See the Move THEN Read the Book?

Adapting a book to movie or TV show is notoriously difficult.  It is even harder to do the opposite, which is why novelization isn’t even a thing anymore.  It was big in the 80s if you are curious.  As a reader I often find myself in the position where I have already read a book by the time the movie comes out.  For years I have regretted seeing movies for books I love.  It is not common for me to adore an adaptation.  There are so many problems.  There was The Firm when they actually changed the ending for some unexplained reason.  Stephen King books routinely struggle to be adapted.The Shining is an interesting example of an amazing movie that is a frustrating adaptation.  Some books can’t be adapted within the limits of a short movie and Dune is the best example of this.  SyFy network tried to do it as a miniseries, but even that suffered from the problems of low budgets.  Long series of books like A Song of Ice and Fire (the series Game of Thrones is based on) has been lucky to get a strong budget and a network that allows the creators the freedom and time they need.  Even they are facing challenges as the source material and the adaptation catch up to each other.

The main problem is in a textual way to tell a story and a visual way to tell a story.  You have to rethink when you can show people things and you can’t be inside the narrator’s head.  Sometimes you have to set up future action so viewers understand what is going on.  You may have to cut characters or merge them with another to keep your cast or characters in line.  Other times a story element may not translate well to the screen.  It is not easy to adapt and fans of a book make it even more difficult.

What readers struggle with is something I have actually learned from my friends who like comic books: consider the movie/tv show to be a different version of the universe.  Comic book fans are use to characters existing in different versions of the same universe.  In one series of comics, a character has a lover or a family or dies.  In another series, it is all different.  You learn to let go of cannon – the official version of the universe.  I have found that seeing adaptations in this manner has helped me deal with changes.

I have started viewing the movie or tv show first – when I can.  If a movie is coming out based on something I haven’t read, then I wait to read the book until after I see the movie.  The same thing for TV shows.  Until recently, I would watch the season of Game of Throne and then go read the book.  I find I like both when I do this (unless the movie is bad).  I don’t judge the movie based on the book and I have no expectations.  It also allows me to enjoy the book as I discover what was changed in the adaptation.

How do you deal with reading books and enjoying the movies or tv shows based on them?

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