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Sunday, April 14, 2024

There’s room in the world to love both a book and its movie adaptations

Both artforms work together in their own unique ways to convey the intended meaning of the story


By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org


There are certain things that are just universally agreed on — the sky is blue, the sun will rise and “Cats” (2020) was a terrible movie. However, a topic that could not be more filled with hot takes even if it tried is the age-old argument over whether a book or its cinematic counterpart is better. 

 One example that comes to mind as having a particularly viciously divided fanbase over this subject is the beloved YA series, “Harry Potter,” penned by its equally divisive author, J.K. Rowling. The first installment in the literary series hit shelves in 1997, almost immediately becoming a classic. After its initial success, the books were elevated from their status of bestselling series to total cultural phenomenon with the inception of their movie adaptations.

Both the books and the movies experienced immense success, and one could even go so far as to say that the “Harry Potter cinematic universe” has become a force of its own, existing independently from the books. However, many die-hard Harry Potter fans (otherwise known as “Potterheads”) maintain the firm stance that the books contain key details and elements that contribute to the Wizarding World in such a way that cinema simply cannot. 

Now, this is probably a good time to confess that I hadn’t been exposed to the Harry Potter series until as recently as last summer, so I may not be considered a true, original fan of Rowling’s work.

 However, the movies were able to pull me in and capture my devotion from the very first viewing — which is more than I can say for the copy of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” that I picked up in the third grade. I was a huge bookworm (arguably the world’s biggest) and Rowling’s writing just didn’t manage to reach me in the same way that Danielle Radcliffe and the rest of the cinematic cast were able to. 

Though I do concede that film as an art form certainly has its limitations, one of its main appeals is how it brings a magical world to life; the characters are there for you to see, hear and empathize with, which is most likely one of the reasons the films have become such a mainstay in pop culture.

Another subcategory of cinema worth considering in the fiery debate over movies or books is the popular trend of taking the classics (think along the lines of those novels likely to be found in the curriculum of an 11th grade AP English class) and putting them on the big screen. 

Stories by both Jane Austen and Shakespeare have been adapted countless times for the big and small screen — so often, in fact, that there are lists ranking these versions that are in the double digits. Now, I recognize that it would be bold to say that films made in the 21st century are able to outshine their predecessors (though “Clueless” does give Austen’s “Emma” a run for its money), but there is something to be said for the ability of filmmakers to translate stories from days long past into a tale fully palatable to a modern audience. The authors wrote novels with classic themes, but it’s the work of the film’s cast and crew that keeps them pertinent to our time.

Another example of a great book with an equally fantastic movie is the children’s classic “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Originally created by British author Roald Dahl, the whimsical children’s tale was taken under the wing of iconic filmmaker Wes Anderson and turned into an ingenious stop-motion film. Though not necessarily a success by box office standards, the movie is a beautiful work of art that remains true to the sentimental nature of the original source material. The movie, though undoubtedly made for children, has all the trademarks of a classic Anderson film, and therefore doesn’t limit its reach to a younger audience — something which Dahl’s book might find itself inadvertently doing.

Though I will always have a special place in my heart for books — especially children’s books — as I have grown older, I’ve come to realize that there is no point in pitting books and movies against each other. Both are their own unique, thrilling art forms, and while they may be cut from the same cloth, they don’t seek to compete; rather, they act as perfect complements to each other.


Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org



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