Why watch first?!
The same goes for The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely adore those movies. They will always be among my favorites and I rewatch them at least once a year in a marathon weekend. But I tried reading the books a couple of times as a kid, and they were just too tough for me. The language, the slow pace, the extensive descriptions, it was not very encouraging. I still haven’t read The Hobbit in spite of now being a more experienced reader and having watched the first two movies. I did want to read it first originally, but I’ve been putting it off for no good reason. And you know what? I honestly give no fucks. Watching the movies first is absolutely okay.
Watching first can also keep me from being overwhelmed. I’m thinking of A Song of Ice and Fire in this case. That series is a massive undertaking, and at least by watching Game of Thrones first, I know that it’s worth it. I know that there are a ton of elements that I LOVE, that the plot and world building are intense and beautiful… and I know the characters. So many POV characters – it’s hard enough to keep them straight in the TV show, but if I hadn’t been introduced to them there, I would have absolutely lost it in reading the books. I would never have gotten through these books if the TV show didn’t exist.
It can also keep me from being disappointed by every book-to-movie adaptation ever. A lot of people have told me that they always want to read the book first because then they can imagine the story and characters on their own – they don’t have someone else’s interpretation or vision imposed on them. And that’s fine! Sure! But, as we have seen over the years, not all book-to-movie adaptations are good. I do realize that by reading the book first, I’m setting myself up for a disappointment if then the movie contradicts the world that I imagined. If you’ve read the book first, you could easily get distracted at every point of the movie – “They changed this!” “Huh, why does he look like that?” “That’s not how that happened!” – which could ruin the movie-going experience. I have a risky admission – I actually watched The Lightning Thief before I read the book… and I enjoyed it. Now I’m not going to say it’s a good adaptation, because having read the book, I know better. But the movie got me to put the book on my to-read list and I think we all know what kind of fangirl explosion that led to. My experience with that story just got better and better as I moved on to the books.
Movies are much more accessible than books.
I don’t believe that either watching the movie or reading the book first is the right way to do things. But I can understand why someone would watch it first. Reading is not as easy for everyone, and a movie or TV show can actually be a good starting point – inspiring people who ordinarily wouldn’t pick up a book to break out of their comfort zones. I know tons of people who read The Hunger Games after watching the movie, and that’s GREAT. They were intrigued by the depth of Katniss’s character that was subtle on screen but very thorough in the book and loved all the extra details. Does that make them any less legit fans? I don’t think so.
I also feel like if you place this restriction on yourself – you have to read the book before you can go see the movie – you’re possibly missing out on or delaying experiencing a wonderful story. I have some colleagues who still insist they can’t watch The Hunger Games because they haven’t read the book yet. It’s been almost three years now. When are you going to get around to it then?? Good intentions are great and all, but you are missing out.