Seriously, always. The book is always better (obviously), and you will never lose anything by reading it first. It’s always fun to see a story you loved come to life outside of your own head, but if by chance you catch a bad adaptation before reading the book–done. Ruined. Particularly if there’s a twist, then why even go back and read it? Here are some adaptations that just couldn’t cut it.
1. The Time Traveler’s Wife. Book was better; don’t even bother with the movie.
2. The Twilight Saga. Didn’t bother seeing any but the first one. They went wayyy too serious with it. The books are a cute, fun adolescent love story; why make the movie so dramatic? Not to mention the makeup is TERRIBLE. Why stop the powder at the neck? Makes no sense, any of it.
3. World War Z. THIS IS NOT A BAD MOVIE. It just has absolutely nothing to do with the book, other than they both include zombies. The book was completely different–and yes, it was still better–but unlike the other two on this list, the movie is still worth seeing.
Some adaptations are a bust, but you’ve got to admit, it’s so much fun when the filmmakers get it right. Here are some times when they did.
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now, this first one shows what a huge hypocrite I am, because this is a case where I went ahead and saw the movie first. Truth is, I never actually read the book. It’s a spy story and once I knew the ending, like I said, what’s the point? I plan to read it after putting a little distance between myself and the ending. I have however read some of John LeCarre’s other work starring George Smiley, and let me tell you, both Gary Oldman and Alec Guinness BECOME the old MI6 veteran. Check out the 2011 movie for Gary Oldman, and the 1979 miniseries for Alec Guinness (and if you can only do one, do the miniseries. Alec Guinness’s performance is one you don’t want to miss).
2. Atonement. AHHHHH this book will make you cry. And this movie. Just tears, tears all over. To me this movie was a near-perfect adaptation. They didn’t change much and you got almost the same feel watching the movie as reading the book. And can someone please tell me where I can buy Kiera Knightly’s green dress? That thing is stunning, as is she, and James McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan, and Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave. Definitely check this one out, but don’t miss your chance to read the book first.
3. Sherlock. This isn’t really an adaptation as much as a modern-day reworking of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless series. Writers and creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are fans of the famous detective, and it shines through in the show. The series isn’t just some kitschy twist-up of an old classic, it’s what Sherlock Holmes would actually be was he alive today. Also, if you’re a fan of the original mysteries, you will love spotting the fun throwbacks scattered throughout the episodes. Not to mention the awesome casting–Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, Martin Freeman as Watson, and Andrew Scott as the delightfully insane Moriarty.
4. Harry Potter. The movies really speak for themselves. For as much as they had to leave out (those books get pretty thick toward the end), I feel they really captured the spirit of the series. Whoever cast these guys did an amazing job as well; I personally imagined Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore, and almost every other character as pretty much how they appeared in the films. I have a confession: the Harry Potter series was my first love, and I love the books, and I love the movies, and I always will. And if someone doesn’t take me to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before I’m 30 I might die of disappointment.
Catch these excellent adaptations if you can, but remember to always, always (seriously, always) read the books first,