So I have this rule about books and movies that has served me well. If I haven’t read a book yet and I hear that a movie, or a TV show, will come out on it, I don’t read the book. I used to be one of those that had to quick read the book before going to the movie. I was the one who brought Les Misérables with her to finish it during intermission at the Broadway musical (I mean as if the musical would stick to the book. well it kinda did.) and I also was the one who finished DaVinci Code just moments before the previews started in the theatre.
Fast forward to a few years back and I had a Eureka! moment. It was during Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith. It occured to me that if we had no conscious awareness of how the story was SUPPOSED to end up, we might have viewed the events differently – *might* being the key word here – and that all the angst of the build up getting from A to B in deliberate fashion would have been somewhat eased. In a word, it’s all about expectation.
When you EXPECT something, there is no way around it. You wait. You are eager. Your adrenaline kicks in. I stood once outside a coffee shop waiting for someone I thought was the love of my life. The appointed time could not have been any slower in arriving and I swear I lost ten pounds just standing there tapping my foot. And I totally missed a group of friends walking right by me saying hello. Like I didn’t even SEE or HEAR them and they thought I was being rude. I was deaf, dumb and blonde.
Expectations do that. They can rob us of the moment we’re in because we’re so engrossed in the moment coming up. And GOD FORBID when the moment isn’t met.
I could rant and rave about any number of WRONG movies that didn’t match up to MY expectations when compared to the book. I have an overly analytic mind, sometimes to a fault, and when things start to go wrong, I find it nigh impossible to enjoy anything any more. My enjoyment factory completely shuts down with a loud thud and all the gears come to a grinding screeching halt. Case in point, CORALINE. (I know, I know – those of you loyal readers will remember I promised not to bring it up again. But grrrrr… I guess I hold major grudges.)
Anyway, I came to the conclusion when Mr. George Lucas failed to bridge a gap between Episodes 3 and 4, that it is, in fact, better to not know ahead of time what there is to know ahead of time. So it became clear to me that not reading the book first would alleviate two things: (1) my level of expectation and therefore frustration when not met, and (2) my ability to actually finish a book at any respectable pace. I still have a huge pile of books that I started some time last year.
If you are still reading this, here is a handy dandy list of my reasons for not reading the book first.
1. Characters are never quite what they seem to be in my head. Most male characters look like Eric Bana or Ed Norton. And really, who can live up to them?
2. I have found that when I read the book AFTER seeing the movie or TV series, that I have faces to put to the names and that helps me remember who is who.
3. There is a much lesser chance of me yelling and/or throwing popcorn at the screen in the middle of the movie and therefore embarrassing my friends who will more than likely not go to a movie with me again.
4. I ALWAYS enjoy the book after seeing its counterpart. I RARELY enjoy the counterpart as much after reading the book. Notable exceptions are Watchmen the movie which I actually didn’t mind as much as some diehard fans did, and Sin City – basically ditto to that. And I kinda loved Stand By Me the movie way more than the short story by Stephen King, even though it was a fine story. You just can’t beat that movie and its soundtrack.
5. I don’t feel the need to delineate all the ways the movie just FAILED immediately after seeing it, geeking out on every little detail, and totally annoying the crap outta anyone who actually enjoyed the movie. This saves friendships. Nay, lives.
So while I probably won’t convince the whole wide world to adopt my methods of adapting to the reality of Hollywood rummaging the used book racks for “new” material to shred and destroy into barely recognizable chunks of literature, I do think that I will be, on the whole, a more psychologically balanced moviegoer. I still wish someone would adapt ALL of Les Mis into a TV series and cover more of the characters’ lives. Ditto to A Series of Unfortunate Events, with a mostly honorable effort on the part of Jim Carrey’s movie, though there are many more stories that could be told out of that series and I feel like it would make a great alternative to most of the crap on the Cartoon Network.
[Epilogue: Said significant other outside the coffee shop was 20 minutes late. We broke up a few days later. The friends I ignored still talk to me.]