As long as there has been film, we as a culture have been adapting books and plays for the big screen. Many people complain about the movie being different, saying “The book was better,” but is this really productive?
The first thing to understand about adapting books or plays as films is that they are exactly that: they are adaptations. They are not designed to be exact replicas of the medium they pull from. This is not a blanket pass for all movies to make a fool of the story or the characters in the original, but fans of these movies need to give creators and directors a little leeway in this regard. To illustrate the positive side of difference between books and movies, I’m going to use a movie I’ve often described as polarizing: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
The movie is easily my favorite book and movie of the Harry Potter series because the two have many differences. The differences created by director Mike Newell lend themselves to the overall atmosphere of the film. One major difference between the two is a storyline involving House Elves that work within the magical school Hogwarts. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are someone who has never read the book. In the subplot, Hermione decides to take up a cause of liberating the House Elves that cook all the food for the Great Hall tables in the school. She does this with not very much support from the very House Elves she is advocating for. This subplot is completely wiped from the film for one good reason: it drags from the story. Author J.K. Rowling probably included this in the book as both something for Hermione to do and to pad the page count of the book. The storyline does not really add anything other than it gives an excuse for Dobby the House Elf to reappear and give Harry Potter the gillyweed, a magical plant he desperately needs to complete one of the great tasks in the Triwizard Tournament. Obviously, in the movie, Harry receives the gillyweed from a bewildered Neville Longbottom who has quite the penchant for magical plants. This change supports the story because Neville has already been established as being interested in studying these magical plants.
Another interesting change that has garnered an almost comedic response is the scene in which Harry Potter is confronted by the administrators of Hogwarts and the other schools participating about his apparently illegal participation in the Triwizard Tournament. The change in the movie mainly deals with Albus Dumbledore’s demeanor. In the book, Rowling states that Dumbledore asks Harry “calmly.” However, in the movie, Dumbledore comes raging into the room, angrily charging at Harry. It creates a quick intensity that brings the audience into the movie better than a calm, serene scene would have done.
Ultimately, differences between books and movies are a part of what creative mediums are about. Literature evolves through being adapted in different ways. This phenomenon is the reason why the evil stepsisters in Cinderella don’t get their eyes pecked out by birds or the Little Mermaid doesn’t kill herself at the end. Be thankful when directors make small adjustments.