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Reading Chat Monday: Before, After, or Never–Movies from Books and Books from Movies

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday afternoon, I went with a friend to see the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Now, let me explain—I was annoyed when I saw the title of this book when it came out a couple of years ago. It seemed like vampires were to general-market fiction what the Amish were to Christian fiction—put a vampire in it, and it’s sure to sell, right? (In CF, it’s “put a bonnet on it . . .”) So when I saw that they’d corrupted one of the heroes of American history—not to mention the historical president with whom I’m most familiar, given that I minored in Civil War history many moons ago—I was quite put out.

When I heard they were making it into a movie, I paid little attention. It wasn’t on my radar at all . . . until we saw a preview for it when we went to see The Avengers (which still stands as the best movie I’ve seen in the theater in a long time). Liz and I looked at each other with an “uh-oh” and realized that we’d been sucked in by a great preview. So we decided to catch a matinee yesterday afternoon.

And I’m so glad we did. It was a fun, entertaining movie. (As far as being scary—I didn’t find it so at all. Not a single “jump” moment for me, though there were a few times I was holding my breath and feeling a little tense waiting to see exactly where the vampire was going to jump out from.) The costumes were superb (well . . . with the exception of the 1980s-style white tuxedo they had Abraham wear at his wedding). The actors were fantastic. (Benjamin Walker—hubba-hubba! I’m ready to see him in more stuff!) The cinematography, lighting, and sets were all great (though they did get a little carried away with the slooooooooooow-moooooooootion in the action scenes).

And now I’ve downloaded the sample of the book to my Kindle, because I enjoyed the story of the movie so much, I think I might want to read the book. Which brings me to the Reader Chat question for this week.

When a movie comes out that is based on a book, do you read the book before or after seeing the movie or never? Also, do you ever read the novelizations that are written from movies that don’t originate from a book?

20 Comments
  1. Carol Owensby permalink
    Monday, June 25, 2012 8:17 am

    I try to read the books before, but in the case of “John Carter,” I’d never really been interested in Burrough’s work (too much Tarzan as a kid, probably). His Mars books are amazing, though, and so much better than the movie!

    • Monday, June 25, 2012 12:45 pm

      I heard that the book was so much better than the movie. I’ll have to check those out from the library!

      • Ruth permalink
        Monday, June 25, 2012 1:02 pm

        I’m not sure I’d go quite that far…I think both film and book are excellent in their own way. :) Also, most of the Barsoom books are free on Kindle!

        • Monday, June 25, 2012 4:15 pm

          It’s all those sci-fi lit purists who poo-poohed the movie version.

  2. Dora permalink
    Monday, June 25, 2012 9:00 am

    For the most part, I want to read the book before the movie. The only book I actually read after the movie was “The Firm.” Generally, if I haven’t read the book before the movie, I don’t read it after.

    • Monday, June 25, 2012 12:46 pm

      The Firm was the first Grisham book I read (audio book when I was in the process of moving from DC to Nashville sixteen years ago. It took me another ten or more years to get around to seeing the movie—and by that time, I’d forgotten most of what happened in the book.

  3. Monday, June 25, 2012 11:06 am

    I read The Firm after seeing the movie too. I usually try to read the books first, but if I see the movie and love it, I’ll still read the book. If I don’t love it, I probably won’t read the book.

    • Monday, June 25, 2012 12:48 pm

      I’ll typically look at the length of the book and the amount of time before the movie comes out in making that decision—that and seeing if it’s the type of story I really want to spend that many hours with, or if I just want the gist of it in an hour and a half to two hours of film.

      I read The Hunger Games before making the decision to go see the movie—and I’m so glad I did. The movie was an awesome supplement to the book—but I don’t know how people who haven’t read the book understood what was going on in the movie.

      • Ruth permalink
        Monday, June 25, 2012 1:03 pm

        Completely agree with you about The Hunger Games! If I hadn’t read the book first I think I would’ve been so lost seeing the movie!

        • Monday, June 25, 2012 1:24 pm

          I actually went with a friend at the last minute on the opening night of The Hunger Games. I suppose I was misled in what the book/movie was actually about which left me completely uninterested. Since she had an extra paid ticket and no one to go with…there we were. I sat in awe of the movie. I felt like such a kid. I honestly loved it, and loved it enough to take two more people back over the course of the next week. My friend said she enjoyed the book much better than the movie, but still enjoyed the movie. I came home and decided to read the next book in the series, but wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything from the first. AFTER reading the first book, I would agree that it should have been much more confusing while watching the movie, but it wasn’t. They left out pretty important facts and scenes such as the “reincarnation” or such of the wicked creatures. I was oblivious to the fact though. I enjoyed watching the movie first…I honestly loved being able to see Katniss and Peeta as they were in the movie while I was reading.

      • Monday, June 25, 2012 2:16 pm

        I didn’t have any trouble understanding what was going on in the movie. Haven’t read the book and don’t plan to. The whole first person thing…

        • Monday, June 25, 2012 4:16 pm

          You know me—I’m not a fan of first person, but it really was the only POV that would have worked for the first two books. The third one would have benefited from getting OUT of Katniss’s head.

  4. Daisy permalink
    Monday, June 25, 2012 11:19 am

    I read the book THE ACCIDENTIAL TOURIST first. Then I saw the movie. Reading the book helped me understand some of the scenes that weren’t fully explained in the movie and helped me enjoy the movie, and the book again, more. Liked them both.
    I’m like you, Kaye, where did they get the vampire and Lincoln connection! Glad to get your reaction.

    • Monday, June 25, 2012 12:50 pm

      The movie made me want to go home and pull the biography of Lincoln I have off the shelf and refamiliarize myself with his life—his real life, that is. ;-)

  5. Audry permalink
    Monday, June 25, 2012 12:38 pm

    I’ll often see movies based on books I’ve read and enjoyed, and I’m usually disappointed, because 99% of the time the book is better than the movie. If I hear about a book because there’s a movie version coming out that looks good, (or if book and movie both exist by the time I hear of them) I’ll always wait to read the book until after I see the movie, because then I can enjoy both.

    Example: I saw the movie Patriot Games before I’d ever heard of Tom Clancy, and I really enjoyed it so I read the book. The book was SO MUCH better that I was instantly hooked and read the rest of the books in the series (all the ones that were written at that point). Then I found out that there was a movie version of Clear and Present Danger. I watched it. SO disappointing, which was too bad, because if I hadn’t read the book I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it. Then they made a movie out of The Sum of All Fears. Again, I probably would have liked it as a movie on its own, but compared to the book (which I read all 1000 or so pages of in about 2 days because I couldn’t put it down) it was terribly disappointing.

    One exception that comes to mind is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’d never read the books when The Fellowship of the Ring came out, but after seeing it I couldn’t wait 2 years to see how the story ended, so I bought, read, and enjoyed the books. Those movies fall into the 1% that I think are at least as good as and possibly better than the books though, so having read them didn’t diminish my enjoyment of The Two Towers or The Return of the King. Likewise, I have read The Hobbit, but am expecting to fully enjoy the movies.

    • Monday, June 25, 2012 12:55 pm

      I saw the movie Patriot Games when it first came out—and I decided to read the book afterward—and I haven’t been able to watch the movie in the 20 years since! (Despite the presence of Sean Bean in it, too.) So when I saw The Hunt for Red October and enjoyed that movie, I decided to try that book—and I couldn’t even get halfway into it because of all of the info-dumps about the technology. C&PD was the same as with PG—loved the book, can’t watch the movie again. I never read The Sum of All Fears, and I pretty much had to divorce myself from any memory of what had come before in the Jack Ryan story—which was pretty easy since it had been more than ten years since I’d read any of the books. What I did love in the film version of SAF was seeing John Clark as Liev Schreiber. I loved the book Without Remorse (it’s my favorite Clancy book), and Liev was the perfect actor to play him, IMO.

      • Audry permalink
        Monday, June 25, 2012 1:05 pm

        I agree, the guy who played John Clark in C&PD was totally wrong

      • Monday, June 25, 2012 2:18 pm

        Willem Defoe as John Clark was an ABOMINATION!!!!!!!! I couldn’t even finish it. Sum of All Fears had me shouting at the TV and beyond mad at how badly Clancy let the screenwriters and Ben Affleck skewer Jack. Jack Ryan DOES NOT sleep with someone he’s not married to!

        I read the books long before I saw any of the movies. I can still watch Patriot Games and Hunt for Red October, but not the other two. Alec Baldwin made a perfect Jack.

  6. Monday, June 25, 2012 2:23 pm

    With current books being turned into movies, with the exceptions of Tom Clancy and John Grisham I’ve never read the books when I see it and don’t usually plan to after. I’ve never watched The Runaway Jury because I got so ticked off about how much they changed from the book. Loved the book.

    When it comes to classics I’m a lot more willing to read the book after seeing the movie. Unless it’s Jane Austen. I hate the movies and the books with equal passion.

  7. Tuesday, June 26, 2012 4:26 am

    Varies.I can usually appreciate them separately, knowing they’re different mediums (that things have to be adapted or cut for time, etc).

    Prince Caspian was the first book I rushed to read before seeing the movie (and I’m sooo glad I did). I LOVED the movie, did NOT like the book. Going from blah to better is more enjoyable than the other way around.
    Read The Princess Bride after seeing the movie, but I remember liking the movie better.
    I read the novelization of Fireproof, but never saw the movie. I own Memoirs of a Geisha, but I’ve never watched it. LOVED the book.

    There are very few books/movies I couldn’t live without seeing or reading.
    The only regret I ever had was not seeing Inception in the theater, and that doesn’t belong in this discussion anyway. ;-)

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