I have always been into movies, but there have been times in which other forms of entertainment have also been huge parts of my daily schedule. For years, I would read almost every day, and I had the most books read of any fellow 6th grader in my middle school. I loved reading books as they were very immersive and entertaining. Of course, I loved movies too but movies seemed so brief whereas books were always a rewarding investment. I remember distinctly one case in which the book and movie were almost insultingly different, but most other times I was at least satisfied with the adaptation. The story I’m referring to here is Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. I watched The Da Vinci Code and enjoyed it, but then I watched Angels & Demons and absolutely loved it. Amazed with the film, I decided to read the book to get the whole story, and I was just awe-struck with the book as well; it had so many things in common, but so many more sequences that the movie left out as well. I couldn’t have been happier with my experience. Then… I watched the movie again. And I hated it. Comparing the movie to the book is hardly ever a good thing, and this movie killed reading for me, since I was such a big movie fan, I didn’t want to feel that disappointment again.
So, years passed with me not really reading much (although I’ve still read a lot) until recently when I read A Scanner Darkly and then watched the movie. I was still underwhelmed with the movie, but having seen so many and started to study them, I know that things have to be left out to make run time, budget and story, so it’s understandable that things won’t be exactly alike. Also, I hate it when people complain about things such as “well, in the book it was like this…” or “this is nothing like the comics!” and shit like that. To me, and adaptation is just that, an adaptation and not a direct translation. It’s important to realize that difference, which is the case with almost every single adaptation ever. I think that only the author of the book can write the screenplay for the movie and have his or her vision be left intact for the film. Otherwise, you’re getting somebody else who may have had a slightly different experience with the story than it was intended, and the movie may not work in the end. More specifically, every reader can read the same sentence and understand it in a different way contingent on their own life and experiences, such as “I lost my dad when I was young.” Some people would read that and say anything from “sucks for you” to “I did too,” and the adaptation of that line could be a voice-over narration, or even a flashback with the death. These interpretations are what can make or break an adaptation for a fan of the source material.
The reason that I decided to get back into reading was because I saw many films this year that were based off of acclaimed books, but the movies weren’t very good: The Light Between Oceans, The Girl on the Train, and Miss Peregrine being some examples. I think that the people who read the book and did or did not watch the movie ultimately had a better time with the story since the book was so great. For somebody like me, I love a good story in any medium, so I’d rather enjoy it in one and not in another, than simply not enjoy it at all. Taking a film series like The Hunger Games, I enjoyed the first, LOVED the second, really liked the third, and thoroughly disliked the last film. The worst rated films of this series are the last two, which are split from one single book. This trend of splitting up the source material into multiple films solves the issue of having to leave things out, but it creates the issue of having to add things to fit two full movie run times. You can read my whole post about this terrible phenomenon here. An adaptation can’t be exactly like the book, and it can’t even capture the essence of it because that, in and of itself, it up to interpretation.
I’m a fan of both movies and books, and based off of reviews, I will either consume one, both or neither, but if both, the order definitely matters. In most cases, people would say read the books first so that you can imagine the story, characters, setting and tone on your own without developing one based off of the filmmaker’s vision, which I would agree with. Plus, I hate picture characters in my head looking like the actor because I’m paying less attention to the character and more attention to what they look like. In a case with Angels & Demons, I had a great experience watching and then reading because I was happy with both media, whereas when I read and then watch, I’m unhappy with the film usually. I’m looking forward to reading and then watching every adaptation that I can this year, and I hope that I’m not terribly disappointed with anything as a result of this experiment. Anyways, those are my 2 cents, what do you think? Have you benefitted from one or the other, or both or neither? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading, share if you liked this, and I’ll see you soon!