I just spent the last three nights watching Shadow and Bone on Netflix. Hearing “the books are better than the movies” is so common these days, sometimes it’s hard to judge each project separately. Yet I honestly think some performances are so spectacular, they blow the words on the page out of the water.
I read Shadow and Bone some time ago. It was enjoyable, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by its brilliance or anything. I added it to my “read” Goodreads tab, and rarely thought of it again. Yet for each episode on Netflix, I was on the edge of my seat, completely immersed. It took effort to turn it off and wait a day to keep watching.
In college, in every Shakespeare class, you hear that the plays were meant to be performed. There’s a difference between good writing and good stories (not that a project can’t have both), but I think when you’re considering worthiness of a story, artists, directors, and actors can bring it to life, deepening the characters and developing an entirely novel (ha) atmosphere.
This is true of Shadow and Bone. The actors put on powerful performances. Several scenes stuck in my head, and I got inspired and excited to make additions to my own manuscripts while thinking about them. When Kaz talks to Inej about crows, I spent some time afterwards examining friendship roles in books. When Mal and Alina are sitting in the brig (whatever the camp jail is called) next to one another, I felt the solidarity. The action scenes were also extremely well done.
Some stories lend themselves better to the screen, and I think action-filled stories fall into that category often. I remember thinking the same thing when I watched Hunger Games. I never finished the books because I lost interest, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the first person point of view (kinda whiny), but each one of the movies had my heart racing.
With The Lord of the Rings, the series that led me to choose English as my major, I felt completely different emotions reading the books and watching the movies. They felt like completely different worlds. Peter Jackson imbued so much of his own vision into the films, and it was fantastic. But it didn’t give me goosebumps in the same places, for the same reasons as Tolkien’s prose.
With Harry Potter, I was so in love with how J.K. Rowling presented the story, that I could never enjoy the films. Despite the fact that I have respect for the brilliant people who created the movies, it didn’t have the magic I felt while reading.
That’s all to say that sometimes the books really are better than the movies. Sometimes the movies are better than the books. And sometimes it’s comparing apples and oranges.