Debate! Which should you do first, watch the movie or read the book?
By Anne on March 29th, 2012
Recently a certain movie came out. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It is called The Hunger Games and it is based on a book. It’s not the first movie and it is far from the last to start up the debate: which is better, the book or the movie? Last week after the OOM team finally got to see the movie we got in an additional debate: which is a better experience to do first, watching the movie or reading the book?
It all started because I used to claim “book first” and after the recent bolster in book-based movies (The Help, Hugo, etc.), I think I’ve gone to the other side and prefer the movie first. Now, let me be very clear. This is NOT a reason to wait for the movie before enjoying a great book. I would never suggest that. This is more of a question if the movie is coming out and it piques your interest in a book which do you do first? OK, now for the defense of my conversion, all while avoiding spoilers, will be based on two very Scholastic titles, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, with a few others sprinkled in here and there.
Years ago, when the first Harry movie came out, I hadn’t read the books yet but I have younger cousins who were obsessed. So being the cool older cousin with a car, I took them. I loved the movie. I got completely lost in this magical world and left wishing there really was a Platform 9 3/4. I didn’t get caught up in the thoughts of oh, where’s Ron’s brother Percy and such. I didn’t know. It wasn’t until about the fourth movie that I started reading the books and a great thing happened – they added to my love of the film. I felt I got to know the characters better and see even further into the story. To add in one more example of this experience that isn’t a Scholastic title but I will say is still in the family because the book’s author, Ned Vizzini, won a Scholastic Art & Writing Award is It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I thought the movie’s portrayal of the main character finding his own way and dealing with depression was real and just funny enough to not take anything away from the serious topic. Then I was absolutely blown away by how the book nailed it even further.
For The Hunger Games, I had read all three books in advance of the movie and both experiences were great. Going into the theater however, I was concerned. What if the movie didn’t live up to the book? And then, questioning in my head what they would take out and what they wouldn’t. Or what was emphasized differently or not at all in the movie but not the book? It was borderline stressful! I was dissecting the movie while I watched. Again, it was a great movie but I missed not knowing. It’s similar to how (nerd alert) I’ve wondered what it would be like to have seen all the Star Wars movies in order. How would I take finding out that Darth Vader is Luke’s father? Sorry, if you don’t know that spoiler by now I can’t help you. During our real-time OOM debate, admittedly, I was in the minority with only Dante on my side whose hope for movies is that each should be faithful to its source but then utilize the tools and art of the movies to take it to another level. In other words, it should stand alone as a good movie, independent of the book.
As with any debate, it’s important to share the other side so my fellow OOMers have come to the defense of book first. A key point from the team is the overall preference to have a blank slate when reading the book. One of the best parts of reading books is the vast array of interpretations. No one will ever have the exact same picture of a character as you do. So in reality, a movie is just one interpretation and many think that having that preconceived notion in your head can mar the reading experience. And because books can be so detailed and movies have certain limitations, like time, they can’t get into every part of the story so invariably you lose something. Morgan had an interesting point that in many ways it can be a race because whichever you experience first is more likely to be your favorite. And finally, as Kristen put it, in true book-lover fashion, you can’t walk out of the movie and say the book was better without reading it first!
What do you think? Tell us, book or movie first?!
Photo via Horia Varlan