artforms. 

I recently broke my rule and watched Dune before reading the book. As I left the theater with my friend—who had finished the book a day before—we had completely different interpretations of the film. Mine was focused on the visceral cinematography, his was centred on how the film compared to the book. But in the end, we both had good things to say about it.

When a story is brought into the world, every reader will view the characters, plot, and themes differently. As readers, our individual experiences shape our interpretation of the author’s words and we create unique worlds in our imagination.

Realistically, we shouldn’t expect the film we see on screen to match the film developed in our head while reading the book. It can be upsetting when a character on screen doesn’t match the character we’ve imagined, but that’s the beauty of fiction: its ability to provide different meanings for everyone who reads the book. 

Author Neil Gaiman said, “Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.” A film director’s truth doesn’t need to meet your truth—a director is merely in a better position to share their interpretation with the world by shifting the narrative to a different artform.  

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was torn apart by critics for veering too far from the classic. Regardless, it’s still a film with top-notch acting, a moving soundtrack, and stunning visuals. 

The film didn’t capture the elegance of Fitzgerald’s words nor did the poetic dialogue translate perfectly to the screen. But that’s the nature of film compared to books—it triggers different emotions to grab our attention and entertain us.  

We can appreciate both the book and the film as separate entities because they use their own respective tools to tell the same story. Inevitably, this leads to their differences—and that’s okay.  

Instead of saying the book will always be better, accept that the movie will always be different. If we go into the theater with this mindset, fiction can still provide us with truth on both the page and the screen. 

Natara Ng is a third-year Kinesiology student and The Journal’s Assistant Sports Editor.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.