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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8 Comments

Filed under giveaway, Reading

8 responses to “Which First? The Book or the Movie?

  1. Katie W

    I know myself and if I don’t read the book before I see the movie…I won’t end up reading it..so I have to read before I see the movie. With Water for Elephants it was the same for me…I have to dive in and finish the book quickly so I could see the movie this past Monday! Both were very good..but like you said..they have to be kept separate somehow. There are major differences.

    Katie

  2. Linda Smith

    Hmmmm! This is a tricky one.

    I like to read the books first, and most of the time this adds to the movie experience. With HP, I read them so long ago, I can’t remember what has been altered & left out to be honest.

    One book that definitely spoiled the movie for me is Jefferey Deaver’s ” The Bone Collector”, far more gory & suspense in the book. Maybe that’s because your imagination can run riot and is not censored! I felt the film was pedestrian. It also left vital parts out of the story in my opinion.

    Another book that has gone a different direction is the “True Blood” series. The plotline is quite different in the series compared to the books, even to who gets murdered! I enjoy both equally though, despite the glaring differences.

    I think your original assertion is fair that books do add to the film, but need to be seen as separate entities.

    P.S I’m looking forward to seeing WfE on it’s UK release next week, which I read over a year ago. I have heard nothing but good about it so far!

  3. jennifer mathis

    i like to read the book first . but if i stumble across a movie and later find the book thats ok too . i then read the book and rewatch the movie lol

  4. Robin DeJarnett

    @Jennifer: Another great movie and read! In some ways I kind of felt that way about the beginning of HP. Seeing Harry’s world before reading about it made it easier to picture for me. Then I could concentrate on the smaller details the movie missed. I did see Daniel Radcliffe’s face when I thought of Harry from then on, though.

    With Twilight, I read the book first, and though Robert Pattinson does a good job, he’ll never be the Edward in my mind.

  5. I much prefer reading the book first so that I can conjure up the characters in my head before seeing the movie’s version. The one exception to this was Hunt for Red October. The book was so technical that I was glad I saw the movie first to understand it all and fill in the details a movie couldn’t cover.

  6. Robin DeJarnett

    @Sally: Yes, from the little of the book I’ve read so far, the older Jacob sounds like quite a character. I look forward to reading more from him!

    @Gabriella: The HP movies do boil down the books to the core of the story, which is good, but can make the books challenging. 😎

    Another question I should’ve asked: Can the movie be better than the book?

  7. I did HP books first tehnt he movies but after a time I went to the movies and stopped reading the books. Oh well, that says something about my attentions span. LOL

  8. Sally Hopkinson

    I, like you, don’t always read the book before the movie. Though, I did with “Water For Elephants”. Sometimes, seeing the movie gets me toread the books. Which is how I got involved in all things “Twilight”. I saw the first 2 movies before I ever read the books. Same with Harry Potter. I’ve since read all of HP. I agree that it is always good to go into seeing a movie based on a book with an open mind. They can never include everything that happens in a book in just 2 hrs.
    I think they did a commendable job with the film of “Water For Elephants”. I just wish that there was alittle more of the ‘older’ Jacob.

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