I don’t usually read novelizations ( books derived from films/scripts) but when I saw a copy of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the library,I couldn’t resist . I’d enjoyed Indy’s previous adventures, some more than others, and I thought it might be fun to read about his latest even if I didn’t see it on the big screen.
Bad mistake. What was I thinking ?
James Rollins has done a competent job with the book but adventure movies are meant to be seen and experienced , preferably on a large screen, not read about. Seeing the action unfold on the screen is fun, reading about it is unsatisfying. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever read a novelization of any type of movie again. A novelization is little better than a fleshed out filmscript. It’s usually very spare and workmanlike rather than artistic. When compared to a book, It’s like a ‘paint-by-the numbers’ composition compared to an original painting.
This started me thinking about books and the movies made from them. Is it better to read the book first and then see the movie ? Or vice-versa ? I’ve heard people weigh in on both sides of the issue. In my case, since I read many books and see very few movies I am biased in favor of reading the book first. The book is much richer, more nuanced. The movie treatment is condensed and leaves out many of the ‘unnecessary’ details that give the book it’s charm. It has to be thus if it is going to depict the events described in the book within a period of two or two and a half hours. I am all admiration for the director whose task it is to convert the book into a movie ( this is a special talent) but I want to experience the author’s vision first before I settle down to see the director’s interpretation of it. There is usually a world of difference between the two.
I once attended a very interesting lecture by an author , one of whose books was being made into a movie. The director had invited her to attend the ‘shoot’ and she was enjoying the experience. The lead actor, a well known movie star, kept coming over to ask her about the motivations of the character he was playing and she was happy to tell him…. until the director pulled her aside and told her, in no uncertain terms, to stop interfering. ” It may have been your book but this is my film !”
Another reason to read the book first is that visual images are stronger than the written word ; if you see the movie first, the impression it creates is so vivid that then reading the book is pointless. In fact, the only time to read the book after seeing the movie is when the plot is complicated and difficult to follow. One example is The Lord of the Rings trilogy where so much is going on with different groups of people running about all over the place that I wonder how moviegoers who hadn’t read the book could understand what was happening. And, even in this case, it would have been better to read the book before seeing the movie.
Perhaps the discussion is moot. According to a poll, fully two -thirds of the American public do not read even even one book a year for pleasure. The poll was taken several years ago but I don’t think the numbers have changed much. Most people will see the movie .. and that’ll be the end of it.