Dawn’s and Heather’s recent posts about rarely enjoying a movie after reading a book garnered a lot of cyber nods of affirmation. I too have the same problem with accepting seemingly random changes to beloved books when they are adapted for the screen.
My hard and fast rule for avoiding too much disappointment is to read the book first, but to wait a while in between reading and watching (like at least 6 months, if not more), so that I can enjoy the movie without the details of the book being fresh in my mind.
This summer my ten-year-old daughter Amanda starting reading the Harry Potter series. So it seemed the right time to check out first Harry Potter movie. At least two years had gone by since I had first read this book, although I had just finished the fifth book in the series the week before, so I was still firmly entrenched in the characters and plot of the series.
My initial thoughts were that the movie seemed somewhat lame — the filming, the overly loud music, and even the over-the-top portrayal of the world that J.K. Rowling created. That said, within half an hour, I was captivated. Some of the visuals really helped in my understanding — seeing a game of Quidditch, for one thing, and seeing the Invisibility Cloak in use for another.
On the other hand, some of the visuals detracted from my immersion in this amazing fantasy world. For example, when I’m reading the book, I’m not thinking of witches and goblins and magic. I’m thinking of fantasy — something completely imaginative and wonderful. However, watching the school ghosts fly around and seeing the characters in their pointy hats (was that in the books?) the association with the witch stereotype is unavoidable. It is a pretty good movie, but no matter how well a movie is made, it can’t transport someone like a book does.
I think that the movie producers selected excellent actors to play the characters that we know and love — McGonagall is appropriately stern, yet lovable, Snape is perfectly slimey, Dumbledore is as elegant and authoratative as he should be. In fact, upon “meeting” each of the characters, my heart lept with excitement with the joy of meeting them again for the first time. I even got a lump in my throat when I met the Weasley family. Although I had seen Daniel Radcliffe of course (who plays Potter in the films), I didn’t even really have an idea about who the other actors were, so they didn’t figure in my reading of the books.
The movie is rated PG, but I think it’s a pretty scary PG, even for my ten-year-old who had just recently read the books — not too scary, but scary nonetheless. There was also some strong language that I didn’t remember being a part of the book.
If you’ve watched and enjoyed these movies, but have avoided reading the book for whatever reason, now is the time to read. If you’ve enjoyed the books, but haven’t seen any of the movies, maybe you’d like to try. Just as many people said about Pride & Prejudice, I think that this is the perfect example of a movie being a way to extend your love of a book or characters.