Do you read the book before you see a movie?

A question in one of the threads had me thinking about if you are better seeing a movie 'cold' or reading the book or a plot summary first?
Personally I'm someone who sees or reads an idea for a story and just has to understand and know the plot straight away. LOST or Babylon 5 on TV spring to mind has shows that really engaged me in their first couple of seasons and drove me nuts just wanting to understand what was going on. Of course LOST turned out to be crap and was just making stuff up as they went along, but at least Babylon 5 had a plan and followed it through. (Even if it was all rushed in season 4)
As a kid I still remember when 'ET' was coming out and telling my parents I wasn't going to get the book before I saw the movie for a change, so it would be a surprise. I didn't last more than a week before having to buy one of those kids photo story books. I just had to know. (I don't like not knowing)
The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi both had these large photo book things for sale before the movies came out, they came with a cassette tape. It had a narrator and included sounds and talking straight from the movies. So, by the time I saw the films themselves, I already know who was his daddy and sister, etc.
I do realise I would have been better to wait and see those movies as intended, but I find it very had to pass up temptation like that!
Of course, an example of the other way of doing things would be The Lord of the Rings. In that case I suspect I was FAR better off having read the books first.

Comments

  • I usually never read a book before a movie because the people who do always complain about how the book was better than the movie. I've noticed is that people who are familiar with the source material (whether it's a book, cartoon, comic book) will never be satisfied with the movie counterpart, so since I value movies more than any of these things, I would rather go in 'cold'
  • I prefer to read the book before seeing the film. And yes quite often I find the book to be far superior to the film. Though there are a few exceptions. The movie Hannibal, I felt had a far better ending than the book. Shawshank Redemption, I feel the book and film are just about equal if maybe a slight advantage to the film. Dreamcatcher... this one is kind of odd, I found both the book and the film to be a bit disappointing on their own, but together they make a much better story. Jurassic Park really ticked me off. I love the book. The book had some really big messages in it, really important social commentary... none of which made it into the film. Oddly enough though, while I was reading Jurassic Park. I was mentally making notes as to who I would cast if I were making it into a film... the cast in the movie is almost identical to what I had in my mind. That always kind of weirds me out. I love the James Bond novels by Ian Flemming and I also enjoy the films even though they are completely different. I sort of separate them into 2 completely different stories that just happen to share the same name. Comic book movies really drive me nutz. I'm too much of a comic book geek to really enjoy the movies. Planet of the Apes (1968) I actually like the film better than the book. Rambo, hello, John Rambo DIED at the end of the book, how can we have 5 freaking Rambo movies? He's dead already!!!
    I think for me it really comes down to how well the film is made. But normally I do prefer films that stick as close as possible to the source material. If you are going to deviate from the source, you had better be one hell of a film maker.
  • An interesting question! I usually like to read the book first if there is one, because the books often have more plot to them (since you can't cram everything into a film), and sometimes those little tidbits are worth knowing. If there's no book, I have usually spoilt the movie a bit by watching trailers and reading summaries - downside of the Internet is I can't help looking.
    However, I recently saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo "cold" and I think I enjoyed it more as a result. I literally had no idea what to expect, beyond knowing the director and the cast. Though it has "ruined" the first book for me, I'll read it anyway in the hope a lot was missed out.
    I'd say in some cases its beneficial to read the book first - Lord of the Rings and the later Harry Potter films being prime examples. The last couple of Harry Potter films they skipped out a lot of characters and plot points which were better explained in the book. A couple of times we've discussed the final films in the office, and I've explained bits in the films which made no sense to people who hadn't read the books.
    I have a similar issue with not liking not knowing - if I start watching a film or TV series, or reading a series of books, I have to finish. Even if the series is totally lame or even quite boring, I can't not know how it ends, what happens to the characters, how the plot turns out. I MUST KNOW. I expect I'll be spending my retirement "finishing off" series so that I can die in peace..
  • In fredclips' original post there's really two things being discussed: original source material and promotional tie-ins. I'd say there's a huge difference between a novelisation of a movie and the original novel which a movie is based upon.
    I'd never bother with a novelisation, because it inherently suggests that the storytelling medium is inconsequential; that it can function just as efficiently as a book as it can a movie. In the case of a proper adaptation, though, I really don't have a particular preference. I've read Fight Club, Starship Troopers and Lord of the Rings all after seeing the movies and I don't feel that diminished or spoiled the books at all - certainly in the case of LotR I think it probably enhance the reading (and viewing) experience.
    Really, though, for me it's about whichever one I encounter first. After that, I see them as separate entities anyway.
    With the exception of the I Am Legend film, which I categorically refuse to watch.
  • ...With the exception of the I Am Legend film, which I categorically refuse to watch.

    Which one? The Last Man on Earth 1964, The Omega Man 1971, I Am Legend 2007 or I Am Omega 2007?
  • That's a shame Simon cause it's a really good movie; just don't think of it as a movie version of the book.
  • Perhaps I'll give it a go one day, but their mucking about with the ending kinda suggests they didn't really understand the source material. Then again, films which take huge liberties with the source can still be fantastic as separate entities - Starship Troopers is a good example.
  • I've not read the book yet , but I strongly disliked I Am Legend. Other films which craptastically changed the entire point of the story from the book they are supposedly based on: The Four Feathers, with Heath Ledger, and The Count of Monte Cristo, with Jim Caviezel. While on its own merits, each one might be an acceptable film, the fact that they take their names from famous books, which make a very powerful point, and then make the exact opposite point through the story of the film, is untenable.
  • Yes, hence my problem with I Am Legend: the ending of the book is the point of the book. I highly recommend reading it, by the way. One of the most powerful, immersive reads I've ever had. Very efficient and streamlined storytelling.
  • I generally do both- sometimes i've read a book and then will go to see a film adaptation to see how it compares, sometimes this works well, other times- not so much. I also find that films and television shows are a great medium for introducing new audiences to the books- for instance- The fellowship of the ring film came out when i was about 11 and it had me hooked! I couldn't wait an entire year for the next film so i had a go at the books- reading all three in acouple of months and thoroughly enjoying them- reading the lord of the rings didn't spoil the film for me but rather increased my enjoyment of it. Same goes for the Harry potter and Sharpe films.
    When done well film adaptations benefit the book industry as well as the film industry- widening demographics and re-igniting peoples love of literature- quite funny that this story appeared around the time of this topic:
    BBC article on Charles Dickens sales.
    Very interesting topic.
    Sam
  • Most times film adaptations cannot live up to the book they are taken from. I read the novel Jumper about five years before the film came out. I really like the book so when I finally watched the movie I had to turn it off after the first half hour. The film had totally destroyed the major story lines of the novel. Very disappointing. Chronicles of Narnia series, the 2nd film Prince Caspian was way off base with several plot points. Caspians love interest with Susan and storming of castle that isn't in the book. Also Caspian is supposed to be a young boy not a 20 year old trying to act like he's 14. The writers and directors add such things to make the films more exciting but they fail to realize the books are popular already without them. I know of only 1 film that improved on the story; in my opinion :P, and that was Logan's Run and that of course was due in part to the stellar performance of the late Sir Peter Ustinov. I know of several best selling authors who refuse to part with film rights and script control for anything less than $1 million.Robin Mckinley for example sold an option to a film maker on her novel the Blue Sword who then turned around and told her he was going to change the sex of the main character from a female to a male role. Fortunately the director could not get funding together and the option lapsed. Mckinley is now very outspoken in the FAQ on her blog about this. Can major plot changes improve from the novel, occasionally, most times they result in upset fans and a lower return at the box office for any sequel coming out after.
  • There is another perspective on adapting books to film, which is that many existing fans of the book will like the film better if it adheres exactly to the structure and plot of the book, even if it means that the film on its own is rubbish. Fans of the books will bemoan any changes to plot or character that occur in the film version, and fail to realize that when you convert a book to a visual medium such as film, changes are essential to get things to work visually. In a book, you can spend pages inside a character's head, explaining what they are thinking, but in a film, these things have to be shown. You can have a cast of dozens and dozens of characters in a book, but in two hours of film you often can't realistically introduce that many characters and flesh them out properly. You can spend 8 hours reading a thick novel, but in a film that all has to be condensed into two or three hours.
    In most cases, if you were to create a film based exactly on the great book, the result would be a mediocre film at best. There has to be changes to make it into a great film. That being said, adaptation s very often include changes that seem to be there simply for their own sake, and do nothing to benefit the story.
    The key to a successful adaptation, to me, it to clearly understand the core concepts, themes, and principles of the novel, and clearly convey those through a visual medium. Which is why films like Count of Monte Cristo, Four Feathers, and I Am Legend are abysmal failures at adaptation. Generally, this also includes accurately portraying the personalities of the story's principle characters.
    Consider 10 things I Hate About You, a terrific adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of The Shrew." The relevant personality traits of the characters are still intact, The basic premise remains, along with a few of the names, but the time period, the dialogue, the location -- all are changed entirely. However, since the basic themes of the original story are still intact, and clearly conveyed, the adaptation works brilliantly. In fact, due to the modernization, its safe to say that for a large portion of the audience, it delivers the themes better than it would have had it adhered strictly to the original.
    Another adaptation which I find interesting to study is The Bourne Identity. It varies drastically from the book, even in the basic story line, but is a solid film as a result. In addition, in this case, the author was consulted to change the story, for several reasons. When the book was published, it dealt specifically with current evens and issues of the time, details which were far less relevant in the time when the film was made. So, the events were changed to keep them current. ( A similar thing was done in the adaptation of Runaway Jury, where the subject of the court case was changed from Big Tobacco to Gun Rights. In that case, it worked far better in the book.) Ludlum also changed the story so that it would be fresh and exciting for everyone, including those who had read the book. They still wouldn't know what was coming next. But the characters, themes, and concept remained intact, making it a successful adaptation.
  • edited February 2012
    I don't typically read the book so I have no problems with the movies. Can't be disappointed with nothing to compare........I guess. :P
    fredclips- Funny you should bring up my first and second favorite shows- B5 and Lost respectively. I thought Lost had the perfect ending but I guess I'm in the minority there. B5 only rushed the 4th season because it was supposed to be canceled and then got picked up again. I think it would have been more effective to stretch out the earth story and the shadow story with the telepath thing going on too. How crazy would that have been?!?!?!
    As a side note- Mira Furlan is in both shows and both shows deal with walkabouts. What's up with that? :))
  • Aa a side note- Mira Furlan is in both shows and both shows deal with walkabouts. What's up with that? :))

    Mira Furlan is also one of the best things about both those shows. She's always fantastic. I'm still excited about the weekend's news that B5 creator JMS bought HitFilm. :P

  • I thought Lost had the perfect ending but I guess I'm in the minority there.

    I didn't mind the final so much. It was just all the unanswered questions... and the promises from the show runners that 'everything is important'. Well, it wasn't!
    Am I the only one who remembers in the pilot episode the monster was shaking the trees and making a noise and a character (Rose I think) says to the others. "I have heard something like that before when I was young." Someone asks here "Where did you grow up?" and she answers in a large city...
    I waited 6 years to understand that comment... and it never happened!! (To be honest, I realised it wasn't go to happen in season 3-5. But I still held out hope until the end!)


    B5 only rushed the 4th season because it was supposed to be canceled and then got picked up again. I think it would have been more effective to stretch out the earth story and the shadow story with the telepath thing going on too. How crazy would that have been?!?!?!

    I know... have the two wars over two seasons would have given them a bit more time for 'story'. Not that I'm complaining though, it was great. JMS had a plan for a five season story and he stuck with it. The hints in season 1-3 paid off in 4 so well.
    Exactly like LOST didn't! :dry:
  • edited January 2012

    Mira Furlan is also one of the best things about both those shows. She's always fantastic. I'm still excited about the weekend's news that B5 creator JMS bought HitFilm. :P

    People kept saying that Rousseau was crazy but they got that idea from Ben. I think she was just too far removed from civilization for so long she forgot how to interact with people and she was a little paranoid (which was understandable). And as Delenn, Mira was just remarkable. She is a great actress!
    JMS bought HitFilm?!?!?!?! THAT IS SO COOL!!!!!! I wonder if he'll appear on the forums- if he does he probably wouldn't tell us. :P


    I didn't mind the final so much. It was just all the unanswered questions... and the promises from the show runners that 'everything is important'. Well, it wasn't!
    Am I the only one who remembers in the pilot episode the monster was shaking the trees and making a noise and a character (Rose I think) says to the others. "I have heard something like that before when I was young." Someone asks here "Where did you grow up?" and she answers in a large city...
    I waited 6 years to understand that comment... and it never happened!! (To be honest, I realised it wasn't go to happen in season 3-5. But I still held out hope until the end!)

    I know... have the two wars over two seasons would have given them a bit more time for 'story'. Not that I'm complaining though, it was great. JMS had a plan for a five season story and he stuck with it. The hints in season 1-3 paid off in 4 so well.
    Exactly like LOST didn't! :dry:

    I'd have to watch that part with Rose again- I think she said something about it sounding familiar but you're right, they never did go back to that. To me it sounded like one of those old factory whistles.
    I thought they did answer all the other questions though. Maybe I forgot some as it went along.(?)Some questions weren't answered until the last couple episodes i.e. Richard & Jacob.
    I just got done watching B5 again. I got the series and movies for Christmas so I spent a lot of hours going through it in 4 weeks. I can't find any flaws, glitches or unanswered questions story wise. Amazing how they put it all together. The FX improved greatly from beginning to end also. Impressive for television and the time period in which it was created 1993-98.
    B5 also did some innovative camera work i.e. showing a ship in the distance and zooming up close to it. I noticed Lucas incorporated scenes like that in the second trilogy. There were no scenes like that in the original trilogy so he had to have gotten the idea from B5- yes? :-?
    Oops- I guess we're off topic. Never read the B5 books.....were there any? :P
  • NEVER books don't have the special FX
  • Books have infinitely better special effects than films. They are always perfectly composited, perfectly fit the scene, and are only limited by the reader's imagination.

  • Books have infinitely better special effects than films. They are always perfectly composited, perfectly fit the scene, and are only limited by the reader's imagination.

    I agree one must have good imagination to enjoy a book.

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