I’ve always been a firm believer in reading the book before seeing the movie. As a self-proclaimed lover of the literary, it always baffled me when people even watched a movie based on a book they haven’t read. I’ve read books I didn’t want to read and pulled all-nighters just to finish a book before seeing the movie. Why? Because the books are always better. You get to experience the story first-hand and get details and context that you just can’t get from a 2 hours adaptation. Plus, you get to experience it for a longer period of time – with each turn of the page you learn something new and can stop, ponder, or saver each scene.
On the other hand, I don’t love movies anymore. I used to, though. I loved the magic and surprise that came from being immersed in a story in which I had no idea what was going to happen and could spend entire days with a bag of popcorn and my DVD player. But over the past few years I’ve mostly watched movies that were based on books and, frankly, movies lost their luster. Not only are they not as good as the book, but (for me) a movie loses its punch when you know the ending. There’s no gripping the edge of your seat, there’s no anxiety, there’s no true joy at a the happy ending because I had already experienced that feeling for the first time. Even movies with fantastic special effects such as The Hunger Games or Harry Potter fell flat, plot-wise. Yes, they were incredible films and amazing to watch unfold on screen, but the storylines themselves came as no surprise – I already knew who would live or die. The same was true for Gone Girl and Dark Places – I already knew the controversial ending.What if you don't always have to read the book before seeing the movie? Let's discuss. Click To Tweet
That said, I never really connected the two. I just thought that movie quality had deteriorated or that I’m someone who enjoys a story on the page, not the screen. This wasn’t always the case but people change, and clearly I had. So when my husband asked me to go see The Martian, I did so with hesitation. I hadn’t read the book and I am someone who always reads the book before seeing the movie. But date night trumped my personal guilt and we went. It was, as expected, amazing. But halfway through the movie, I had a startling thought that I was not expecting:
Maybe the movie was so good because I didn’t know the ending.
Let me explain. I’m aware that books and movies target different audiences and are designed to play up different aspects of the same story. But as I said before, you can only experience a feeling for the first time once and when you’re someone (like me) who tends to only see movies based on books, you’re never surprised. During The Martian, however, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in the end and was completely immersed in the story. How did he get there? Why did he get left? Was he going to make it home? And this line of thinking sparked another thought:
Am I doing myself a disservice by reading books solely because I plan to see the movie?
I’ve decided this answer is yes. I know, I’m as shocked as you are by this but there you have it. I’m still a firm believer that the book is always better and if a movie comes out that’s based on a book I’ve already read, I’ll definitely see it. But it’s time for me to stop reading books solely because I want to see the movie – if I really wanted to read the book, I would have done it already. Plus, I married a non-reader and I think date night would be a lot more fun if I got to experience things alongside with him. I always drag him to see movies based on books I have read and then he’s left pacing the house mumbling about how messed up the Gone Girl ending was while I’m sitting there unimpressed. Or, he’s speculating about what’s going to happen in the next Hunger Games movie while I already know the answers.
So yes, the book is always better but maybe not every book needs to be read first, especially if it’s one I wasn’t keen on reading, anyway. Because when it comes to movies, I miss the anticipation and knot in my stomach that comes with great suspense. I miss the days where I could simply enjoy a movie for its own sake. And I really miss the days where I could watch a movie without cataloguing all of the things they did differently (movies aren’t supposed to be work, right?). In short, I miss the movie magic and I want it back.