“But have you read the book?”: When Mediums Collide

On Independence Day weekend, I got my boyfriend and two friends together for a life-changing event: the latest installment in a series that has been captivating me since 1993. I am speaking, of course, of Jurassic Park. Apart from the magical experience of a new movie itself, I am one of those people who gets a genuine thrill ride from the previews that come before a cinematic adventure. It’s like leafing through the travel guide on the plane to your currently scheduled vacation.

Of the previews for Jurassic Park, one stuck out the most: The Martian.

In summary, Matt Damon plays an astronaut whose team is struck by a cataclysm while on mission on the surface of Mars. Damon is left behind in the crisis, and assumed dead. It is later revealed that he survived the fallout and is now attempting, one day at a time, to survive the red planet using limited supplies and, obviously, his unique set of skills.

Naturally, I was all about it. I mean, what’s not to like? Decades after the launch of Star Trek in 1966, space is still humanity’s final frontier. As far as we’ve managed to reach, so much remains undiscovered. The allure of the unknown will never stop being a sure sell. Even after enjoying the movie I came to see, The Martian was still on my mind. “It looks really good,” I told my friends. “We should definitely come back for it.”

Then, a little over a month ago, I polled my Facebook Friends for book suggestions. To my simultaneous horror and elation, I learned that The Martian has already existed since 2011! Andy Weir wrote the 369-page adventure of astronaut Mark Watney four years before I sat unknowing in a darkened theater to be introduced to his vision. A part of me always feel cheated when this happens and, admittedly, a little ignorant. Why don’t they warn you when they make books into movies? I feel like the trailer should say, “BY THE WAY THIS IS A BOOK YOU SHOULD READ IT BEFORE COMING BACK FOR THE MOVIE OR EVERYONE WILL JUDGE YOU.”

Because, isn’t that true? When have you ever mentioned a movie that was based on previously written material without being immediately interrogated? Never? Exactly. It isn’t that I don’t understand, because I do. I myself have willfully judged people who won’t complement a movie with the experience of its source material. I consider it an egregious injustice to the writer of the material, and to the person choosing not to experience it. But, because I’m not a habitual hypocrite, I also feel incredibly self-conscious when I realize I’ve committed the same sin, especially when I’m blind-sided. In rare cases, I give myself a pass. For instance, I learned nearly a year after finally getting into The Walking Dead that it was based on a series of graphic novels. It was only when I subsequently learned that the series had ultimately deviated a long way from the original material that I felt less like a criminal.

In the case of The Martian, there is no way to tell. I now feel a powerful pressure to read the book before allowing myself to see the movie. Obviously, the author will never know the difference. He’ll never catch up to me and question my decision to disregard his original vision before embarking upon its newest adaptation. But, were I published, wouldn’t I want the same respect?

In the case of books-gone-silver-screen, where is your stance on reading the book before seeing the movie? Do you believe one must precede the other, or is the process interchangeable? Can you describe a time that you regretted doing one before the other? If you are published or hope to be, does/will this change your view on reading before seeing?

The September topic is up, and awaiting the tales of your own little martians. Wake Up in Outer Space!


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4 Responses to “But have you read the book?”: When Mediums Collide

  1. Pingback: The Name of the Wind – Another Book Review | Brigit's Flame Writing Community

  2. I don’t think there is a particular sequence. For example, I had read The Lord of the Rings trilogy many times before the movies came out. Haven’t seen the Hobbit films — feel that Jackson took many liberties with the story, from what I have heard. When they go on DISH, I may watch them. I have also watched films and then heard there was a book and been excited. I have learned that they are two different media and they will be different. If they are both well done, I can usually enjoy them without expecting them to match, point for point.


    • RicoChey says:

      I try to read the books first, mostly because of seeing the HUGE differences between some of my favorites and their subsequent films, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. I don’t think that’s so unforgivable. Ya know?


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