Daily Archives: May 2, 2011

Which First? The Book or the Movie?

With the release of the movie, Water for Elephants, I was faced with the new-age chicken-and-egg question: Do I read the book or watch the movie first?

Over the years, I’ve seen many movies made from books I’ve read. The first one I think I can remember is Shirley Temple’s version of The Little Princess. I’d read the book, and I remember picking out the differences, especially the ending. There have been many more books I’d read made into movies since then – Patriot Games, The Bourne Identity, The Da Vinci Code and Twilight, just to name a few. What I’ve learned is that movie versions of books can be very entertaining, but should be viewed as separate entities. They are not, nor can they be, twins. In some cases, a book and its movie counterpart can be seen as siblings, in others, it’s hard to tell if the two are related at all. But that doesn’t mean each isn’t entertaining.

There have been cases where I saw the movie before reading the book – most notably for me, the first three Harry Potter movies. I wasn’t particularly interested in reading the HP books at first (probably because my kids were too young to appreciate them at the time), but I did enjoy the movies. After seeing the third movie (which I loved – don’t hate me), I read the fourth book. I then went back and read the first three, and have picked up the remaining books of the series when they came out – before the movies. Again, I enjoyed both print and film versions, even though they were different, and am looking forward to the movie conclusion to that series.

So, what to do about Water for Elephants? I had the book (thanks, Jenn!), but didn’t have a lot of time to read it before our family movie night on Saturday. I did get a few chapters in, though, and got a feel for the voice and the story, which I liked. When faced with seeing Prom or Water for Elephants, I opted for the later.  And I loved it.

There are those that have critiqued the acting, but I have to say, the movie was lovely. I especially liked the way the violence implicit in the story was handled. Yes, it was PG-13, but considering some of the horror flicks with that rating, it wasn’t that bad. Even though I’d only read a bit of the book before seeing the movie, I could see where some changes had been made, but I also recognized some dialog lifted directly from the manuscript. It was a very good blend, from what I could see.

I do intend to finish the book, by the way – it’s my “carrot” for finishing my next chapter’s worth of writing. I’ll be looking for that part of the story I didn’t see in the movie, including more about present-day Jacob. But I’m glad I got to see it when I did.

What do you think? Do you always read the book first? Does that set your expectations for the movie? What about vice versa? If you’ve seen the movie first, does the book disappoint, or give you more story than you expected? Remember, your comment gets you entered in the Share the Wealth Giveaway.

And whether you’ve read Water for Elephants or not, I highly recommend the movie.

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