As 2012 begins, movie previews are filtering into theaters and television commercials, and a handful of them are based on books. “The Hunger Games,” “The Hobbit” and “The Woman in Black” are prime examples. Now is the time to decide whether to wait for the movie or read the book first.
There is a peculiar relationship between these types of art, film and literature, in that film is immensely more popular and more profitable. For instance, Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga has sold 116 million copies as of October 2010, according to Publisher’s Weekly. In contrast, the “Twilight” film saga has a total worldwide gross of more than $2 billion, according to boxofficemojo.com.
Even with these vastly different assessments of success, it is safe to say that without the books, which were written years before the movies, there would be no movies.
Given this pattern, does one read the book before seeing the movie, or after?
Lizzi Jackson, a sophomore at Western and self-proclaimed bookworm, has had her fair share of book-first or movie-first dilemmas.
“I was always first in the library, so whenever we got new books I would know about it,” Jackson said.
The books “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini, “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan and the “Twilight” series stood out to Jackson.
Jackson had read all of the books before the movies were announced, so upon their release she had to decide whether to see them or not. Along with her brother, who also likes to read a book before seeing its movie, Jackson plays a game to determine whether it’s worth seeing the film.
“Whenever we see a preview [for a book we’ve read], we’re like ‘OK, how many things did they get wrong?’ and then depending on that, we decide whether we’re going to see it or not,” Jackson said. “We usually end up seeing the movie anyway.”
Another downside to reading the book before seeing the movie is the inevitable emotional investment in the story and characters, Jackson said.
Reading the book first almost always ruins the movie experience, she said.
When reading a book, a clear vision of how something is portrayed is formed in one’s mind, Jackson said. She said movies sometimes do not do the book justice and leave those who haven’t read the book with a poor impression.
“When you go see the movie and it’s something completely different ... it downplays the book, and people who haven’t read the book see [the movie] and get a negative portrayal of the book,” Jackson said.
This is the case for the “Twilight” films, Jackson said, and she is constantly standing up for the book series.
“I want to defend the books, and say, ‘No, the book is really, really good even though the movie is so, so bad,” Jackson said.
Sophomore Onaleisha Petty has another perspective when it comes to the “Twilight” series book-to-movie issue.
“I’m actually excited to see what they do with the movies,” Petty said. “I enjoy seeing if the characters were the way I pictured them in my head and how much they actually changed from the book to the movie.”
When Jackson hears about a movie based on a book she has not yet read, it is usually a toss up whether she will read the book or see the movie first, she said.
“If it’s a movie that I’m really interested in and I know it’s based off a book, then I’ll read the book first just so that I have some background information,” Jackson said.
Jackson recommended reading the book first, especially if the movie piques your interest.
“Read the book first and get your own idea of what you like about it, and from there determine if you want to see the movie and see how the story would look on the big screen,” she said.