On Book to Movie Adaptations and Giving Yourself the Gift of Distance

Like millions of other holiday moviegoers, the family and I watched Catching Fire over the weekend. Did I enjoy it? Heck yeah. Was it as good as the book? Nah, not quite—but it was still very entertaining IMHO.

A  few years back, a book club friend forced me to start reading the Hunger Games trilogy. At the time I was highly prejudiced against YA. I was an adult. Adults didn’t need to read a novel geared to teens. ::can you feel the snoot in my voice?::  Plus dystopian creeped me out and I avoided the genre like the plague (whether or not there was one in the story).  But my fellow book-lover swore I could not consider myself ‘well read’ if I didn’t give the series a try.

I can give any book a try. Challenge accepted.

I fell in love with the books, devouring the series just after Mockingjay was released. Then I made my husband read them.

But I digress…back to the movie. One of the main reasons I was able to enjoy the movie so much is that I gave myself time to let the story fade into feathered memory. Sure, I remember the main premise, the favorite characters (big picture but not details), and plot highlights, but the rest settles into that dusty storage attic where I could probably pull out details for a trivia question, but it would take longer than the final Jeopardy theme song.

I quite like it that way.

Nothing is worse than watching a movie and nitpicking every last detail. If you’re a reader, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Our suspension of disbelief is loyal to the book — the world the author built and our imagination colored and populated. There’s just no way even the most talented filmmaker can include all of the minute details. (Unless you’re Peter Jackson, and then you can make a 287 page book last almost six freaking hours on the big screen.)

With a few years (and a few hundred books) distance, I was able to enjoy Catching Fire with the proper suspension of disbelief. I’ve always thought Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrleson, and Lenny Kravitz were perfectly cast. I’ve always thought Liam Hemsworth was totally wrong (that boy’s obviously enjoyed good genes and plenty of food–he’s way to brawny to be an underfed District 12 member).

The other characters…I really don’t remember.

I DO remember when I first saw the actor who was cast as Finnick I was not impressed. Too lanky, to small. Once again, I was proved wrong. Or should I say, Sam Clafin proved me wrong—from what I remember of the character, he portrayed Finnick beautifully. I remember less about Joanna, but I loved Jenna Malone’s sassy, strong character in the film.

Had I read the book right before watching the movie, I’m sure I would have come up with criticisms—plot points they left out, fine details missed, characters acting out of step. But I gave myself the gift of distance, and I was able to enjoy the novel as I read it a few years ago and fully experience the movie as it was meant to be seen.


How about you: do you like reading a book right before watching the movie adaptation or do you like to give it some space?

3 thoughts on “On Book to Movie Adaptations and Giving Yourself the Gift of Distance

  1. Adrienne

    Every time I watch the movie right after reading the book I am always disappointed. I loved those books too. It’s been a while since I read them though, and like you, don’t remember everything. I remember book 2 was my favorite though! Still haven’t seen the movie yet. I’m a DVD kind of girl.
    Adrienne recently posted…Birthday Party Survival TipsMy Profile

  2. Nina

    I had the same experience! I read the books so long ago that by the time I watched Catching Fire I could hardly remember what happened next. It was so great to enjoy the suspense of the story all over again. It’s the one benefit of my aging brain!
    Nina recently posted…Our Santa Inspired Tooth FairyMy Profile

  3. Jen Anderson

    It’s always better to have some space. I’ve even put off reading a book until after I’ve seen the movie so that I have a better chance of enjoying the movie.

    I actually had the same problem with a book – I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies right after reading the Annotated Pride & Prejudice. Some of the jokes in Zombies indicated a lack of understanding of the source material. Drove me crazy. I kept yelling – you’re making fun of the wrong thing!
    Jen Anderson recently posted…The Food of My PeopleMy Profile


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