Why reading the book is better than watching the movie

by Damaris Galeano (Staff Writer) – 11/9/15

Student reading the Percy Jackson book

One of the most popular arguments movie watchers have with each other is whether or not to read the book before the movie. Many agree though, that you should read the book before watching the movie.

One great reason is that there is nothing like having the inside track on a movie plot.  If you don’t mind spoilers then reading the book will enhance your movie watching experience and gives you a good sense of what you’re about to see. Also, conforming a book to the movie timeframe inevitably leaves out much of the important bits of content and context. Reading the book before watching the film can help fill in the blanks of a reductive movie interpretation.

Another problem that can happen is that characters from the book often appear in film as thinned out versions of their richer, more complex selves. In the book, the reader can really delve into the character and understand his/her background and personality. In films though, watchers cannot really see into the characters minds, which can make them question decisions which would have been explained in the book. It’s also fun to have a bit of background information that provides that aha! moment.

An argument people often used is that they can tell how good the book is based on the movie. The problem with this logic is that sometimes (or most of the time), the movie does not do the book justice. For example, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series was fun to read and had great plot twists. Many fans waited anxiously to see the film, and when it was released, were disappointed. While the movie was mildly entertaining, the ending gave cause for a double take. The ending was completely different from the book! Often the ending of a story is changed to fit a timeframe, the writer’s vision, or to anticipate a sequel. Knowledge of the real ending can provide you an alternate conclusion.

Another of the best things about reading a well-written book is the wonderfully descriptive detail. The Lord of The Rings series describes places, people, and clothing in such rich detail that you feel as if you are there. Watching the story on screen after reading the books makes me aware of the environment and metal work. You would have likely missed those particulars without the book. Book to movie translation is never 100% accurate. If you see the movie first and then read the book, then you’ll expect what will happen next based off of the movie. That is not always the case. So watching the movie first will spoil both and mess up how you’d think of the book from the beginning. You’ll never be able to erase how the conspiracy plot was spoiled by the main character and ruined the fun you’d have had trying to figure it out.

In a movie, not all of a character’s motivations are given to viewers, which is sad but true. In a book, especially a first person narrative, a reader is always privy to what’s going on in a character’s head. Why did they dump their boyfriend? Insecurity, betrayal, stupidity? The reader knows. Reading the book first gives you greater understanding of the movie you’re going to watch. You have the back story and deeper character development. Your own imaginative and personal interpretation of the story as a book is untainted by the director’s vision had you seen the movie first.

So the next time you are deciding “should I read it or watch it first?”,  you now have your answer.