Book vs. Movie: Which should come first?

I read an interesting post on Book Blob yesterday about books and their movie adaptations.  The author of the post asked if it was better to read the book before watching its movie, or if it was okay to see the movie first.

My gut reaction was that of a purist–book first, allowing you to read and interpret the author’s story for yourself, rather than watching someone else’s interpretation.  Then you can go to the theater and yell at the screen every time a change in the plot is made (while your fellow movie goers are giving you the stink eye because no, they did not read the book first and have no clue what you are yelling about).

But plot isn’t the only consideration.  There are the characters themselves.  You’ve formed an image in your mind of their appearance and mannerisms.  And then these Hollywood faces appear, replacing those of your imagination.  Sometimes the casting can be so off-putting that I spend half the movie wondering who in the heck was in charge of it and what they were thinking (and that they obviously did NOT read the book first).  And sometimes for the movie’s entirety, if that movie is Cold Mountain.  Nicole Kidman, seriously?  Her character, Ada Monroe, is consistently described in the book as having beautiful thick dark hair, and is in her very early 20’s.  Not 30 something with blonde hair and a terrible fake Southern accent.

I don't believe Botox was in vogue in the 1860s either.

However, after all that, I think something can be said for seeing the film first.  Not only will you spare your companions the constant prattle of “Can you believe that?  They just skipped over the most important part!”, but you might be able to enjoy the movie in its own right, separate from the book.  After all, it is an adaptation.  (But I’ll never be able to accept the way the Cold Mountain adaptation changed Inman’s final stand off with the blue-eyed boy of the Home Guard)

No Jude, it didn't happen that way. Go read the book.

What do you think?  Which should come first, the book or the movie?

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11 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, Period Pieces

11 responses to “Book vs. Movie: Which should come first?

  1. LOL, you make me want to read Cold Moutain AND see the movie (I have not done either)!

    Yes, it’s weird isn’t it that it’s more easy to forgive a book that doesn’t match up to a movie we love, than a movie that doesn’t match up to the book? I definately say see the movie first, for that very reason. I loved the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle for many years before I read the book – and thereby discovered the movie was very different from the book. There would have been a lot of that shouting and throwing things at the screen if I’d read the book first – as happened at the movie versions of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Golden Compass.

    • Maybe we are more forgiving of the book because it came before the movie, so it’s considered “the original”?
      You should definitely read AND watch Cold Mountain, but I’d recommend the movie first so there’s no yelling during it, haha!

  2. Jenny

    I agree that the movie Cold Mountain varied quite a bit from the book. I read the book first which was a while before the movie came out, and then saw the movie. Then I actually went back and reread the book because so much of the movie was different that it made me question my memory of the story. But I will say that I did enjoy them both. The movie was different in a lot of ways and I agree with you Diana, that Nicole Kidman as Ada was ridiculous. However I could look at Jude Law all day, any day! Haha. And I did think he played the role well.

    I just recently saw the movie The Help, after reading the book first. Although it was good, you just can’t get the same character development in a 2 hour movie as you do throughout a novel.

    Marley and Me was another one where I read the book first and then saw the movie. I thought they kept that movie VERY close to the book and didn’t remember much that was changed. I mainly remember crying like a baby after reading the book and during the movie!

    So when possible, I’ll keep reading books first and then seeing the movies. Even though the movies often don’t live up to reading the novels, I do enjoy seeing a story come alive on the big screen, even if so much has to be left out, abbreviated or changed all together. Plus, someone has to support those poor Hollywood actors, right?! 🙂

    • Haha, right Jenny! I’m the same as you, I still go and see the movies because it is interesting to see the adaptation of the book and see the story come to life on the screen, not just inside your head. But I might still yell at times.
      I do think that Jude Law did a much better job as Inman than Nicole Kidman did as Ada. But I think Renee Zellweger topped them both (and thus her Oscar was justified).

  3. I prefer to read the book first, but the most awful thing usually happens after I see the film..I hate it!

    This happened to me with “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Book was over-the-top fabulous, and yet the movie was good, but it didn’t deliver like the book did.

  4. I read “The Natural” after I saw the movie and was floored by the 180-degree difference in their endings. Still, I’m unsure which one spoiled the other for me — or even if they did — and I’m not so sure Hollywood’s ending was a BAD thing. So I’ll have to say I loved them both, but for different reasons.

    • Well said Tom! I think that if you can separate yourself from the book and not expect the movie to be an exact retelling and instead just “based on” or an “adaptation,” you can come away enjoying the film in its own right.

  5. My own experience is usually I have seen the movie first (often because I never knew there was a book first). I did, however, read “Cold Mountain” before seeing the movie. I remember more about the book than the movie these years later, so that tells me the book was better.

    Movie/book favorites that I saw in the theater before reading the books: Gettysburg/The Killer Angels and Master & Commander/Aubrey series. Gettysburg by far followed the book the closest out of any book adaptation I’ve ever seen, right down to specific dialogue. Master & Commander had a big challenge because it was a 2-hour movie that adapted various aspects of a 20-book series, but they did an excellent job capturing the essence of the characters (not to mention fabulous cinematography and acting).

    • Good point on which one remains in your mind longer, the book or the movie–I think that definitely says something about which one was better.
      And I loved Master & Commander–and I will admit I have not read the books. But my husband has and he thought they did an excellent job on the film as well.

  6. I prefer the book first, although it does spoil the movie. I have a tendency to drive others nuts explaining to them (while watching the movie) “THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED OR HOW IT HAPPENED!” Nice post.

    • Thanks! I tend to agree–the book does often spoil the movie, but it’s still interesting (though sometimes frustrating) to see what changes the screenplay writers have made to the original work. Glad to know I’m not the only one who annoys my fellow movie goers! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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