Book or Movie? Your answer Does matter

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A new movie trailer revs your adrenaline. The title sounds vaguely familiar. Right. It echoes from the bestselling book list – New York Times or Amazon.

Sometimes this is a good thing. I’m thinking about Catching Fire, which moved along quite well on the big screen. Things were still lost; many of them had been cut from the first movie. Overall, I experienced the same thrill ride during the movie as I had reading the book (except for the shock at the end was no surprise since I’d read the novel first).

Many times it would be better for movie makers to leave the story alone. I wonder if authors are so eager to make a buck that they don’t care about what a movie does to their story. Maybe they give away their right to approve the script before any filming happens.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is the second answer. Who would want the true message of their story buried beneath special effects and poor acting?

“Have you read the book?” is one of my favorite questions when someone raves about the latest and greatest at the box office. More and more blockbuster films are adaptations from a bestselling novel.

Most of the time, I get one of these three responses:

  1. “No, but I’ve heard it’s really good.”   So they are basing their decision to see the movie on more than just the movie trailer. Someone in their circle of friends has a literary bone or a craving for reading. The reader has done what all authors wish they would – bragged to others about how lost they got in the story. Do they take that final step and tell their friends, “You should read it”?
  2. “No. Have you?”  I respect people for this avoidance tactic. Most of the people who use this response haven’t read a book for pleasure in their lives. Maybe they’re too busy, too tired or too something. Most likely, they never learned to love to read. After all, reading engages your brain. Watching a movie lulls it to sleep. (I wrote an entire post about this that may or may not see the light of day at a later date – if I can keep it from sounding like a rant.)
  3. “I started it, but I know I’ll like the movie better.”  I’m saddened by this answer to my question. This indicates a deeper issue that could bury the market for books beneath the cry for movies. The reader can’t visualize the words and concepts shared on the page by the author. Maybe they aren’t a fluent reader. Perhaps they just have no imagination. Whatever the reason, they are content to let a filmmaker somewhere decide what aspects of the story are important.

keep-calm-and-read-the-book-before-the-movie-3All of these responses thrill those Hollywood executives with their Maseratis and $1000 suits. They gladly take your $8 – $10 at the box office and don’t care if you ever read the book.

What about the original creator of such a fantabulous story? Yes, I’m talking about the author. Most people who love the movies, don’t even know the names of those original architects. Can you say Nicholas Sparks, Suzanne Collins or John Green?

When I’m asked if I’ve read the book, I have one of three responses:

  1. “No, but I put it on my ‘to be read’ list when I saw the movie trailer.” Two books that come to mind are The Help and The Fault in our Stars. I haven’t heard negative tales of the movies doing the book a disservice.
  2. “Of course. I’m worried the movie will completely destroy the story.” Eragon, Christopher Paolini’s bestseller was completely misrepresented and befuddled in the hands of movie makers.
  3. “Yes and I wish they wouldn’t try to make a movie about this. It’s a book everyone should read.” This was my response to The Book Thief. I haven’t seen the movie, but literary people I respect tell me the movie holds true to the book.

What do you think about books that later become movies? Do you feel people should always read the book? Are there times the movie is a better representation of the author’s purpose?

3 thoughts on “Book or Movie? Your answer Does matter

  1. Movies and books are always different. I think there is no possible way to do a book justice in two hours. If so, it would have to be a really short book. I attended an author’s panel once where author/publisher Mike McPhail said (I’ll paraphrase) “Selling the rights to your book is like throwing your novel over the border of a foreign country and kissing your story goodbye” (He was a little more crass than that, but my take-away was that you sell the right to your title and concept, and for the most part the movie makers do what they want with it.

    My greatest fear is one that you mentioned: Eragon. What a horrible movie! And I really loved the book. What a shame to think that so many people will only see the movie and not experience the book. It is sad really. But in general, I don’t think many authors have much of a say in it once their movies are optioned to film.

    As far as reading before or after a movie… I’d usually like to see a move first, because I hate seeing a movie and knowing the ending. However, when I read a book I can usually guess the ending, but the fun for me is actually “getting there”.

    To be honest, I started reading THE HUNGER GAMES but did not finish it after watching the movie. My reason for this was not laziness, but my gut reaction to how disturbing the content was.

    Now I am in the same place with Divergent. I am really enjoying the book, and I watched the movie after reading the first few chapters. I must say that I am much more engaged by the book than I was by the movie. I found the movie boring. I am going to finish reading, because the writing is good enough that I want to see what the author’s vision was, not the movie version’s lack-luster interpretation.

    1. I haven’t seen Divergent, but I read the entire trilogy (and wasn’t impressed with how Roth chose to end it). I liked Divergent the best of the three books and I agree it is worth finishing.
      I don’t think you’re missing too much by not finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I feel like Collins really sold Katniss short in the end. Did she make it realistic and believable? Yes, but it wasn’t a happy ending for anyone, least of all Katniss. She suffered so much and I didn’t feel like she came out ahead at the end.
      So, I guess I won’t be seeing Fire in the Woods on the big screen then

      1. I wouldn’t say that. I did write it like a movie, so I think it has the potential, but I might hesitate if it was the same person who opted for Eragon. I guess I would want to know more about what their “vision” was. I do understand, though, that once I give the okay, unless I get something in writing, I’d be out of the loop until it came out in theaters

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.