Putting the Cart Before the Horse?

Topic of the week: Have you ever read books because of the movies based on them? How did they measure up?

Preparing for this week’s post, I was really worried. As I’d mentioned, I don’t watch many movies, so I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to write about. But I was absolutely amazed that I was able to come up with TWO titles that fit the criteria! Here they are:

Romeo and JulieetRomeo and Juliet – In 1968, Franco Zeffirelli directed a version of this classic that put Shakespeare into the world of the American teenager. His secret? He used teenagers in the lead roles. Good-looking teens, as opposed to middle-aged Shakespearean actors. As a junior high student, I was totally smitten by Leonard Whiting. Two years later, I read the play in high school, and with every line, I remembered the scenes as they played out in the movie. Of course, working with a classic like this, there wasn’t much of the plot he could have changed, so what I saw what pretty much what I’d read.

Love storyLove Story by Erich Seagal. The book came out shortly before the movie, but I saw the movie with a bunch of my young friends (most of the girls in my circle weren’t dating yet). Later on I borrowed the book from the library but for some reason I didn’t get through it. I’d lived through the angst with the movie, but I couldn’t drum up enough interest to do it again with the book.

I know that two examples makes for a skimpy post, so I asked for help from my family and friends. A few people actually responded. My son-in-law, who is quite well-read and watches far more movies than I ever will, expressed some of the same thoughts I had about reading a book after watching the movie, and he gave me permission to quote him.

“For me the best part of reading a book is the pay off towards the final third of a story. The storylines typically converge and it feels like reading the book was worth the time because all of the feelings and emotions that I have been reading about finally give me the picture of who the characters really are and where the story is going. When I watch a movie first and I know the ending (assuming the ending to the book and movie are the same) I feel like it is almost a waste of my time to read the book. I feel like since I know where the story takes the characters, all of the emotional build-up that is typically really satisfying seems rather flat.” ~ Aaron Thomas, Kent District Librarian

Cider_house_rulesA former colleague of mine mentioned that she recently purchased Cider House Rules by John Irving after having seen the movie version several times. I asked her to get back to me after she’d read it, and was so glad when she obliged. Here are her thoughts:

“I’ve seen the movie many, many times. Again, recently. Something prompted me to look at other books by the author. I read the reviews of the book where at least one reviewer said the movie wasn’t enough. Wallah.

“Loved the book too. Lots of things were different, and I liked them better. A lot more made sense. I could really see the shortcuts in the movie, even though it was good too. It was a real character study, and I wished a friend had read it recently to chat about. (And no, I don’t agree with a lot of the things that happen, but I was intrigued at how well developed the characters were. And a lot of terrible things happened…)” ~ Terri Siebelink, Coopersville teacher.

the-maze-runnerI also checked with my grandkids, all of whom are readers (except for the two pre-shoolers!). Last month I took one of my granddaughters shopping for her birthday gift and she asked if we could go to the bookstore. Of course I was happy to take her there. She wanted the book Maze Runner by James Dashner. Wikipedia describes it as “the first book in a young-adult post-apocalyptic science fiction trilogy”. I asked how she’d heard about the book and she told me she’d seen the movie and wanted to read it because she liked the story so much. She says she likes it so far, but I’ll be interested to hear her thoughts when she finishes it. Her brother told me that he watched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy before he read the book and liked the book better because “there was a lot more to it.” He’s also watched a show called Flash Forward on TV and then read the book, but found they weren’t similar at all. He said he liked the story from the show better, but preferred the ending of the book. I hope he continues to read and watch with such an editorial eye.

So what about you? Have you ever watched a movie and then felt led to read the book it came from? Was the experience good or bad?


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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9 Responses to Putting the Cart Before the Horse?

  1. For me it’s sometimes one, sometimes the other. I don’t expect books to be like movies. You have complete control over the speed of your reading experience, and no control if you see a film in a theater. Film adaptations often rearrange plots to be chronological, even if the book isn’t written that way. Usually, there is “more” in a book, but more doesn’t always equal better.

    Some books actually work better in the film version, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Grapes of Wrath” and ANY Shakespeare play. Plays are written to be seen, after all.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Good point, Mikey. I always thought it was because of the dreamy guy cast as Romeo that I loved the movie. And I like the reminder that more doesn’t always equal better. I remember suffering though required reading, wondering when the author would get to the point. Anyway, I’m hoping to catch a movie or two this year. Maybe the next time the movies comes up as a topic I’ll be able to write more knowledgeably. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  2. I enjoyed how you asked others for their thoughts. I still am trying to figure out my post for this week. It is a tough one.
    I remember seeing that version of Romeo and Juliet in high school and then our teacher put in the one that had just come out with Clare Danes and Leonardo Dicacprio so we could compare them.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I didn’t see the Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio version, but that’s the one my daughters identify with! Did you like one better than the other?


  3. jeff7salter says:

    Great column today, Patty.
    I’d also like to see the “new” version of R&J with DiCaprio/Danes … but haven’t yet had a chance. I really enjoyed the Zefferili version.
    Especially liked the comments from your son-in-law, the librarian.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I enjoyed Aaron’s comments, too. It’s nice to see their house so full of books – all kinds! As for the “new” R&J – maybe they’ll play it at the Y someday.


  4. I haven’t seen the Leo/Clare R&J , either, but my niece loves it.
    I have not read any of the books mentioned above and only saw “Love Story” out of sheer curiosity.I was sorely disappointed.


  5. Pingback: Re-telling a Tale | Four Foxes, One Hound

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