One common thing I often hear from book lovers is that they prefer to read books before they’re adapted for screen. It’s a sentiment that I mainly agree with but don’t hold as a rule. And, to be honest, sometimes it has served me well.
Last month I wrote about seeing The Maze Runner in theatres before reading the books and how the experience surprised me. I was blown away. I loved the movie so much that I even started reading the books! Now, I’m not saying that one way to do things is better than the other, but I think there is something exciting (and rebellious, maybe?) about seeing an adaptation before reading the original work.
This exhilarating experience repeated itself when I saw Gone Girl in theatres before I had read the book. I’m sure many of you have either read the book or watched the movie (or both) by now, and can I tell you how much I got sucked into the movie? I think the fact that I hadn’t read the book made it even more shocking. I was stressed and scared the whole time, and considering that it’s a thriller, I think that’s a very good sign. Again, I think there’s a case to be made for both sides (reading the book first vs. watching the adaptation first), but in my experience, it sometimes pays off to do things backwards.
Here’s one last recent example: After watching the This is Where I Leave You trailer months ago, I was 100% on board. I love Tina Fey and I adore Adam Driver, and the trailer was endearingly comedic. I saw the trailer months before the movie was to come out so, knowing that it was an adaptation of a novel, I set out to read the book before I saw the movie. I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I wish I hadn’t. I got around halfway through the novel before I went to see the movie and… I hate to say it but I really enjoyed the movie and didn’t really enjoy the book. Here’s why: Jason Bateman’s character, Judd, is going through a lot. This, I get. This is conveyed in both the movie and the book, but what the movie had over the book was that it didn’t have to focus on Judd’s thoughts. The reason why I didn’t particularly enjoy the book was because, honestly, I didn’t really enjoy Judd’s character. I felt like he was a little… self-pitying? I understand why he would be angry with the world, but eventually, in the book, we do see Jen’s (“Quinn” in the movie) side of the relationship breakdown and, while I won’t say it justifies her actions, it made me understand what she did a lot more. Because the book gave me this explanation, I started disliking Judd even more, which made reading the book from his perspective mildly frustrating.
The best part about This is Where I Leave You the book, I thought, was the banter between the Altman family. This comedic goodness translated perfectly to the screen, and, paired with the wonderful movie cast, really shone. Because we don’t hear Judd’s thoughts throughout the movie, I was able to enjoy it much more, after I was able to forget the things he said/thought in the book. This experience, unfortunately, made me wish I had seen the movie before reading the book.
So there you go! These are some recent examples where I did everything backwards or wish I had. Do you do this too? Or do you always read the book before seeing adaptations? Do you have any stories/experiences for one side or the other?
(I do feel like I should add an addendum that I am absolutely not against reading the book before a movie, obviously. The Harry Potter series would never be the same for me if I hadn’t read the books before seeing the movies. Also, because of this “rule,” I still haven’t seen The Giver because I haven’t read the book. So… take that as you will!)