Back in the year 2000, Harry Potter was just a book series.
Not just a book series like that – I mean, it wasn’t also a film series. When I dressed up as Hermione for Halloween, it was based on the Mary Grandpré illustration, not on Emma Watson.
And let me tell you, come 2001, I was just as excited for the film as any other fan, but I was also furious, because beginning this time, the language surrounding Harry Potter changed. People would ask “Do you like the Harry Potter films” before mentioning the books or if I said I liked Harry Potter, they would say “I love those movies too.” RAAAH!
From then on, I refused to watch any movie based on a book before reading the book first.
I did this to the point of being unnecessarily annoying. I wouldn’t watch Die Hard because I couldn’t get a copy of the now-out-of-print Nothing Lasts Forever. I would go into movies based on books with a pen and paper in hand to point out all the things the movie got wrong.
And sadly, this was my introduction to film. At that age, film was an evil thing that took the beautiful personal images conjured in books and turned them into one visual, one compact, different thing – they took my favorite characters and changed them slightly and their changes have affected the way I see those characters, even when I try not to think about it.
But in the past couple of years, I have come to love film. A lot. Film is its own art form, and now one of my favorites. At Leaky Con, panelist Ashley Benning said that a film is just one interpretation of a book – it’s a collaboration of hundreds of people’s interpretation, but ultimately, it is just one interpretation. And that brought clarity to an idea I was already reaching. It seems simple, but you have to believe it for it to be effective: the book is a different thing from the movie.
So now I’m into film. I’m into books. I keep them separate.
What do I do when I want to see a movie based on a book I haven’t read?
It gets complicated.
Ideally I would read the book, watch the film, then, if I decide that I like the book more, I would read it again so that it sticks in my mind more than the film does. I’ve done this on a couple of occasions (Harry Potter. Jane Austen novels.) and it’s the best solution.
But, unfortunately, I don’t have that much time.
The other issue is, do I prevent myself from seeing an awesome movie because I haven’t read the book?
And do I read a mediocre book just so that I can watch the movie when there are many other books out there that aren’t based on books?
I don’t have an answer worked out, but the topic has been on my mind since Hank Green launched Readit1st.com. I like the newsletter, in which upcoming film adaptations of books are announced so we can read up if we so desire (in the first newsletter John Green mentioned Nothing Lasts Forever as well, making me feel like a proper Book To Film Stickler. Which I’m not, anymore, but still. Memories.).
I’ve set up a new section on this site called Culture Queue. I have an extensive spreadsheet on my computer called “To Read Watch, and Hear” in which I document lots and lots of recommendations for books, films, tv shows, and music. The ones on my “Queue,” however, are definitely happening, and are listed in order. (And there’s a comments section for you to add recommendations!)
So, the point: I can’t read every book that turns into a film. I don’t know if it’s possible to have a “system” or “rule.” As much as this goes against my nature, I think I’ll have to work this one out on a case-by-case basis.
Examples: I saw Shutter Island and I probably won’t read the book because it’s a genre I enjoy more on screen than on the page. I will be reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place because 127 Hours was brilliant and I’m now fascinated with Aaron Ralston. I am restraining myself from re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I’m finished reading the series. I am planning on reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo before the David Fincher film is released in December. I have now seen Die Hard, and it was great, but alas, I’ve decided to abandon my resolution of one day reading Nothing Lasts Forever.
So much to read, so little time. Some sacrifices must be made.