“No…but I’ve seen the movie.”

Can a movie be better than the book it was based on? What examples come to mind? Or is it sometimes just a matter of which version you see first, as that will define the story for you, regardless of which version was made first?

I remember hearing that Harry Potter was going to be a movie.

I threw a fit. I refused to watch the trailers (as in I plugged my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and went “lalalala” in the movie theater). How DARE they do this? Didn’t they know that the fun of Harry Potter, the best part of the experience was imagining the world that J.K. Rowling created? Trying to picture the characters and the locations. What Quidditch looked like. Or a house elf. Imagining what it looked like in Kings Cross when students walked to platform 9 3/4.

How to pronounce “Hermione”.

We all had our different variations of this world. And after a movie, we would all have the same idea of what Harry looked like, and how quidditch was played and the magic of the ceiling of the Great Hall.

Eventually though, I caved. I can’t remember why. Maybe my love for this world won. And I’m glad I went to the movie.

Because I loved it. Although, it wasn’t as good as the book. And they never became better than the books as they went on. I looked at the movie world and the book world as different stories. The books were more detailed, more creative, richer, deeper. The movies were good if I just wanted a quick referesher of the story. The basics. And that’s how I view most movie adaptations of books.

My rule is if I know it’s based on a book, I try to get to the book to create my own version of the story before it’s ruined by seeing the movie.

For me, the fun of reading is that part. Creating the world and the characters and how everything works. After I see the movie, its tainted.

I do choose books because a movie is coming out, usually if it involves favorite actors. I’ve done this recently with One Day (adaptation with Anne Hathaway coming out this summer), The Help (Emma Stone), The Time Traveler’s Wife (Rachel McAdams and Ron Livingston) and The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (Zefron).

I can’t ever remember regretting reading the book. In some cases (The Scarlet Letter comes to mind immediately), I regretted seeing the movie. It couldn’t capture the story. They changed it to make it more Hollywood.

Quite honestly, this happens all the time. We’re conditioned to expect something from pop culture. The most recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has a scene created for the American audience that is the mushy, happily ever after ending that we’re trained to expect.

Not that I’m complaining. This adaptation is beautiful.

But it fails in comparison to the true spirit of the book, and the far-superior BBC miniseries. I think the reason that the mini is so beloved is because it really has time to develop all of the details. It’s incredibly true to the book.

Regardless of which version I consume first, the book is always true canon to me. Movies have habits of combining or eliminating characters and events, sometimes even adding them under the guise of it being more “visual”, more “concise”, having more “flow”. With rare exception I find the details in the books to be more visual and stories flow better with the added color.

We read books to escape to far off places and do extraordinary things that we can only imagine. And that’s the best part of reading- the imagining. A world where we rely on the movie adaptations is a sad world. We all have the same images, given to us by some random person in a far-off place called Hollywood. And sometimes those people can be the most imaginative people there is. But it’s still a world without the color that we add to it. And then, we’re living in a creative world of black and white.

How boring, indeed.

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your terms.” -Angela Carter.


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Filed under Books, Movies, PostAWeek

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