January 24, 2015

When the book isn't better than the movie

2014 was a pretty big year for movie adaptations of YA novels. Mockingjay, Part 1 was the highest grossing film of the year. Divergent and The Maze Runner also pulled in more than $100 million each at the box office in the U.S. alone. The Giver turned a tidy profit after grossing over $65 million.

However, when it comes to comparing the book to the movie, it's almost always the case that when a book is adapted to film, something is lost in translation. How often do you hear someone saying, "The book was better" after watching a movie adaptation? I know that I hear it (and say it) all the time. Even when the films are great (e.g., the Hunger Games and Harry Potter movies come to mind), the books were still better because they were so awesome to begin with.

Looking back on recent years, there were a few cases in YA fiction when I thought the movie was better than the book. For example:
  • Divergent - As a book, I thought Divergent was good but not that great. Seeing it depicted on the big screen made the story bigger than I had imagined in my head when I read the book. I definitely liked the movie better.
  • Stardust (see my book review here) - I really liked both the book and the movie. However, the movie added some more elements that IMHO made it better.
  • Warm Bodies - The movie isn't an entirely faithful adaptation of the book, but that's a good thing because I thought the book dragged at times while the movie was more interesting.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - The decision to focus on and embellish the Battle of Helm's Deep was brilliant. It turned what was my least favorite book of the trilogy into a more exciting movie.

A couple of movie adaptations were as good/bad as the books:
  • The Giver - Although the second half of the movie strayed from the book, I thought both were great. Casting Jeff Bridges as the Giver was a good choice, imho.
  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Here's a case where neither were good. I didn't like the book because Clary annoyed me and the story made little sense. I hoped the movie would be better, but unfortunately, it wasn't.
  • The Host - I almost didn't read the book because it was written by Stephenie Meyer, but I'm glad I did. (For all you Twilight haters, give The Host a chance.) I also liked the movie, partly because I've been a fan of Saoirse Ronan since I saw her in City of Ember. I was equally impressed by how the producers were able to condense a 600+ page book into a 2-hour movie without losing too much important information.
Which movies did you like more than the books they were based on?


  1. I totally agree with you on the Two Towers! Loved the adaption!

    I'm a pretty big fan of the Hobbit movies as well, even though they're different. I'd say I enjoyed the book and the movies equally.

    1. I've only seen the first two Hobbit movies, but I have to say that all three Lord of the Rings movies were very good. The only reason I singled out The Two Towers is because I liked the books for Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King even more!