Listen, I know that approximately half of the people reading this blog want to throw me out a window for that title alone, but hear me out before we get the window open. As someone who might consider themselves a book “purist”, I hold pretty high standards for film adaptations of my favorite books and generally, I’m left disappointed. It’s just not always possible for Hollywood to reach the same level of detail and nuance in a two-hour movie that an author can achieve in a three-hundred-page book. The words “the book is always better than the movie” have absolutely left my mouth in the past, mostly because they seemed to be backed up by my own observations. But sometimes, every so often, Hollywood adapts a book to film and makes it better. In order for this to be achieved, the book has to have so pretty glaring faults that the movie fixes, thereby making the movie better than the book. Occurrences like these are rare to find, but I found one in 2023. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers is essentially set in what appears to be modern America, with the addition of some advanced social media technology. The story follows Mae, a young woman hired by The Circle, a social media giant whose ultimate goal is to have every American registered with a Circle account. Mae, unaware of the company’s more sinister goals, willingly joins the company’s inviting and ultimately, cult-like environment. As the company offers her more and more benefits, she allows them to take further control of her life, constantly glued to the messages and notifications on her phone, eventually allowing them to film her almost 24/7, under the guise of “accountability”. Mae only realizes something is wrong, once the company develops the technology to connect millions of people around the world, allowing them to find anyone, anywhere, anytime, leading to the death of her childhood friend. Once Meg snaps out of The Circle’s control, she leads a crusade to bring the company down.

Mae is an interesting character and serves to show us, the audience, how anyone can be susceptible to deceptive language that sounds good, but ultimately wants control. And I would say that in the movie, Emma Watson gives a performance that absolutely serves that purpose. Unfortunately, her book counterpart is weighed down heavily by some strange choices by the author. 

In the book, Mae is a very unreliable narrator. She tends to be a bit self-centered, yet despite this, seems to lack a sense of self-preservation when it comes to the manipulation of the company she works for. She seems to mindlessly accept their strange rules and regulations simply because of the prestige of the company. The author also seems to think that the majority of women would behave this way in her situation, as most of the female characters in the book follow this archetype. It felt like the author saw women a certain way, and just rolled with it for all of the characters. It’s a choice that immediately took me out of the book. The movie allowed the female characters some nuance, making them real and believable as people in this universe.

Another issue I think the movie handled better, was the pacing of the story. The book moves at an almost glacial pace, with sections of action or intrigue far and few between, not leaving much to keep the reader interested besides what crazy rule Mae will accept next. The film paces the story a bit better, with flowing action and intrigue throughout to keep viewers interested. 

Some books set in the future can achieve amazing detail and worldbuilding within their pages, allowing readers to imagine futures they never even considered. The Circle lacks a bit of that world-building, and it is sometimes hard to imagine some of the scenarios in the book actually playing out. The film manages to flesh things out a bit, and truly gives the audience a look at what these technological advancements might look like, bringing the world to life a bit more. 

There are plenty of examples out there of movies that surpass their book counterparts, The Circle just being one. The difficult part of this argument is that everyone is going to have a different opinion on every book written and every movie made. So, is the book truly better than the movie? Not always.