Whenever a movie comes out that’s based on a best-selling novel, I have to read the book first. Okay, even if the novel isn’t a best seller, I still tend to read the book before heading to the cinema to watch the movie.
Don’t ask me why, it’s just a thing I do. And honestly, I think it allows me to enjoy the movie more.
Often when I ask people which they preferred, the answer is, “the movie was good, but I liked the book better.” I mean, it’s not always the case, but about 94% of the time, it is.
Why, you ask?
I have my reasons why reading the book first is always better.
Being a writer myself, reading a book opens up my mind to so many new, different things; I’m talking worlds I’ve never dreamt of, cities I’ve never been to, and people I have never met – some real (when reading Historical non-fiction), but more often than not, the people are fictional. I love being transported into a completely different world.
I get emotionally invested in the lives of these characters, and quite frankly, sometimes I like them better than people I know in real life.
But they’re fictional.
Movies give these characters a real-life persona; the producers and directors see the character a certain way. But because of that, we as movie-goers are almost forced to view the story through their (the creative team’s) eyes. That’s not always a bad thing, but I for one like to imagine things a certain way.
When I was reading Andy Weir’s The Martain, I already had the preconceived notion of Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney. That didn’t bother me, though; Damon’s kind of a babe. As I cracked open The Revenant, I immediately picture Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. Again, definitely not bothering me.
Seriously. Have you seen Leo?
Moment to drool, please.
Okay. Moment over.
I haven’t seen 12-time Oscar-nominated The Revenant yet, so luckily the world in which the story is set is still left to my imagination (and what a world it is!). With The Martian, I imagined what the red planet’s terrain would look and feel like before having it shown to me a la Ridley Scott.
With certain books, such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, or Room, the ability to create the suspenseful world yourself before having it created for you is an amazing feeling. You feel what the character feels, you see what they see, and you go through what they’re going through. In the case of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, being in her shoes was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life; I honestly don’t think I would have felt the same emotions from just watching the movie on its own. It’s still undeniably heartbreaking, but the connection you feel with Alice is greater when reading the book; you’re on the emotional rollercoaster with her.
I’m not saying that watching the movie first is a bad thing, I just think that reading the book first allows me to have a stronger connection to the characters. I prefer to envision the world that the author created for myself. There hasn’t been an instance where I’ve hated the movie after reading the book. Of course, I’ve compared the two after, but I’ve never not liked the movie.
That feeling of not being able to put a book down because every last word is riveting, and you need to know what happens next is one of my favorite feelings in the world. And when you’re reading, you’re trapped with them; you’re running with them; you’re figuring it all out with them. When you’re watching, well, that’s just it; you’re watching them be trapped; you’re watching them run; you’re watching them figure it all out. Yes, it still gives me goosebumps to be a voyeur, but feeling it when I’m reading it – that’s a whole other story (pardon the pun).
In all seriousness, though, do yourself a favor and don’t just take my word for it; read the book of an upcoming movie first, then let me know what you think.
I’ll be waiting to hear, “I liked the movie, but the book was better.”