It has been quite a while since I have done a bookish discussion blog post! My last (and first) one was about Physical Copies vs. E-books if you're interested! In this post, I'll be discussing the old bookish debate on seeing a movie before or after reading the book. I'll be mostly talking about my own personal opinions and preferences when it comes to the topic, but my opinion isn't final. I do want this to be a (civil) discussion!
Let's just rip off the band-aid and dive in, I prefer to watch the adaptation before reading whatever source material it is adapting from, whether it be books, comics, etc. I do know that this opinion isn't a popular one, but it is the one that works for me, and I'll explain why!
I used to be a full on read the book before seeing the adaptation kind of reader. I remember sitting in the movie theater 20-30 minutes before a midnight showing of Catching Fire re-reading the book so it was fresh in my mind. So I took it pretty seriously. However, in the last two years or so, I've realized I am happier, and I enjoy both forms of the story more, if I wait to read the book.
Now, I am not someone who has unreasonable expectations for movie adaptations. I would always have to remind myself that I am seeing someone's take on the story, and their version of the story is going to be different than the version I have in my head. I understand that things need to be cut, altered, or changed to fit the story telling format that is film. However, I find myself sad or even disappointed when I leave a movie that has had changes to parts I really loved in the book. I understand why they had to happen, but I am bummed nevertheless. It is bound to happen, it's kind of like going to see a band perform and them not doing the song you were really excited to hear live. The band was still great, but you can't help but be bummed that you didn't get to hear the song you love so much live.
If I read the book after I watch the adaptation, first it means I liked the movie and/or story. I do not tend to read the books of movies I don't like unless someone tells me the book is different or an improvement. But it also means I am able to like the movie as a movie and not as a companion to a book I loved. In most cases, the book is better, so then when I pick up the book I am getting an even richer experience of the story I loved seeing on the big screen. This way, I am able to enjoy both. Even after reading the book and then re-watching the movie I find myself still enjoying the movie because I know what is going to happen.
There are also cons to watching the movie first. One being, I sometimes will watch the movie and then not be motivated to read the book because I want to focus my time on a book with a story I don't know. It is kind of like when I borrow a book from the library and I love it, so I put it on my "buy for your collection" list. But it takes me forever to buy the book because I would rather use my money on a book I haven't read. This does happen, not too often, but it happens. I do want to be better about reading books that inspired movies I really love, especially since I am obviously interested. I think there is also a small sliver of fear that goes through me, what if the book isn't as good? What if the book is so much better that the movie seems awful now? Both of these rarely happen, but I think it's a weird irrational fear that sometimes stops me from picking up the book afterwards.
Another con is that you've been spoiled if there is any twists or deaths in the story. That unfortunately is a bummer, however I think I prefer it this way. I get more emotional when seeing a death on screen versus in books (granted, I am a baby and will cry at anything). The impact is definitely lessened if you read the book afterwards, so that is kind of something you have to be okay with, but for me the pay off is worth it.One thing that is a bummer for me, is that when watching a movie adaptation of a book you've read, you get subtle foreshadowing that you may not have gotten if you hadn't read the book. Or even just knowing what is going to happen, and feeling yourself get overwhelmed with emotion knowing it's coming. Which makes me want to see the movie more than once.
One con (but also a pro, depends on the book) is that I don't get to envision my version of the characters and the world/setting I am reading about because I have already seen the movie. This can be a bummer, because one of my favorite parts of reading is being able to picture the story in my head like my own personal movie. However, it could be seen as a pro if the writing isn't very descriptive but instead more focused on the action. Having a set character cast list and setting in your head helps fill in any of the blanks. Granted, that definitely impacts your overall view of the writing, but at least it helps make the story more enjoyable.
Overall, I think both sides of the debate have valid points. As long as people are happy, it honestly shouldn't matter their reading/watching preference, but I think it's still fun to debate and get to know other reader's perspectives, so tell me below what you think! If you want to read a blog post by someone who has the opposite view from mine, I recommend Erica Robyn Read's discussion on the same topic! She also does a great job at giving super helpful tips on how to separate the movie from the book in your head. Highly recommend her whole blog, as always.