Not too long ago I treated myself to a movie that no one else in my family was interested in seeing: Me Before You, a film adaptation of a book of the same name by Jojo Moyes. Now, I’m not one for intensely romantic films (or books), but I do like to watch these movies for a change of pace from the superhero blockbusters that have been dominating cinemas for the past few years. Don’t get me wrong, I was just as excited as the next guy when Civil War debuted (heck, I saw it twice within a week), but I also love an occasional Paper Towns here and there or something like The Duff if I’m in the mood.
But if we’re specifically talking about film adaptations of well-known novels, I must admit that I always try not to read the book before the movie. There are several reasons for this decision, but the main reason is this:
If I choose to read a novel before it’s adaptation to film, I will inevitably spend way too much time comparing the written tale from the visual one.
I try to avoid this at all costs because (1) I love movies just as much as books and (2) Most times, my constant judgment of casting choices and direction style, as well as my potent loyalty to the original tale, sucks the fun out of the pure entertainment value a movie can deliver. I’ve watched The Maze Runner, The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Devil Wears Prada, and even the Harry Potter series (though this was unintentional) before reading the books (which…I still have not read. I know. Bad Azia). And in doing so, I enjoyed the movies for what they were by not having to worry about how the director and actors failed to properly portray the characters and storyline I’ve come to know and love.
In the long run, by not reading the novels before the film debut, I’ve held more respect for the film adaptations of beloved books simply for their style, cast, and overall entertainment factor.
Now, I’m not saying that this method works each and every time. There are some questionable adaptations out there that made me wish I had read the books beforehand to understand the point (or even the general direction) of the film. The Percy Jackson films were ridiculously entertaining in their pure absurdity and I’d rather not talk about the Eragon adaptation…It’s not that it was terrible, it just wasn’t…good? I digress.
Though I prefer to watch the movie before reading the book, there are times, I admit, when I feel that I should read the book first so that my mental envisioning of the literary environment and physical appearance of the characters is not affected by the cinematic interpretation/casting. Also, there are details, events, and subtle character actions within the book that simply cannot be transferred to screen because of time and complexity.
Recently, I made the decision to read Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train due to high levels of critical praise and personal recommendations from friends and literary acquaintances. Even though I don’t usually read those type of novels (adult, fiction, mystery and suspense), I must say that the writing, plot, and character development were phenomenal. The trailer for the cinematic version was shown previous to Me Before You and upon seeing the casting choices, I simply cannot wait to see how the story translates to screen.
In truth, there is no right way to view a movie or read a book when a film adaptation is in the works.
My preference is to watch before I read, though I’ve made quite a few exceptions (like Twilight. I regret nothing and everything when it comes to that series). For those of you who find basic enjoyment in all movies (both the corny and the critically acclaimed types) as I do, I highly recommend you try watching the movie before reading the book. By doing this, you might gain a solid amount of loyalty and pleasure towards both the movie and the novel. You may also recognize them as completely different forms of entertainment, as well as completely separate projects with many (or very few) elements in common.
But I am well aware that there are so many advantages to reading before watching, and I can’t argue that it’s insanely fun to analyze and criticize films when comparing them to the beloved books. In fact, there is no better conversation starter for us bookworms!