Which is better? The book or the movie of the book?
Most movies and television series are made-for-the-screen, but occasionally books are converted into movies/series and the inevitable question arises—which is better?
A couple of years ago, this was an easy question to answer—the book. But producers and directors have lifted their game and an interesting trend has emerged. Now, books are often considered “source material.” Rather than trying to translate from one medium to another verbatim, the focus is on developing the material and, as an author, I like this approach.
Books are generally the domain of a single writer whereas movie/television productions have writing rooms. There are pros and cons to each approach. From what I’ve seen, combining the two approaches magnifies the pros and eliminates the cons.
As a writer working on my own, I have the advantage of an unlimited special effects budget and can avoid too many cooks spoiling the broth (I’m looking at you, Prometheus), but the disadvantage is an extra set of eyes looking for plot holes or inconsistencies.
In a writing room, there’s a danger of too many angles and plot-lines being shoehorned into a story “just because,” but when working with an existing story, the writing room can explore untapped veins of gold within a novel and expand upon the source material.
A good example of this is The Expanse (a television series built on a best selling series of science fiction novels). The James S. A. Corey duo are also involved with the screenwriting (which is unusual), but they’ve been open to expanding concepts from the books.
For example, one of the most fascinating characters in the series is the UN’s Chrisjen Avasarala. She appears in the second novel, Caliban’s War, but is moved up to the first series of the show because of her importance to the themes being developed. To me, her character arc is a good example of expanding the source material. The acting is sublime and her story displays how political power is wielded effectively.
Netflix has been revolutionary, leading to Amazon Prime, Apple TV, etc. Not only have these companies spearheaded online video streaming services, they’ve made strategic decisions to pour some serious cash into developing their offerings. It used to be that movies were far superior to television, but not any more. These days, movies pale in comparison to a well-developed online series because the series has the advantage of time, allowing for character development on screen to finally be on par with what is possible in a book.
Oh, and for the record, I’m pro-binge over weekly releases. I get why streaming services go for the weekly release (to keep people subscribing), but the binge allows for some serious story immersion and I think there’s enough diverse content to keep people subscribing anyway.
For me, the future of collaboration between books and video is bright. I’d like to think we can have our cake and eat it too.