Books & Movies

The 23rd edition of the Bookworms Carnival was posted over at The Bluestocking Society, where the theme was literature and film or books to movies, basically including books adapted into movies, movies adapted from books, books about movies, movies about books, etc.

This is a great topic and if I had thought about it sooner, I would have gotten off my butt and read Midnight Sun sooner since it has made me want to re-read Twilight and compare it with the movie.

The other reason this is coming up is simple, Jessica is asking: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first?

For me, it’s a toss up.  There are times where I’ll watch the movie without ever having read the novels – think Lord of the Rings.  Others, I’ve read the book and have wanted to see my favorite characters put up on the main screen – think Twilight.   Plus, there’s all the movies that have been adapted from books and I’ve just never realized it.  I didn’t know Chocolat, which I loved, was adapted from a novel, which I found out about over at Everybody Lies with their list of Thirteen Book Adaptations That Don’t Suck – although I’ve heard varying opinions on the greatness of Stardust.  For me, it’s not whether the novel was adapted well onto the screen or if I’ve even read the novel first, but whether I enjoyed the experience.

Honestly, when I go to see a movie in the theater, I don’t automatically compare it to the book.  In my opinion, there is such a huge difference between what is possible in a book compared to what is possible on the screen that it’s like comparing apples to oranges.  Where a book uses words to paint a scene for us, a movie can actually show us in seconds what the scene looks like.  Where a book can take pages to put out a great fight scene, the movie can do it quicker and generally with a lot more explosions.

I’m not saying one is better than the other, but when I go into a movie, I do try and keep an open mind.  I know I did that with Twilight and I think I’m one of the few who loved the adaptation.  Granted, I’ve recently come to realize that the movie version does differ more than I thought from the novel, but what they did with it worked.  They had all the major plot points, they got all the emotions out and they did it without chopping it up.  They could have completely screwed with it (which I’m waiting to see if that happens with New Moon with the change in direction the novel takes), but they didn’t.

Now I can’t say the same about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I love the Harry Potter series and I did go into the third movie with an open mind (I thought the first two were done well), but I sooo totally hated what they did with this one. The entire thing was a mash up of what the novel was about.  They cut and pasted so many different elements that it didn’t fit together well, at least in my head.  For instance, the whole tension between Hermoine and Ron involving their pets was never once brought up until the end where the point of the tension was explained.  If they had not brought that scene up, they probably could have gotten away with a mediocre film, but they had to include it since it revealed a major plot twist.

When it comes to adapting novels into movies, the one thing that should always happens is the director, screenwriter and producer need to actually read the novels and not just rely on someone’s summary.  The actors, I’m not too worried about – loved Dumbledore, but if you’re going to translate something, you should find out what the hype is all about (as I’m sure there is since the novel is being made into a movie).  Because either way, it’s all about having an enjoyable experience at the theaters and the thing about film adaptations is there is already a fan base ready to throw you into the fires for screwing their love up.

Whenever I asked someone their opinion about a film that came from a book, if they respond with well, the book was better, I ask as a movie, was it good?  Would someone who has never read the book enjoy it? Generally I’ll get a it was good as long as the person isn’t trying to compare it to the book.  And really, anyone in either industry wants their work to stand up on its own, regardless of whether it came from a book or vice versa.

I have a feeling I’ve rambled a bit off topic, but suffice it to say, I don’t really care if I read the book first or not. If the trailer catches my interest, then there is a good chance I’ll go see it.  Now I can’t say that a movie has ever made me want to pick up the novels, but I will admit to some curiosity about the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum after watching The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, which has made me a Matt Damon fan even more so since seeing Dogma.

Now it’s your turn, what do you think: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first?

About Jackie 3282 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.


  1. I’m pretty much either/or when it comes to books made into movies. If I’ve read the book, I don’t want to see the movie–because how can a movie top all the detail available in a book? If a movie grabs my interest, unless it’s a really huge adaption (i.e., Harry Potter), I usually have no clue it was based on a book until after the fact–but by then the movie has filled in the blanks, so I don’t backtrack.

  2. Jackie, thanks for playing along and promoting the Carnival. I agreed with your analysis of the discussion question. Isn’t that the answer to most of life’s questions – “it depends”?

  3. Odd that you would pick Bourne. I love the Bourne Identity movie and will just put it in the DVD to leave it on as background when there’s nothing else on. It’s just a great movie. I read the book after. All they really share is a premise and some names. If you were going to the movie hoping to see the book you would be sorely disappointed.

    For some reason I find it much easier to love a movie if I see the movie first then read the book second. I think it’s about managing expectations. Because unless it’s a short story, there’s stuff in the book that will not make it into the movie. Soemtimes things make it into the movie a little bent. But oftentimes, that quirky little thing that made you love the novel rather than just like it, gets overlooked, completely distorted, or misused in the movie. So when you’re sitting in the movie thinking “I can’t wait to see how they handle X” and they either blow X or never get it X, it can really mess up your enjoyment of the movie for its own sake.

    “Chocolat” and “About a Boy” I saw long after I read the books and didn’t have such specific expectations about them, so I was able to enjoy them as movies. And I thought the HP movies were B/B+ movies because they weren’t free to be themselves but had to have certain aspects of the books in them that didn’t translate well – without that stricture they would either be A/A+ movies or D movies and they didn’t want to risk a D and I can’t really blame them.

    Sorry to hijack your thread here. Put me down in the “see movie first, read book later – if I want to enjoy them both” category.

  4. CrankyOtter – I have to agree with what you said. I love movies that don’t take everything from a novel. I saw the Dresden Files on SciFi when it was one and then went and picked up the first novel Storm Front and was mildly surprised to find nothing was the same. I still had the same characters, but what they went through was different. I like that since it gives me more of the character to love.

    Normally, the Bourne series wouldn’t be one I would be interested in reading, but after seeing the movie, I like the premise. The idea that there are super soldiers without their memories and then one gets it back…it’s intriguing, yet it still hasn’t made it to the top of my TBR pile.

    I think you nailed it with Chocolat and About a Boy. I think the longer it has been since a person has read the novel to watching the movie does make a difference in their level of enjoyment. I read Twilight last summer (I think in July), so when I saw it around Thanksgiving, enough time had pass for most of the info to slip away except for the main idea. I didn’t have all those little parts that I was waiting to see happen and was able to enjoy it on its own merit.

  5. not a comment, a question: what allows you escape further from reality, a great book or a great movie? i’m interested in any studies that have been done to measure the differences, if any such exist.

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