“The book was so much better.”
Everyone has that friend. You know, the one who pipes up with that sentence when someone brings up “Jurassic Park” or “The Lovely Bones.”
Well, if he's a Harry Potter fan, your pal probably will be talking a lot soon.
The seventh film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” will be released Friday. Chelsea Christensen will be among the Potter fans who will likely shake their heads.
She's never enjoyed the movies very much.
“When you read a book, you have your own idea of the characters and what they look like and how they act. It didn't portray them as how I had them in my head,” said the 21-year-old Creighton University junior.
Daniel Radcliffe's portrayal of the titular character didn't sit well with her. Rupert Grint's version of Ron Weasley wasn't quite right either. But Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape, fit the character pretty well, at least for Christensen.
Overall, though, “I didn't feel like it developed the story as much as the book,” she said of the movies.
She's seen all of the them at least once out of curiosity. She plans to see the seventh because all of her friends will.
“If it was just me,” she said, “I don't know if I would end up going.”
One of the earliest and most famous examples of adapting the printed page to the silver screen was “Gone With the Wind.”
Which is better? The novel or the movie?
Hard to say. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Then in 1939, the film won 10 Academy Awards.
“That's an amazing movie. I could watch that movie every minute of every day of my life,” said novelist Timothy Schaffert, whose books “Devils in the Sugar Shop,” “The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God” and “The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters” have been published by Unbridled Books. A fourth, “The Coffins of Little Hope,” will be released in April.
The Omahan said “Gone With the Wind” is a shining example of a great adaptation, but the question still stands: Why does the movie version of a favorite novel never end up as good as the book?
Mostly because while reading the novel, the reader constructs the perfect film version in his or her head, with its own pace, locations and even a cast.
Rarely does an actual film match the reader's mental movie.
“You wonder how they read the same book,” Schaffert said. “It seems like it happens more often than not.”
Some adaptations are great while others fall short.
Schaffert listed several favorite novels whose adaptations weren't so hot — “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner, among others — but also talked about some he thoroughly enjoyed — Larry McMurtry's “Terms of Endearment,” Ira Levin's “Rosemary's Baby” and others.
Christensen also has opinions beyond Potter.
“I'm a huge fan of the ‘Golden Compass' books. I didn't like the movie at all,” she said. “I watched ‘The Notebook,' and I loved that movie. I went and read the book, and I didn't like it at all.”
A film can be too faithful to the piece from which it's adapted.
“Sometimes that translation from the page to the screen, it requires a certain amount of alteration to capture the true essence of the original source,” Schaffert said.
He typically likes to read a novel he's interested in before seeing its adaptation.
“If you read the book after you see the movie, you have that filmmaker's vision in your head and it's hard to find the way to the author's vision,” he said.
Schaffert's agent regularly shops his work around to film studios, but the author can't imagine what it would be like to see his work on the big screen.
“I've known writers who've had their work adapted, and there's a certain level of disappointment because the Hollywood machinery is so much different than the literary machinery,” he said. “They have to appeal to so many people and putting together a movie is a very sophisticated process that involves an understanding of marketing and how to get a story greenlighted, and so it stands to reason that the book will go through some severe alteration.”
If one of his books ever did make it to a studio, who would he have them cast?
“I never have a very good answer for that,” he said. “I have to recast them in my mind. They're so distinctly these characters that I've created that I can't quite imagine them in another guise.”
Schaffert's never read the Harry Potter books, but he's seen the films. He's not as interested in the books. He feels he gets the whole experience out of the movies.
Omaha native Cathryn Cuka-Lawson, on the other hand, loves the Harry Potter books as well as the films, which she thinks are a good representation of the novels.
“The books are written with such imagery and descriptions that the reader's imagination takes flight. The reader easily becomes engulfed within the world of the book,” she said. “The movies really do bring the books to life and make up for any shortcomings with wild displays and sets.”
Cuka-Lawson isn't alone in her opinion, as the films are as wildly popular as the book series. So why are some readers so dead-set against the movies?
Readers get protective of their beloved novels, Schaffert said
“‘I know this material so well and if you violate it or move it an inch in the wrong direction, I can dismiss it because of my great insight into the material.' It's an interesting possessiveness that we take over the books that we read and fall in love with,” he said. “In a sense, they become ours to protect.”
So what do you think? Some of our readers chimed in to offer their opinions on Harry Potter and the movies/books debate. After you read these, head to Omaha.com/living to share your opinion.
Sandy Tomsu Faust — She read the (Harry Potter) books first and says there's way more detail in the books. The movies are a condensed version.
Ron Wozny — Read the books first, he says, and don't judge a book by its movie.
Shannon Tarvin — Read before watching the movie and then go in expecting the movie to be completely different, but hopefully not too bad, she says. If she's unaware that a movie was based on a book, she'll read the book later if she liked the movie.
Ben Semisch — He tried to read the first Harry Potter book in middle school and hated it. “I watch the movies (on HBO) when nothing else is on, though,” he says.
Maria Maldonado — Read before you see the movie, she says.
Tonya Fitzpatrick — “So excited. This is a Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family and my family will be gone hunting. Just me and the Harry Potter gang all weekend long. Lovin' it.”
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