Book-To-Screen Panic Attacks

A feeling we’re all familiar with, I think.

I’m a firm believer of the read-it-first-then-watch-it school of thought. Although, I sometimes go the read-the-book-ditch-the-movie way, too. Most of the time, this is a philosophy I can live with since the book is almost always better than the movie – more well-rounded, the escalation is choreographed better and you get to picture the characters as they were intended. No ridiculous casting choices spoiling it for you. History has shown us time and again how trusting a movie to do justice to a book is the equivalent of being Voldemort and gifting Harry one of your horcruxes for Christmas.

So the movie-ditching? No problem.

But sometimes, just sometimes, this other part of my brain talks to me. This is that annoying little voice that urges me to be a genre-less reader. The voice that admits to liking the Coraline movie just that tiny bit better than the book. The voice that tells me it’s okay to leave a book unfinished if it doesn’t seem to be working out.

And right now, it’s telling me to stop being such a coward.

What brought this on, you ask? I recently watched The Princess Bride and I’ve just been kicking myself for taking so long to get around to it. I’m a HUGE fan of the book and every time I spoke to somebody about it and they asked me if I had watched the movie, I basically turned into a puddle of goo. I’m not equipped to handle the trauma of books being butchered on-screen, okay? There’s only so much I can take.

I probably wouldn’t have watched it – ever – if it hadn’t been for a fellow blogger. She convinced me to give it a go and – surprise, surprise – I loved it. And therein lies the problem.

When people tell me they’re not going to read something because they’ve already watched the movie – I lose it. I turn into this crazy ninja and karate-chop them in half.

“How can you live with yourself?”

“Have you no soul?”

What is wrong with you?”


But I just realised that I’ve been doing the exact same thing – in reverse. Making a movie takes a certain level of artistry. Agreed? And yet, a lot of book readers, me included, simply dismiss a movie by virtue of  it. being. a. movie. How is that any different from people who say, “Oh I’m not going to read a book. I’ll just watch the movie!”

Now, this makes me extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes I watch a movie and then, after I’m done, I discover it was based on a book. So, I track that book down and devour it. In my mind, this is excusable because I didn’t know of the existence of the book beforehand. Nine times out of ten, I’ll like the book better. Occasionally, I’ll like the movie better. Besides Coraline, Fight Club is another example – I adore the movie, yet couldn’t even finish the book.

And then there are those movies that are just terrible. Not just as an adaptation, but as a movie. They’re awful. They make me want to scream and cry and throw a tantrum and write angry letters to the People In Charge along the lines of  MY-EEEEYES. WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY EYES?!

Every once in a while, though, you’ll find a movie adaptation that finds its own two feet to stand on. Think High Fidelity. And yes, The Princess Bride. You watch them, and you don’t even remember that it’s based on a book you so dearly love. It’s a movie in its own right – free from comparison. You try, and try, and find that you have to talk about it as a separate entity. Neither the book nor the movie is better than the other. You love both – but for completely different reasons.

And this. THIS is what we’re missing out on, fellow book-readers. By issuing a blanket no to any movie that dares to belong to the same family tree as your favourite book, we’re overlooking these little gems that might exist out there. How are you going to know unless you leave the guns at home and give it a try?

I propose a challenge. I’m going to need all the practice I can get for when Divergent releases on the big screen, and to prepare for that, I’m going to go out and watch five movies over the next week or so – irrespective of whether I’ve read the book or not. I’m going to try to keep an open mind – no trembling in my boots, no complaining and definitely no comparing. I’d love recommendations, and I’d love it even more if you’d like to do this with me! Yes? Great!

May the odds be ever in your favour.


Links and things

Coraline: Book | Movie

Fight Club: Book | Movie

High Fidelity: Book | Movie

Divergent: Book | Movie


11 thoughts on “Book-To-Screen Panic Attacks

  1. They’re making Divergent in to a film! I’m a bit excited by that.
    On the other side I’m very nervous about the daughter ofsmoke and bone movie.
    I think it depends on the book. I loved Divergent, but daughter of smoke and bone left me speechless.

    I agree that sometimes books can ne butchered though. It’s all about taking deep breaths and having friends to be outraged with afterwards.

    Congratulations on facing your princess bride fears. It’s been an age since I’ve watched that.

    • I know! I was surprised by the cast, but I have a feeling I’ll end up liking them. So, I’m a little worried, but I’m just going to shut up and roll with it. I’ll make up my mind after I’ve watched it. :)

      They’re making a Daughter of Smoke and Bone movie? I didn’t know that! I was a little disappointed by the book, but now that I think about it, it would make a great movie. If made right, it’ll be visually stunning.

      Haha, I agree. Or venting on your blog about it. That’s a pretty good coping mechanism, too.

      Thanks, Debbie! Are you a fan of the movie?

  2. I completely agree with your post! There are some movies that are particularly clever adaptations of books. When I read Fight Club, I was certain there was no way it could ever translate to film. But it’s amazing, and one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, probably BECAUSE it was so difficult to capture and done so faithfully. I also thought The Prestige was a much better film than novel. What was used as a major plot twist in the film was known throughout the novel, and the storytelling in the film was just so much more clever than the novel! You know, I could never finish Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I just wasn’t into it. Is it worth finishing?

    • Wait, wait, wait.. You’re telling me The Prestige is a book? *kicks self* I can’t believe I didn’t know that!
      Mehh, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was okay. It isn’t a book I’d recommend personally. I can certainly see the appeal, but I thought it was unnecessarily wordy at times and the Karou-Akiva thing just wasn’t working for me. Laini Taylor’s description of Prague, though – beautiful.

      • It IS a book, but not a very good one. I wouldn’t recommend it, to be honest. Christopher Nolan did an absolutely excellent job with presenting the story the way he did, and it makes the book really disappointing!

  3. This is one of those debates that will probably rage longer than anything else I can currently think of. Your best love book turned into a film and for you personally – potentially spoiled. But, think about the good examples. Lord of the Rings. Equal to the book if you ask me – and I love that book. Coraline – I think the film is actually better because it’s a riot of colour. Jaws – the film is packed with suspense and terror which is nothing like in the book. The Ring – similar. Okay, now there are plenty of bad examples as well – don’t beat me with a stick or break out the pitchfork but The Hobbit – is nothing like the book. I am Legend – what on earth happened to that ending?? It’s a strange balance. I’ve always liked to read the book first because I feel like it gives me the inside track on what a person is feeling or thinking – however, you also have to give the film makers some leeway and artistic licence. You can’t make a film exactly like the book, it just doesn’t always work. I say give the film a try. In fact, these days I sometimes think it might be better if I see the film first – sacrilege I know, but I’m likely to be a lot less critical.
    Lynn :D

    • I think I actually agree with that. With Never Let Me Go, I watched it first. Loved it. Got the book. Loved that even more. Re-watched the movie. Hated it.
      Watching the movie first in some cases might actually be the best thing to do, I think. But then there’s the flip side. You dislike the movie so much that you aren’t even willing to try the book. That’s happened on quite a few occasions, as well.
      It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss thing any way you look at it. You’re always taking a chance. I think we just have to empty my mind of any expectations and treat it as it is.
      Graphic novels, on the other hand, translate very well onto film. Most of the time. Maybe it’s because there already is a visual element to it, maybe it’s because the film makers are huge fans of the comic and have been reading them all their lives – I dunno. I just find they have a higher success rate.

      P.S. The Hobbit was bad? I haven’t watched it yet. :\

  4. I think I’m fairly neutral about seeing the film or reading the book first. If it sounds like something I’ll enjoy, I’m quick to grab a copy of the book. Although there are times when I can watch the movie, no problem, but can’t get into the book. Similar to what you said about Fight Club, I could NOT finish Shutter Island. It might be a fabulous suspense/mystery novel for all I know, but while I like the film I couldn’t get very far into the book. The writing… just isn’t for me. (At least I tried!)

    Have you read Memoirs of Teenage Amnesiac? I’d meant to read it for YEARS, but I stumbled across the movie first. Big mistake. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more had I not watched the film, because the film–oh my God–made me cry. It was that boring. The book, however, isn’t all that bad! I actually like it.

    Gosh, speaking of Divergent, there are a ton a books-based movies coming out, isn’t there? The Book Thief, Ender’s Game, The Maze Runner, Catching Fire… Oh, and then City of Bones is out this month, but I dunno about that one. I read the first book when I heard there’d be a movie, and nope. It was okay, and I may read the second book at some point, but it’s not something I’m too interested in.

    Hey!! I’m on IMDb looking at upcoming film adaptions, and Libba Bray’s A Great & Terrible Beauty is on the list. I must read that!

    • I haven’t tried Shutter Island in any form. :|
      I’ve been waiting to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy before I watch the movie, and my copy finally arrived last week. I barely managed to make it through the first paragraph – it was just waaay too much information. I’m slightly disappointed because my father is a fan of the book and everybody who’s read it and then watched it says you need the back-story before plunging into the movie, but le Carré doesn’t give up his secrets easily.

      I haven’t! I’ve added it to my list though, it looks interesting. :)

      I haven’t read The Book Thief yet. OR Ender’s Game. *hangs head in shame* The Maze Runner is another one that has been on my radar, but I keep getting distracted. Must pick that one up, I’ve heard good things.

      HA! The Mortal Instruments. I sat and read the first..four? Five? I dunno. And every two minutes I’d slap myself and wonder why I was reading it and yet, I couldn’t stop. Saaave yourself! Don’t get sucked in to the vortex! The first one is actually the best of the lot. It just dies after that. And by it, I mean everybody’s intelligence. And by everybody, I mean Clary.

      I was surprised when they cast Theo James as Four and then I heard him speak and now I’m actually looking forward to seeing how he handles it. Shailene Woodley was the highlight of The Descendants for me – but I love Tris and.. I dunno. I’m happy-sad, y’know?
      Kate Winslet as Jeanine, though? Brr. That’s a surprisingly good choice.

      Goodreads has been throwing that book at me for AGES. I’ll go check it out. :)

  5. I love this post :) It’s so true that so many movies get labeled as “bad” because they weren’t exactly like the book. I took forever to watch Beautiful Creatures because it got such bad reviews from people who had read the book. I decided to not read the book so I could enjoy the movie (gasp! I never do that either). And I loved it! It was an awesome movie. I don’t know why the complaints…. And oh my gosh The Princess Bride is one of the best movie adaptions ever!! I’m so glad you finally watched it and loved it :) The author did the screen-play and he did such a good job.

    If you haven’t watched Beautiful Creatures, I definitely recommend that one. And don’t read the book first – I’m pretty sure you’ll like it better and I’ve heard the plots are different anyway :)

    • Aw, thanks Jessica! I know, and I have really mixed feelings about that but I don’t want to stand behind the “Books Are Always Better Than The Movies” flag because sometimes they just aren’t. Like with the Harry Potter films? I wish they were more faithful to the books. But with some movies, if done right, going in a slightly different direction from the book tends to work out better. So I dunno. Whatever suits the art form, I guess. :)

      Beautiful Creatures, eh? Added to list. :)

The Yeti loves conversation. :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s