The Economy of Movie Scripts: 5 Scene Comparisons between Books and Movies

Books and movie scripts are different things. While they share similar constructs (both require conflicts, characters with wants and needs, antagonists, etc.) they ultimately have different canvas types and sizes, cater to different audiences, and have different demands.

Nevertheless, when you get movies or TV shows based on books you hear people comment about how the movie skipped a lot stuff that the books covered in more detail. This makes sense. Movies have a finite amount of time to work with and have audiences with shorter attention spans; I don’t think audiences could handle the amount of dialogue some books indulge in, for example. So where do script writers make cuts and why? How do they decide what to add and alter while still staying loyal to the book? Let’s take a look at five side-by-side comparisions of scenes in movies and TV to find out.

Please note, a lot of the book sequences I had to whittle down heavily from the original source. I did my best to indicate with ellipses when text was skipped.

Dissecting Story: 5 Examples of How Movies Show You What They Will Be About

Please note, in order to discuss story completely I have to talk these movies as a whole. I tried to pick popular movies you would likely have seen, but in case you haven’t seen Interstellar, or Jurassic Park, or Lion King, or Back to the Future, or The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, potential spoilers ahead.

I remember going to go see Interstellar with some friends. After the movie was over a few of my friends said they didn’t like it, but one friend in particular was quite upset. His chief complaint seemed to centre around the fact that the movie wasn’t what he wanted it to be. This is a fair complaint; we all have certain things we like in movies, or preferences. However, in this case his comments suggested that he either didn’t recognize, or that he ignored the premise Interstellar had laid out for him. Because early on, Interstellar clearly establishes what it is going to be about. Moreover, most movies tell us what they are going to be about at the offset and stick true to that promise.

This is the very basis of storytelling. At the start of every story we establish who the characters are and what they are trying to do, then give them a conflict or obstacle they must overcome to get to where they are going. As an audience, we have to know the story’s chief aim or thematic focus so we can root for the characters as they try to achieve their goals. Obviously not all movies are this simplistic or linear, but you can apply this schematic (at least to some degree) to many of them.

To help illustrate this idea, here are fives examples of how movies show you what they will be about.

The 4 Highs and Lows of Empire

Empire is about a music label (of the same name) and the Lyon family that runs it. Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is the co-founder of the company along with ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson). When the series begins, Lucious has a meeting with his three sons, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), and Andre (Trai Byers), explaining that he intends to groom one of them to be the head of the Empire — but only one. Meanwhile, Cookie is released from being imprisoned for 17 years, expecting to take her half of the company. The series is about the five of them wrestling for control of Empire while trying to make it (and themselves) a success.

Since the show is about a music label, Empire contains a number of original songs, which the show presents with great assuredness (with Timbaland as the show’s music producer). Empire is also nighttime soap and is a deliberate, perpetual tornado of melodrama. Everything that has to do with the music great, while much of the melodrama feels excessive. It’s almost like it’s two different shows, which creates some great heights and some unfortunate depths.

Here are four of the highs and lows of Empire.

6 Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

SPOILER ALERT: The parts of the film I want to discuss are spoiler-heavy. So if you haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet and don’t want any spoilers, please stop reading.

Captain America: Civil War does so many things well. It takes a tricky concept about a group of super heroes who are friends fighting against each other and manages to dedicate a little time and love to each of them, while simultaneously making film that is funny and thrilling. It also manages to keep the story Cap-centric, by focusing on a single idea: Captain America (Chris Evans) does what he thinks is right.

But there are a lot of additional nuances that make the film a success and I’d like to discuss a few of them. Here are six thoughts on Captain America: Civil War.

5 Ways Fear the Walking Dead Doesn’t Work

I recently started watching Fear the Walking Dead. It started with some great tension, but over time that greatness has faded. It’s not just that the show is in The Walking Dead‘s shadow, it’s that there is a problem with conflict on the show. There simply isn’t enough conflict (so far) between the characters and each other, themselves, and their surroundings. Fear the Walking Dead might have some interesting groundwork, but it hasn’t quite blossomed yet.

So what’s wrong with the show? Here are five ways Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t work.