A Picture Isn't Worth a Thousand Words


I've always dreaded seeing my favorite books played out on the silver screen.

As far as movies go, they aren't bad; in fact, some of them have been claimed as cinematic genius. Yet, if you read the book first, the movies never live up to your imagination.

Coming from a household that didn't watch television Monday through Friday, most of my childhood was spent in the made up worlds of Narnia, Middle-earth, Hogwarts, and the occasional distorted reality. I had those alternative universes played out to perfection in my mind, and I knew as soon as I walked into the darkened theater for my first Harry Potter movie that nothing would live up to the pen and ink version.

Why should it? The work has been made "movie friendly." It's been turned into a fast-paced rocket-fueled two-hour carnival ride. The plot is fundamentally twisted by so many deleted scenes, while shaky bridges connect what little snippets of the actual story the directors have left in.

Just as with music videos, usually the movie has lost all meaning from what the author intended.

Explosions with tongues of fire lick the edges of the screen, blocking out the quiet moments where plot is built. The innermost thoughts of the characters have been converted into dialogue or furtive movements, leaving out the comedic mental asides and witty reactions.

Ironically, fight scenes are followed with so much detail it borders on ridiculous as the astute attention to detail drags the duels to absurd lengths. This may make the movie "action packed," catering to the mainstream audience, but it cuts into the time available for the rest of the story.

Take Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for example. Did the final fight in the Ministry of Magic live up to your expectations? Did it instead only follow the movements of Harry, leaving out the actions and adventures of his cohorts? Because, really, who cares what happened to Neville and Luna?

I understand that to include the whole plot of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter would result in movies of unfathomable lengths. Production companies would go bankrupt and people would walk out of the theater in disgust.

This is why movies and books are represented as completely different media. There is no possible way to put a 500-page book filled with complex emotion, detailed description, and a million and one other moments that have been perfectly crafted and read and reread to perfection, into a reel of film. You just can't do it.

However, you can drag that description into scenery, crop the 500 pages down to 100, throw in a few intense fights, and please the majority of the population. A motion picture Sparknotes, if you like.

I'll watch it, I most likely will, but all the while I'll be thinking of what's missing.

E-mail: vanessa.frith@ubspectrum.com