I hold a longstanding and intense prejudice against book-based movies. Unoriginal, lazy and often insufficiently funded, they deface many worthy novels and inaccurately reproduce beautiful stories. Their only redeeming quality lies in bringing to the fore books that might otherwise be overlooked. And even that’s a mixed blessing.

As an 11 year old, I was more familiar with Harry Potter than with the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears. I endlessly poured over the pages of “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” memorizing the first pages by simple repetition. And to me, J.K. Rowling’s sale of the script to Warner Brothers was devastating. For one well-versed in the book’s minute details, catastrophes in the film like a complete rewriting of the Norbert affair — Harry and Hermione were caught after sending Norbert off, not before, as depicted in the movie — were simply unbearable. Scarred beyond repair, I avoided watching the remaining films.

Perhaps my devotion to the book was excessive. No movie is absolutely faithful to its book — and it shouldn’t be. Film is a very distinct medium. It’s a valuable and enjoyable art form, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for every story. Here are a few stories told in both forms — the question is, which works?

Let’s look into “The Reader,” which was originally a book written by Bernhard Schlink. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards. It achieves undeniable success following one man’s struggle with his generation’s emotional and practical response to a previous generation’s Holocaust crimes. Introspection, an inherent part of both character development and discussion of theme in the film, is nearly impossible to convey in a motion picture.

In written form, “The Reader” delves into main character Michael Berg’s psyche and his consideration of philosophical and moral questions. The subject doesn’t convert well to movie format, forcing subtle rewriting and refocusing. It’s impossible to accurately present Berg’s confusion and struggles without reading his inner narrative. In the book, I read his thoughts. In the movie, I’m forced to guess.

Moreover, the screenwriters apparently found it impossible to avoid making plot and detail alterations. Why this always seems necessary, I’ll never know.

Action movies, meanwhile, are, almost by definition, simply entertaining. Cut in, scary/thrilling sequence, cut out. “I am Legend” was no exception. Perhaps a nod was given to the achievements of science or societal attachments, but at its core, the movie aimed to thrill.

The original novella, written by Richard Matheson, shoots higher than that. It addresses complex sociological issues, tracking both Robert Neville’s life as the last non-infected human on the planet as well as the lives of the infected that haunt him. But these are not the zombies of the movie; they are a new race, an emerging society, rendering Neville the minority — “the abnormal one.” The novella critiques the concept of normalcy as a majority concept and presents questions never raised in the movie. These are not simply vampires or zombies, they are intelligent, organizing beings. Oh, and the dog is only around for 17 pages. It doesn’t even get a name.

Occasionally, a film reaches or exceeds the level of its written inspiration. “300,” for example, supersedes its original graphic novel, written by Frank Miller. The film demonstrates that legendary and battle-ridden stories are simply better with special effects.

The graphic novel, by turns poetic, epic and comedic, certainly merits reading. Still, video sequences of 300 Spartans rushing the field are more powerful than an illustration.

Film permits viewers to be lazy. Instead of enlisting our imagination to produce rich images, movies present us with ready-made illustrations. They don’t allow us an intimate view of the character or a chance to read exactly how the character feels and thinks. We are often denied complex issues and concepts because we are entertained by flashing action sequences, car chases and explosions. Part of the attraction of the film medium is its shorter — and sometimes more exciting — duration. But neither “The Reader,” “300” nor “I am Legend” is a long work, and they’re worth reading.

Don’t get me wrong — I love movies. But when that movie either replaces or precludes my individual interpretation, it robs me of the pleasure of reading. And when the original book is as good as, say “The Reader,” “I Am Legend” or even “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” to me, it’s simply immoral.

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