Is the big screen the best place for books?

I did consider calling this, “Is it just me or would it be better if book adaptations were done solely on TV?” but that’s not all that snappy and I’m a sucker for alliteration. So. Let’s get into it.

There are genuinely good film adaptations of books. The Fault In Our Stars and The Hunger Games both brought in good reviews, while that Harry Potter thing did alright. There’s obviously far more, the likes of Forrest Gump, the Green Mile and Lord of the Rings all have book alter-egos.

However, like anything you take the rough with the smooth. The particular book that’s sparked this argument in my head is ‘Divergent’. Now, if you don’t know, Divergent takes place in a dystopian future where citizens are split into five different factions dependent on human virtues. The story follows Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior who, it transpires, is Divergent and thus doesn’t fit. She’s forced to conceal her true nature as she transfers from the selfless Abnegation into the daring Dauntless, but as the book progresses she uncovers the danger she’s in and from there, a fight for survival begins…

I ate up the trilogy. I was a big fan of books one and two, not so much three but I digress. The movies flopped, so much so the future of the concluding fourth part is really up in the air and if anything, looks set for a TV movie without a great number of the cast. That’s a shame. It’s a real missed opportunity.

The Divergent series was a real missed opportunity.

Veronica Roth forged an interesting world with some good characters, there’s a decent story that runs all the way through and the films didn’t manage to get anywhere near it. I liked he first film but a lot of the big story beats fell flat. That’s where TV, in this case especially, could be golden as it brings with it the gift of time and depth.

Yes, you can get real depth in a film and I absolutely love movies don’t get me wrong. However, I think if you really want to get everything from a book, TV is the place to do it.

I think it’s especially apt in the case of thrillers for me. As I’ve reviewed on here, The Girl Before is going to become a film at some point and I hope they do it justice. Gone Girl was undoubtedly a very well done adaptation, but the book itself still wasn’t rung dry. The Girl on the Train left a lot to be desired, the multiple perspectives that run through the story didn’t translate well to the big screen and, as I said in the aforementioned Girl Before review, ¬†they made a real questionable decision to shift the action to the States.

The Girl with all the Gifts is another book I’ve read. I really wasn’t sold on the film, though. The ending stumbled badly for me – and the screenplay for that was even written by the author.

It doesn’t even have to be a returnable series.

It doesn’t even have to be a returnable series. Miniseries work just fine. SS-GB on BBC1 at the moment is showing a lot of promise, Big Little Lies which will air on Sky Atlantic in March is attracting positive reviews and the latter has an impressive roster of leading Hollywood actresses – Witherspoon, Kidman, Woodley, Dern and more.

There’s other books I’ve read which as I was actually reading I thought I’d love to have a crack of converting this to TV. The excellent Reconstructing Amelia and Holly Seddon’s equally brilliant Try Not To Breathe are the two books in question – as a sidenote, I wholeheartedly recommend the pair of them. Books map things out in an episodic manner really – the twists and turns of a good thriller would absolutely pack their full punch on TV.

…that’s what books bring too. Real depth.

I write a bit myself (and you’ll see some of that eventually) and I seem to be crafting myself into an aspiring TV writer at the moment. I’m relentlessly building ‘Renegade’ – hopefully the name will mean something one day, who knows?! But I find there’s just a real depth I can bring in my writing and that’s what books bring too. Real depth.

That’s not to say movies can’t be deep – quite the opposite – but simply, books are most compatible with TV. The more book adaptations done on TV rather than film, the better results we’ll have if you ask me.

You often get people saying the book is better than the film, on TV, I think it could be a far closer run thing.


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