By Andrés Muñoz

“Have you seen this film?”

“I love it, but the book is so much better!”

This classic conversation topic will usually end with books being better than their film/TV adaptations, and in most cases, they would be right!

There is nothing like the words from the author’s original work. That being said, I’d like to explore a case for both. The key element is that they’re different mediums of expression. Here are some famous film and TV adaptations of books; let’s see how they’ve stood the public’s reception and the test of time.

Harry Potter: Characters On Screen Vs Characters In My Mind

While a film adaptation naturally comes with increased expectations from the original fan base, it’s an opportunity to transfer the author’s story to an audiovisual environment. Purists of a written work might be against it. They might have thought of an entirely different way that the setting, characters, and dialogues might be. I was one of them and refused to watch the Harry Potter films for many years until I finally gave in around the time of Goblet of Fire

Part of my hesitation was that my imagined characters would be replaced by their film counterparts. Still, I was able to separate the film characters from the ones in my head and enjoyed the movies, nonetheless.

The films do a great job adjusting the cinematography as the story advances. As we know that Voldemort is becoming stronger and more of Harry’s allies and loved ones are being killed off, the themes and moods of the films become darker. It’s clearly alluded to in the books, but seeing the movies’ colour palette transform from the bright and cheery in Sorcerer’s Stone to eerily dark and grim in Deathly Hallows is a wonderful experience.

Game Of Thrones: The Rise And Plateauing Of A Story

After watching the first season of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice And Fire on HBO, I ate through the books like there was no tomorrow. I loved the complexities, intrigues and plots in Westeros. I was fascinated by how the TV series was nothing but an appetiser to the main course that were the books. 

When the second season came out, I had finished all the books published by that time and was anxiously waiting for the author to release more. I loved seeing my friends’ reactions to vital betrayals and deaths when watching the show with them, and we even threw a Game of Thrones party on Halloween. I was truly living the zeitgeist of the time.

And then… the show caught up with the books.

I no longer had the original texts to dive into, and as the new TV seasons appeared, I could sense that they were only a whittled down and bare-bones version of the vast narrative that George R. R. Martin had crafted in the books. There are even rumours that the book’s ending will be different from the one shown in the series. Still, with the 73-year old author taking so long to complete them, one can only hope that he lives long enough to finish his magnum opus!

The Lord Of The Rings: Visual and Literary Greatness

I first heard about The Lord of the Rings in December 2001, when the first movie came out. Little did I know how much J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga would impact me. No other written work has influenced me as much as this one.

Once I began reading the books, I truly understood how elaborate, well-written, and dedicated Professor Tolkien’s life work had been. The poems, epic stories and songs all enhanced the richness of my reading experience. It was as if a veil had been lifted, and I was granted access to a vast and intricate universe with its own languages, mythology and history. While the Tolkien universe was so enormous and had a much richer language in its written form, it didn’t undermine my appraisal or perception of the films.

The movies are a marvel of their own. The sheer scale of production behind them, from hiring hundreds of riders to film the charge of the Rohirrim to inventing new technology to show a realistic Gollum, all these elements add a further sprinkle of greatness to the Tolkien universe. It has also withstood the test of time, with fans posting content, reviews and memes about the films over twenty years later.  

While Harry Potter is a great story that was skillfully transferred to the big screen and Game of Thrones is still a literary question mark, for me, The Lord of the Rings books and movies reign supreme. 

What other titles do you feel have been skillfully adapted? Let us know in the comments section below!