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