The official Mothership stand on the eternal debate: Books vs Movies

Books got smell and can keep. And can touch.

Tsiuwen Yeo | February 23, 2017, 03:02 PM

A quick confession: I was enchanted by the infamous Twilight series in my lower secondary school years, lugging the ridiculously thick books everywhere to read.

But when the movie adaptation was released and I hung up my Team Edward jersey, it was labelled as a sodden, no-substance, bad romance flick. And for the most part, they were right.

It was nothing like the alternate vampire universe I was enamoured with. The inner workings of Bella’s mind, essential to arousing intrigue in readers, failed to be translated on screen.

But despite almost always being outranked by books, movie adaptations sometimes bring a fresh perspective to audiences -- especially if it’s an overused, melodramatic narrative (The Notebook, anyone?).

Like it or not, every book to big screen transition has its differences.

We take on the Book vs Movie debate with five titles everyone knows.

1. Harry Potter series

Image via IMDB Image via IMDB

What’s good about the books:

The sheer attention to details. Take for example Snape’s ability to read minds.

This special skill of his was already hinted in the first book, published eight years before it was confirmed in Half-Blood Prince that he was an active practitioner of Legilimency.

And here’s more if you’re a fan and find the need to revisit the magic of the Potterworld.

The variety of characters and storylines also adds colour and depth, but some were sadly cut from the movies. (Heello? Peeves? Winky? Marvolo Gaunt?)

What’s good about the movies:

Quidditch. To watch an entirely fictional sport being played out is not only fresh cinematically but also exhilarating. I mean, we can’t actually fly on broomsticks and chase after balls that roam on their own, can we?

Also, Emma Watson.

Book or movie?

The books, of course. Again: the sheer attention to details.

2. Atonement

Image via IMDB Image via IMDB

What’s good about the book: Like in most cases, the book is better able to explain what the hell is going on.

Because Atonement toggles between the points of view of the different characters involved, the book lets readers in on what’s going on in the characters’ heads. A furrowed gaze and pregnant pauses just don’t explain as well as words do.

What’s good about the movie: Because the book is dense with the characters’ thoughts, the film (which focuses more on the surface emotions) provides more tension and a greater sense of urgency that wrack our emotions.

Also, Keira Knightley. And James McAvoy. *swoon*

Book or movie?

The book delves under the surface and into the heads of the characters, which we would say is quite essential as Atonement revolves around the theme of misperception. That’s if you’re up for some heavy reading.

3. Fight Club

Image via IMDB Image via IMDB

What’s good about the book:

Fans of the author Chuck Palahniuk recommend it, citing it as an amazing, poetic read. Punchy, fast-moving and with a better ending than the movie adaptation -- an ending so meta and bleak that turns it into an instant cult classic.

What’s good about the movie:

Much more coherent than the book, which is quite convoluted given that it alternates between (spoiler alert) two characters portrayed by the same character.

The movie also places more emphasis on the romance between Marla and the narrator, allowing for more depth and an ending that’s true to the gist of the story -- about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman”.

So, book or movie?

This is certainly a rare case but we go with the movie, because even Palahniuk himself wanted to see the romance emphasised more, which is how the movie ended.

4. Watchmen

MALIN AKERMAN as Laurie Jupiter (left, in background), BILLY CRUDUP as Dr. Manhattan and JACKIE EARLE HALEY as Rorschach (right, in background) in Warner Bros. PicturesÕ, Paramount PicturesÕ and Legendary PicturesÕ action adventure ÒWatchmen,Ó distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION. MALIN AKERMAN as Laurie Jupiter (left, in background), BILLY CRUDUP as Dr. Manhattan and JACKIE EARLE HALEY as Rorschach (right, in background) in Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Legendary Pictures action adventure Watchmen, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

What’s good about the book:

Simply put, you get more of the Watchmen world. Each panel draws out more history, context, detail and complexity of the Watchmen universe, which ties the characters’ lives together.

And because it’s a graphic novel, the panels give weight to many lines and scenes that don’t come across as sombre in the movie.

What’s good about the movie:

The movie is fascinating to watch for its faithful recreation of the graphic novel -- visually pleasing and tremendously creative in bringing to life the iconic panels and characters (check out the opening sequence and the scenes where Dr. Manhattan disintegrates people; it’s equal parts eerie and fascinating.)

(Comic) Book or movie?

We go with the book, seeing how many of the subtleties are lost in translation to the big screen. After all, many fans and critics consider Watchmen 'unfilmable'.

5. Bridget Jones’s Diary

Image via IMDB Image via IMDB

What’s good about the book:

As the title suggests, the book is written as entries in a diary. Each entry exists as a short peep into Bridget’s life -- peppered with snappy dialogue and self-awareness so relatable it’s hilarious -- that leaves you wanting more.

Because Bridget’s every train of thought is carelessly recorded, it’s a first-person perspective for readers. That’s part of the reason why Bridget is adored -- you realise that you are her, on your worst days and (some of) your best days.

What’s good about the movie:

Other than Renee Zellweger being perfect for the role of Bridget, there is more of the comedic conflict between her two male counterparts, which adds to the overall watchability factor.

Book or movie?

Definitely the book, for its hilarious banter, first-person POV and Bridget’s ever entertaining train of thought (especially when drunk).


To put it plainly, books will (almost) always be better than its movie adaptations.

Why? Because very few film adaptations can rival the theatre of the mind. That’s what makes reading such a unique experience.

Bonus: books also smell nice.


Why buy books when you can borrow them at the library? Better yet, borrow them on your phone and read on the go. Download the NLB mobile app on Google Play and Apple Store today.

Top image via Amazon and Bloomsbury Publishing.

This post funds Mothership writers' bookworm habits and helps fill out our bookshelves.