Reading Books Before/After Movies


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Thread: Reading Books Before/After Movies

  1. #1

    Reading Books Before/After Movies

    Bit of a hot take here, possibly...

    I recently read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, which of course is the source material for the infamous film. I realized when reading it (1) Just how vastly different a reading experience is when one has already seen the movie and (2) That doing this actually offers some advantages.

    The main advantage of reading a book after watching it's cinematic adaption is just how EASY it is. This can be really helpful if the story is complex or very long. You already have a basic understanding of the plot, so your attention can fully focus on the additional detail that is inevitably absent from the visual adaption (usually a lot more character development and subplot) and, most importantly for a writer, you can focus almost all your attention on the way the language actually works to evoke the story you already generally know from having seen the movie.

    I'm not saying it's better to read books after watching movies, not at all, only that it offers one way to understand a text in a far greater level of detail without having to read slowly, or re-read sections in study. Rather like how songs sound differently when you have heard them multiple times compared to never having heard them at all, you are able to expend more of your attention on minutiae and read critically.

    So, maybe try it? Might be helpful, especially for those who struggle with 'high quality' literature or want to really get up close and intimate with a complex book but don't have the time or ability to do so efficiently.

    Whatcha think?
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  2. #2
    Reading a book some time after seeing the film is something I've done more in recent years. As my interest in writing has grown, I find that I want to see how the writer presented parts of the story. Before more recent years, I tended to either read the book before the film, or watch the film only.


  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    ...Whatcha think?
    I've done this quite a bit myself, especially as a kid. I'd see a movie, find out it was based on a book, then go read the book.

    Off the top of my head, I read as a kid-
    -Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Imagine my surprise in later years when I realized it was written by the same author as James Bond!)
    -The Mouse That Roared
    -Guns of Navarone
    -Ice Station Zebra
    -A few James Bond books, including some short stories
    -Bed Knobs And Broomsticks
    -Robin Hood
    -The Other
    -2001: A Space Odessy
    -A Clockwork Orange
    -Maltese Falcon
    -The Treasure of Sierra Madre
    -I Am Legend (after seeing Omega Man)
    -Fantastic Journey
    -and a few others.

    Of course, I've read a few as an adult too. A lot of movies left me wondering just what they had to do with the book! It's definitely interesting to see how the storytelling is the same and different.

  4. #4
    Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of fantasy, but I did get talked into reading the Game of Thrones books, and I thought they were pretty good (not great though). I saw a lot of missed opportunities in the story line and never really connected with the characters. Then of course, the same person talked me into watching the TV show... the cinematography was amazing, some of the scenes looking like Renaissance paintings, and I connected with the characters better.

    I read Arthur C. Clarke's short story The Sentinel long before 2001, a Space Odyssey (book & movie) came out. I thought the short story was better. A lot of Clarke's short stories are awesome. Anyway, the movie was confusing, and at best just ok.

    That's usually the way it is for me; the book is great but the movie... meh.

  5. #5
    I don't know that I've read the book after seeing the movie all that often.

    The biggest example in my mind, but one which is rather obscure for most people, is "The Big Country". For several reasons I won't go on about here, I regard it as a candidate for best Western film ever. I finally got a wild hair to track down the book. It's a 50s paperback, and usually goes for $30-$50. I lucked out and found it in a used bookstore list for $4. The film is MUCH better. There are repetitive sequences in the book which the screenwriter was wise to exclude. The only reason they were in the book is it wasn't a long book to begin with. Those sequences were filler to get to a word count.

    "The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything" was a cute made for TV movie about a watch that stops time. Fun movie. I later found out it was based on a book by John D. MacDonald. The TV movie was as good an adaptation as you ever get from a movie. It captured the spirit of the book, so that reading the book was very much like watching the movie, but with more content ... and that was good.

    You always get more content with the book. In my first case above, that wasn't an advantage. In the second case, it was.

    However, it's far more likely that the book offers insight into the film for me, than vice versa. Off the top of my head I can't come up with an example to the contrary.

  6. #6
    Some of the books I've read and are currently working on would be days long if turned into movies. For that reason, movies are always "visual synopses" of the books they're based on.
    Books are far superior, too. A skilled writer can suck you into a fantasy world with more completion and suspended-disbelief than any Harry Potter or LOTR movie.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by John C. Denton View Post
    A skilled writer can suck you into a fantasy world with more completion and suspended-disbelief than any Harry Potter or LOTR movie.
    It's funny because one of the few times I liked the movie better than the book is with "The Two Towers". I appreciate the way the Frodo and Sam story is interspersed with the Helm's Deep story. It makes the pacing way better (Tolkien loves him some descriptions of flowers and landscapes, and they can get a bit tedious).

    I very much prefer to watch the movie first, if I can. That helps with the imagery in my head. To use the example above, it would have been very difficult for me to imagine Ithilien the way it was described without first having seen it (the same can be said for Isengard or for Helm's Deep). Having the visual context makes tracking things easier for me.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by John C. Denton View Post
    Some of the books I've read and are currently working on would be days long if turned into movies. For that reason, movies are always "visual synopses" of the books they're based on.
    Books are far superior, too. A skilled writer can suck you into a fantasy world with more completion and suspended-disbelief than any Harry Potter or LOTR movie.
    Absolutely. Fantasy and sci-fi were hard nuts to crack for movie makers. There was a glut of cheap fantasy movies in the 80s trying to cash in, I'd wager, on D&D. They were consistently poor. Conan was the first fantasy I personally thought hit the sweet spot, and it was OK at bringing the pages to the screen. More recently, the John Carter movie was consistently panned, but I had a better opinion of it. I thought it reminded me enough of the sense of the novels to be satisfying, plus they NAILED the Tharks.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by thepancreas11 View Post
    It's funny because one of the few times I liked the movie better than the book is with "The Two Towers". I appreciate the way the Frodo and Sam story is interspersed with the Helm's Deep story. It makes the pacing way better (Tolkien loves him some descriptions of flowers and landscapes, and they can get a bit tedious).

    I very much prefer to watch the movie first, if I can. That helps with the imagery in my head. To use the example above, it would have been very difficult for me to imagine Ithilien the way it was described without first having seen it (the same can be said for Isengard or for Helm's Deep). Having the visual context makes tracking things easier for me.
    That was the one I rolled my eyes at, because it had so much made up out of whole cloth. However, I did understand why they did it. That volume was low on action. My reaction might have been less harsh without the whole Aragorn goes over the cliff and down the river deal. LOL

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