People who love reading are frequently disappointed by the movie versions of their favorite books. There have been some great films made from books, but typically, movie versions of books tend to frustrate readers because they are not just like the book. When a film director works from an adapted screenplay, the results are not the same as reading the book, for various reasons. For example, a film that precisely follows a novel likely would be too long for most audiences to sit through at a single showing, so some things must be left out. Also, a book can easily convey things to the reader that are much more difficult for a movie to convey, such as background information about the setting, the history and nature of characters' relationships or even what characters are thinking at certain times.
Importance of Imagination
Books and movies are very different entities. Films leave little to viewers' imaginations. When reading, a person is creating his or her own movie in a sense, and he or she decides many of the important parts: how the characters speak, what they look like and what their surroundings look like. This process of imagining and interpreting as a reader is a creative process that is distinctly different from viewing a film.
When directors cast roles for films, the actor or actress inevitably does not look the way that most readers of the book had pictured the character. For instance, casting Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code has been considered a significant mistake by many people. In fact, the book describes Langdon as resembling actor Harrison Ford, who bears no resemblance to Hanks.
Other types of casting decisions that often disappoint moviegoers are when an actor or actress who is known for comedic roles is cast in a dramatic role, or when an actor or actress is given a leading role in a major film despite having acting skills that are considered less than stellar. No matter how the actor or actress performs in the film, it can be difficult for viewers who know him or her from other films to disregard their previous impressions. An actor or actress who speaks with an accent that does not fit the role — either because the character should have a particular accent or because the actor or actress does when the character should not — also can be disappointing for people who "heard" the character's voice differently while reading the book.
A classic complaint about movie versions concerns the omission of material that the reader finds important. If the director must make film that is the proper length for a theatrical release, there is no way to include everything, especially when it comes from a long novel. The film version of Gone with the Wind, for example, omits the fact that Scarlett O'Hara had two children by her first two husbands, and she really disliked the children.
Perhaps the director wanted to make Scarlett more sympathetic and knew that portraying this dislike would make people hate Scarlett. It is an important aspect of the book, and it forms her character into a much more complex person. The film, to many people, is better than the book, but to other people, it is a good movie but not a faithful representation of the book.
Another thing that might annoy people about the film versions of their favorite books is adding material to the story or changing material. There are many such complaints regarding Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies, for instance. Important material, such as the battle in the Shire at the end of the last book, is deleted, and other material that was not written by J.R.R. Tolkien was added to the films. These changes include Arwen setting off for the Gray Havens and then nearly dying, Aragorn's flirtation with Eowyn, Sauruman's death by falling off the tower of Isengard and Frodo abandoning Sam before crossing into Mordor. Other additions included Faramir torturing Gollum and kidnapping Frodo and Sam as well as Faramir's intention to seize the ring from Frodo.
Despite the complaints about differences from the Tolkien's books, Jackson's films are widely considered to be quite good. The problem for Jackson and other directors is that their interpretation of a book is not the same as anyone else's. In the end, no director can satisfy everyone who read the book, because he or she works off a personal interpretation, might be under time constraint and is working in a completely different medium. Each person creates a mental version while reading a book, and no film version can live up to everyone's mental vision.
Not all movie versions might be considered worse than the books. For example, many people believe that the film The Godfather is better than the Mario Puzo novel upon which it is based. To many Godfather fans, film director Francis Ford Coppola significantly improved on the book and took out a lot of material written by Puzo that was not particularly relevant to the main story. Among the other well-known movies that many people consider to be better than the book versions are A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, Psycho and Jaws.