Jess and I have this argument all the time. She’ll tell me that some movie is really great and I’ll make the snide remark that the book is better. (I can be a bit of a smart ass at times.*) She’ll watch the movie and skip reading the book. I, on the other hand, read the book and then see the movie. I try to give myself enough time between the reading and the viewing to forget enough about the book so I’m not disappointed in what’s left out or changed in the movie.
The first time I watched the movie version before reading the book, I felt dirty, like I was doing something sinful. The movie was Practical Magic and I enjoyed it. When I read the book, though, I ended up disappointed. I thought, “The book didn’t follow the movie at all!” when really my thinking should have been the other way around.
Last summer when The Time Traveler’s Wife previews started airing, I was determined to read the book first. I was also trying to save money so instead of buying one of the 100 copies we had in the store, I put my name on the reservation list at the library. My number in line to get a copy was somewhere in the 200s. I figured that by the time I got it and read it, the movie would be out on DVD. But Murphy’s Law kicked in and I got the book sooner than anticipated (the library purchased several new copies to distribute to patrons). Still, it took me the full 3 weeks to read it and then I waited another 4 months before I watched the movie. I’m definitely glad I read the book first, unlike Mom, with whom I watched the movie. Some of the time travelling wasn’t explained well in the movie and a couple of times I paused it to make sure that Mom understood what was going on.
But I have a confession to make. The last two movies I’ve watched have been based off of books but (are you sitting down?) I didn’t read the books before watching them. Oh, I will read the books eventually, but I was so eager to see the movies that I broke my own policy. The movies in question were Shutter Island and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I haven’t heard if Shutter Island stays close to the book or not but I’ve heard several complaints about Percy Jackson. One friend even described it at a complete rewrite of the book so I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie if I’d read the book first. Yet I think I will still enjoy the book after the movie because I want to see how it really plays out.
Now, those books that have on the cover, “Based on the screenplay by…” means it was a movie first and then a book. This doesn’t work the same way. In cases when the book is written after the movie, then the movie is always better. Trust me on this one.
*Understatement of the year.