Movies: The let-down of the avid reader
I can remember the first time I discovered the greatness that is Dan Brown. I was in sixth grade and my mother had been going on and on about the sequel to her favorite book Angles & Demons, that had just came out. It was called The Da Vinci Code and she was calling everyone she knew and demanding they go out and buy a copy that instant.
Being an avid reader myself, I picked up the book a few days later and spent the entire next week glued to the pages; absorbing and studying every bit of it that I could. I’m not going to lie, it was quite a chore; but once I completed it I felt such a sense of accomplishment, pride and a whole new understanding about the world of religion and symbolism. The next Christmas my mother even bought me my own illustrated version of the book, that I still treasure to this day.
Fast forward to 2006, Ron Howard’s film version of The Da Vinci Code is released and people flocked to the theatres across the world — well, at least in countries where it was not banned. The film grossed $758 million worldwide and was ranked as the fifth highest grossing film in the U.S. People ate up the film, but just as many spat it back out in disgust and the film did not have nearly the cultural impact I was hoping for. I was hoping to see streams of people, even students my age, flocking to the library to read up on ancient sects and secret societies. However, it seemed to only drive people farther away.
My personal feelings on the movie aside, I find that whenever I bring up some of the movies finer points with friends or co-workers — points that I have researched well beyond the scope of Brown’s pages — I am often met with something along the lines of, “Oh, you mean like from the Da Vinci Code?” My initial excitement soon turns to despair as I discover they, usually, had “only watched the movie” and had a very elementary understanding of what the author was really pushing and gave no effort to do any self-research after the fact.
People moving away from written material, however, is not at all an uncommon thing. As we learned in Caleb Crain’s Twilight of Books, the amount of time and number of people reading written books/newspapers/articles is declining rapidly while the amount of television and other such media is increasing.
Throughout this chapter, however, we also hear of some theories and studies indicating that with the decline of reading, so comes the decline in “smarts.” On page 316 of the reading, we learn about the studies done regarding the babies and videos along with more studies of third graders and television.
Now, there is a reason why, in elementary school your teacher would instruct you to write a book report on the actual book and “not just watch the movie at home.” One reason I could think of is because the director can often misunderstand the story. Remember, it’s not the director’s story, but he (or she) still gets to tell it in his or her own way; and, occasionally, it can become something else entirely.
In Twilight of Books, it is also indicated that those who read a message to themselves come away with a more positive understanding of the topic than those who received the other. Now, in the case of The Da Vinci Code, I think this fits like a glove. The book is complex and can be quite dense at times, especially when going through history and religious texts, but the work is all laid of for the reader to go through and come away with a better understanding and “feel” for what they have experienced.
Think about it, the average movie is a little less than two hours, and many people will only really watch a movie once. A book is a far more serious investment of your time and, whether you love it or hate it, it is obvious it takes much more effort both physically and mentally. You have to really want to finish a hard book, a movie, at least in my mind, is far easier to flip off.
My questions to you all are 1) Do you agree with me that movies almost always miss the mark on what the original author was trying to say? 2) Do you agree with my conclusion that as the written media declines so will the overall intelligence of the coming generations, especially in the realm of critical thinking and analyzing/absorbing information? 3) Do you have any similar examples such as mine. Movies that you were hoping would push your favorite written work further only to see it only drop it lower down on the scale?