From Paper to Silver

The pros and cons of book-to-film adaptions

by Meghan Dellinger

“The Wizard of Oz.” “The Lord of the Rings.” “Harry Potter.” “Anne of Green Gables.” What do all of these films have in common?

They were all adapted from books written before them.

Hollywood producers are known to make a lot of movie adaptations in general, such as the recent “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” based on the book by Stephen Chbosky, along with films based off of comic book series like “The Avengers.”

Sophomore Danny Parker, who is the president and founder of Whitworth’s newly formed film club, said adapting a book’s script into a movie is an act of balancing different priorities.

“It’s easier to imagine it in your head than to project it,” Parker said. “A good faithful representation will acknowledge that they’re changing things. The adaptation is going to add to the story in a visual aspect and acknowledge that the other text exists.”

So why do movie producers borrow from other material so often? Parker said producers are eagerly looking for already-made scripts for several reasons.

“It’s a safer bet because if a producer looks at a hugely popular book, it already has a built-in audience,” he said. “There are so many different scripts of books out there, and a lot of books are really good material.”

Adam Neder, an associate professor of theology, also has a passion for movies and teaches a theology and film class at Whitworth. He said that both books and movies have their own strengths.

“You can do things with books that you can’t do with films, and you can do things with films that you can’t do with books,” Neder said. “The great thing about movies is that you get to see the way that someone else imagines the scenes, events and characters that you read about on the pages of a novel.”

Parker said the phenomenon of using book material to create films is not entirely new. In fact, it may have started as early as producing film did.

“It’s been happening for a while; there’s a lot of source material we don’t know about,” he said. “In one aspect, they’re saying this [the original book] is good. At the same time, you begin to think Hollywood isn’t coming up with any new ideas.”

Neder said following the book exactly is not something movie producers should be doing.

“Personally, I’m always disappointed when a film slavishly follows the book,” he said. “When you see the film version, if you’re expecting it to reach the level of depth and complexity that the novel achieved in prose, then you’re inevitably going to be disappointed. Especially if the film isn’t all that good.”

Parker cites the “Batman” series, “Jason Bourne” series, “James Bond” series and “The Avengers” as examples of well-done film adaptations. He said even though the “Bourne” movies are very different from the books, they remain similar in the basic feel of them.

He also said although he enjoys the “Harry Potter” series, the movies can sometimes provide examples of what not to do in adaptations. Parker specifically cited some of the characters’ deaths in the later books, and how they were not portrayed as significantly in the movies.

“There’s a difference between rearranging and staying truthful,” Parker said.

In the end, Parker said he would rather see a movie with an original story than one based off of something else.

“It’s less common now — something unique and exciting,” he said. “Something that stands alone I think has always been more impressive.”

Contact Meghan Dellinger at

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