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What's better: Reading the book first before watching the movie, or vice versa?

Book talk

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Jun 22, 2008, 11:31pm Top

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Jun 23, 2008, 1:04am Top

That is what i was planning on writing when I saw the title of your post. My friends will not let me watch a movie with them if I have already read the book. I am a natural perfectionist, so I point out EVERYTHING in the movie that is wrong. I feel that the author of all the good books out there are being discredited when their books get turned into two hour popcorn movies, built around what people think is "the norm".

But I do have to admit, they are getting better at making books-into-movies... I give them some credit ;)

Jun 23, 2008, 1:17am Top

my answer to this question used to be "movie first" for similar reasons to sonshi, but after so many poor recent book-to-film translations (hello Eragon, The Golden Compass and Romulus, My Father to name but three) I'm concerned that seeing the movie first might put me off a potentially enjoyable book.

so now I always read the book... then usually decide to skip the movie :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2008, 1:21am Top

That is a good idea, and what I have started to do since I was SO dissapointed by Harry Potter. I mean, come on! ;)

Jun 23, 2008, 1:29am Top

I've read each Harry Potter book to my (wife and) kids before the movies have come out, and after they saw The Order Of The Phoenix I read them the last two books back-to-back - so I know they've heard the whole story, BUT I'm still disappointed that the movies are watched and re-watched until the movie version of the story is the only one they can remember :(

I'm trying to decide now whether to re-read Eragon to them to try and blot out the movie before reading Eldest.

Edited: Jul 3, 2008, 1:59am Top

I am pretty good about separating the two mediums from each other and can enjoy both without the comparisons getting in the way for the most part. That doesn't mean I don't make comparisons--I just recognize the limitations of both formats and can appreciate them for what they are.

That being said, most of the time I prefer reading the book first. I have this weird thing about not wanting books spoiled for me but I don't care if a movie is spoiled for me. I also like having the background information when I go into a movie that is based on a book. I feel I get a better feel for the story and the characters overall. That isn't always the case though. There are times when I prefer watching the movie first, especially if it's a difficult book to read--the movie will often pave the way for my enjoyment of a book I might not have been able to get through otherwise. And sometimes a movie gets me interested in reading a book that I might not have thought to read before.

Jun 23, 2008, 1:07pm Top

I'm tending toward doing one or the other but not both. Or if I must do both, I'd rather see the movie first (without knowing that there is a book), and then discovering the book much, much later - long enough afterward so that I will have forgotten many of the details of the movie.

Jun 23, 2008, 2:59pm Top

Normally if I like a book I can't bring myself to watch the movie (Mystic River is a good example). Other times I will chance itand end up liking both equally (Shawshank is a good example of this). Then there are the times where the movie is much better (Strangers on a Train). So I guess my answer is 'it depends'.

Jun 23, 2008, 3:06pm Top

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Jun 26, 2008, 2:41pm Top

I can go either way, but when I was young (under 15), I never liked how movies distorted the book.

But I did read the book, To Serve them all my days after the TV series and liked both.

Jul 2, 2008, 8:06pm Top

In reading a book you put yourself into it by using your mind to form the characters, the scenes, the voices, etc.

If you see these things on the screen first then you are robbed of putting yourself into the book because you will tend to follow what the director put into your brain.

Even knowing who is to play the part in a film will influence you as to what the character is to be like.

Jul 2, 2008, 9:49pm Top

It used to be that I really hated seeing movies after reading the book.

I remember distinctly having this problem when I saw the Babysitter's Club movie when I was very young because the characters didn't look anything like how I had imagined them.

Now, it really depends. I'm glad I read all of Lord of the Rings before I saw the movies. Same with Harry Potter.

Though I have to admit that because I read Lord of the Rings (orginally) when I was twelve I somehow had always imagined hobbits as some sort of human-rabbit crossbreed. Their movie appearance took some adjusting to.

However, there are some book/movie adaptations I love equally: Girl, Interrupted and Fight Club, notably.

Now, my policy seems to be whatever one I come across first.

Jul 2, 2008, 10:17pm Top

11> That may be how you read a book but not everyone has the same experience.

Jul 2, 2008, 11:23pm Top

If I'm really interested in the book or movie, I'll read the book first. If I'm not as interested, I'll watch the movie. (I'm really, really regretting watching Love in the Time of Cholera, however. The film was horrible and I'm sure it would sour my opinion of the book, which seems to have much, much better reviews.)

Jul 3, 2008, 3:07am Top

There are some books that I would refuse to watch a movie of, if one were to be made, because I love the world I created in my mind so much and I do not want it to be ruined. (A few examples of these would be the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.)

I read all the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies, and while some scenes from the movie steal in when I reread, I can generally get back to how I imagined it to begin with.

I couldn't get through LOTR books but I loved the movies ... so I guess what I'm saying is that it depends. :)

Jul 3, 2008, 1:32pm Top

Definitely book first then movie.

Jul 21, 2008, 1:36pm Top

Book first, beyond a shadow of a doubt! I would never see a film without first reading the book if that was the format it was first presented in. If you see the film first then you will forever be tainted by the director's perception of characters and images and you'll never be able create them in your head based on the author's descriptions.

Jul 21, 2008, 1:43pm Top

>17 klarusu:
Er, no. I can separate the director's vision from my own just fine.

Jul 21, 2008, 1:50pm Top

#18 Good for you! I guess what I meant to say, to be clearer, is that it is impossible for anyone to 'erase' what they've seen from their subconscious and so one will never really know how much it has affected the reading of a book. Whilst I'm sure some of you are most adept at controlling the subconscious, I prefer to take a piece of literary artwork in the form it was initially intended in the first instance and then appreciate how someone else has brought their vision of it to life. It's not always bad. For example, I love Lord of the Rings but Tolkien has his flaws. I will never give up my love of the books but there were parts of the film that certainly improved on his descriptive ability!

Jul 21, 2008, 3:00pm Top

Book first, skip movie... that is usually my personal approach.

Jul 21, 2008, 3:59pm Top

I can never bring myself to watch the movie after I've read the book, especially if I liked the book. I feel like I am setting myself up for disappointment. Plus, I am one of those movie-viewers who will see the actors in my head when I read a book, too, and I'd rather imagine the author's description, instead. (My boyfriend laughed when I was reading I Am Legend right after he saw the movie and I told him Matheson's character was blond and blue-eyed.)

I am having an internal struggle about Shantaram right now (still in production) - it's my favourite book, so I don't want to see the movie, but Johnny Depp is going to be in it! I know he will be fabulous in it so part of me really wants to see the movie. Gah!

Jul 21, 2008, 4:39pm Top

#20, What mckait said, with some exceptions (that is, sometimes I'll break down and see a movie of a book I loved, and once in a blue moon the movie will be good).

Jul 21, 2008, 4:53pm Top

Movie first. The book always has more detail so reading the book after the movie you will always find storylines and scenes that are new. Going the other way can be frustrating since you're favorite part of the book might have been cut out.

Jul 21, 2008, 5:40pm Top

I personally prefer reading the book first.. I like to picture the characters in my head before actors effective replace that vision. I also agree with what several posters said about not wanting to read a book because the movie was bad. I am quite sure I have put off reading more than one book because I wasn't please with the movie.

Jul 21, 2008, 8:21pm Top

Definitely read the book first. I can still enjoy the movie, even with deleted scenes and dialogue being given to a different character. I may not enjoy the movie as much as the book, or I may like the movie better. I would prefer that directors and screenwriters not change the ending of a book. If they can get to the same point without all of the characters and dialogue, fine. Some movies as good as the book: Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind, From Here to Eternity, Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Master and Commander was excellent and didn't follow the book. If a writer can separate himself from his creation and allow screenwriters to do their work, then I should be able to separate myself from an enjoyed book.

Jul 21, 2008, 10:26pm Top

Movie first! I'm one of the people who get frustrated when movies change or cut out scenes and characters. Every so often I'll watch a movie I enjoy, and then find out later (to my delight) that it was based on a book! Example: I saw the movie "Possession" before I'd even heard of A.S. Byatt (I can't believe I'm admitting this here). But then I found the book Possession, read it, and loved it. I wouldn't have read any of Byatt's work if it wasn't for the movie. I'm really glad I saw the movie first because I'd probably be outraged if I watched it now. Now, this isn't going to stop me from seeing "Brideshead Revisited" as soon as it comes out. "Movie first" isn't a strict rule or anything, just a preference.

re #24 - I do agree with theboltchick, however, about how watching the movie kinda kills the images I have in my head of the characters and settings and whatnot. The most extreme example is probably the Harry Potter series - I don't remember anymore what the characters looked like in my head at first.

Jul 22, 2008, 12:07am Top

Sometimes a movie leads me to a book. Example: Tristram Shandy - saw the movie, decided to read the book, even though I didn't like the movie, I was intrigued. One of the most enjoyable books I ever read. Saw the movie again
after I read the book, and disliked the movie.
What I really enjoy is when the book is very dissimilar to the book and both are great. Example: The Long Goodbye.

Jul 22, 2008, 12:09am Top

Sometimes a movie leads me to a book. Example: The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy - saw the movie, decided to read the book, even though I didn't like the movie, I was intrigued. One of the most enjoyable books I ever read. Saw the movie again
after I read the book, and disliked the movie.
What I really enjoy is when the book is very dissimilar to the book and both are great. Example: The Long Goodbye.

Jul 22, 2008, 2:45pm Top

I typically read the book first if I can. Though I agree with Clarencex, sometimes you don't know about the book until you see the movie.

Jul 22, 2008, 3:07pm Top

I agree with sonshi.... unless the movie is a really good adaptation of the book, if you read the book first, then chances are you'll be disappointed with the movie
(Anyone who read and afterwards saw "PS I love you" will agree...)

Jul 23, 2008, 1:47am Top

Luckily, my experiences have mostly been enjoying the movie first and then loving the book. However, I recently discovered a problem with this system: if I liked the movie a lot, I found that my memories of the movie and the book became blurred.

Example 1: Fight Club. I loved this movie and liked the small differences that appeared in the book. Years later, I barely remember the differences but the movie remains fresh in my head.

Example 2: Lord of the Rings. I thoughts the books were pretty good and enjoyed the movies. Even though I've only seen the movies a few times, I find I can't really remember how things occurred differently in the books...

The imagination is strong, but sometimes visual images are stronger and erase what we have imagined. Because of this, I made sure to read Jumper before seeing the movie (it helps that the movie was so bad that I tried to forget it).

I plan on reading American Psycho and Children of Men, two movies I really loved. I'm worried that the books won't stick in my head because of the imprint these movies have left on my brain. Just to be safe, I will be reading I Am Legend before I see the movie.

Jul 23, 2008, 1:55am Top

Definitely book first. In fact, knowing there's a movie in the works often motivates me to rescue the book from my TBR pile -- I hate it when a movie comes out before I've read the book! Not that it matters, since I rarely see movies...

Jul 23, 2008, 9:48am Top

And very occasionally there are movies that are better than the book -- The Godfather being the prime example of this.

Jul 23, 2008, 9:59am Top

Read the book, then instead of watching the film, read another book!

If forced I prefer to read the book first, because I can then work out what the film is about, why the characters are behaving so randomly, what the missing bits of backstory are etc. I find nearly all films to be very contrived with vast details missing.

Very very few films are as good as let alone better than the book. Sphere might just about be a contender.

Edited: Jul 23, 2008, 12:23pm Top

OK, I'm sorry (O alright, i'm not sorry) but how can a movie that runs 90+ mins do justice to a book that was dramatised 30 years ago and took 13 hours of TV time? I hear they used the same house in this version, is that so? The reason I bring up the TV adaption is because it was very authentic to the book. How can a movie, less than a 1/8th the lenght of the authentic TV version be any good at all?

Jul 23, 2008, 1:39pm Top

Book then film. And I'm almost always disappointed in the film. I was hoping that as dreadful a book as Eragon was, that the film would be better. Sadly, aside from the CG dragon stuff, the film was even worse. Even the book version of 2001: A Space Odyssey is better than the film and the film and the book were created at the same time.

Jul 23, 2008, 4:24pm Top

OK, if the Yahoo moves blurb is anything to go on then the movie will be a disaster, they describe it thus:Adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel, focusing on the doomed love affair between Charles and Julia Flyte and how Catholicism destroys their relationship and their families." Is this the honest opinion of others who have read the book? If this is the angle of the new movie then I plan to watch the TV adaption again this summer and read the book.

Jul 23, 2008, 6:42pm Top

When did this thread become exclusively about Brideshead Revisited? I had no idea what you were talking about until you posted the link.

Jul 23, 2008, 8:30pm Top

>38 jjwilson61: Abby posted in the LT Blog about the Brideshead Revisited movie and linked to this thread.

Jul 24, 2008, 7:00am Top

I think it's better first to read the book and then to watch the movie. The book can reveal a lot more of the original concept of the author than the movie. I watched the movie "The memoirs of a Geisha" - I found it fascinating, indeed. Then I bought the book but I couldn't read it because I already knew the plot.

Jul 24, 2008, 10:27am Top

re: #31
I hope you aren't as suprised by the movie version of Children of Men as I was. I saw the movie, then read the book and wondered if the movie producers had the same book in mind. They seemed hardly related. I liked both but they seemed to have completely different themes and perspectives.

Jul 24, 2008, 11:32am Top

glamour: if you care about spoilers, that's probably the way to go.

I tend to think that if a book/film is any good, there is no need for an expected suprise at the end to keep my interest up.

This tends to get me in trouble with people for spoiling, since I often don't even realise what kinds of facts the other kind of reader considers spoilers before the damage is done.

That said, I still find reading a book before seeing a film adaptation preferable, since the film can essentially be seen as a commentary or interpretation of a particular reading of a book.

To take the popular example of The Lord of the Rings, the recent adaptation, in my opinion, manages well to represent well the themes of good and evil as represented by the relationship between Frodo, Gollum and the ring, and of course the semi-romantical relationships within the party, while glossing over many other themes, just as important to Tolkien.

While I like the adaptation, I think someone that sees the films without having read the books will very likely get a scewed picture of what Tolkien is all about and the qualities of his works.

Jul 24, 2008, 12:26pm Top

#41, I read Children of Men first and boy did I hate the movie -- as you said, a completely different story/theme, etc.

Jul 24, 2008, 10:38pm Top

#12, Fight Club is an amazing movie and book!

Jul 25, 2008, 3:58pm Top

I prefer to read the book first. I can get a better feel for the characters and understand their motivations, which doesn't always happen for me in the movie. Once I've read the book, I'm anxious to see the move.

Sure, many times the movie can't live up to the book. After all there's only so much they can fit into 2 hours more or less. But hardly ever have I been motivated to read the book after I've seen the movie.

Jul 25, 2008, 5:34pm Top

Apologia, I omitted to mention Brideshead, but the same stands fro any movie. Can you imagine if a producer tried to adapt Lord of the Rings with every piece of of dialog and subplot.

Jul 26, 2008, 11:42am Top

It seems to me that costumes and weather are problems too. In period pieces movies seem to overdo the clothes.

As in weather, they are there on the screen to be seen constantly. In the book you only have a garment named and you can imagine it or simply take it as reference to the type of clothes they wore at that time and get on with the story.

With weather, in a book you can say that it is happening in the middle of a storm, drought, etc. In the movie you are looking at it constantly.

Black and white movies don't seem to me to be as bad in this as the sharper color contrast of color movies.

Jul 26, 2008, 4:56pm Top

Just watching the movie version of Ian McEwan's Atonement which I read when I first heard they were making the movie. Actually its not bad, I was surprised P.D. James let her Children of Men be adapted as it was.

Aug 4, 2008, 1:17pm Top

My vote is always: book first. You should always have the opportunity to create your own, unmediated mental imaged based on the author's words before experiencing someone else's interpretation. Whether an excellent or disappointing interpretation/retelling, the movie will always color the way you "see" a book's characters and events.

Nov 25, 2008, 5:56pm Top

thats a good idea!

Nov 26, 2008, 12:10am Top

I read the book first, too. (Except after I saw the first Star Trek movie, I hunted up the novelization to try and figure out what the heck the movie was trying to say.) (Not that it helped much.)

The movies that drive me insane are the ones that use the title, but come up with an entirely different story. Cheaper By the Dozen is my ultimate example. I adore the book - and could find no similarity in what I saw of the movie. It is one thing to change the time frame of the story (ie. "modernization"), but quite another to eliminate the entire theme and texture of the story.

Another example is (I can't believe I'm admitting to this) Semi-Tough. The book is profane, politically incorrect, mildly pornographic, and wildly funny. The movie was just dumb. Didn't even have the Super Bowl story line.

Nov 26, 2008, 2:02am Top

>51 MerryMary: MerryMary I had the same experience with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the book was completely different from the movie.

I read the book and usually have no desire to see a movie made from it. And I watch the movie when I have no plan to ever read the book. So far it works for me.

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