If you want to enjoy a film that has been adapted from a book, most of the time it is advisable to not read the book beforehand. Obviously this is not easy in a lot of cases, but if you haven’t read the book, and a film you fancy seeing is coming out, I think it is wise to wait until after the film to read it. Films are generally, though not always a disappointment after a great book. Unfortunately a film can only ever take small amounts of the books creativity, and so has to promote its own special nuances and the director’s vision; this sometimes leads to being sorely disappointed.
You can add so much more in a book, which is nearly impossible in film. You can go off tangent, create unimaginable scenarios, have a plethora of characters and circumstances. As well as being able to actually see into the mind of those characters. An example I always remember is Silence of the Lambs. In the book by Thomas Harris, he goes into great detail about Jack Crawford and the fact his wife is terminally ill and this gives the character for more depth than in the film. In the film which is excellent you have a cold hearted Jack Crawford but you never know why he is like that. He is not the main character and so his story is not important to the flow of the film.
When Peter Jackson discusses his amazing adaptation of Lord of the Rings (the greatest film ever, when you realise he did all three as one film), he is asked why he left out Tom Bombadil. The answer was simple although it is an integral part of the book, as far as the film goes it would have slowed the flow of the movie. Probably making it seem disjointed and not work as well.
Obviously there are times when films totally miss the point of adaptation and fail miserably in putting a successful book onto the big screen, and there are too many of this type of film to mention. Probably the biggest disappointment was the fourth Harry Potter book, one of the best in the series; it was decimated by the time it reached the box office. It was by far the worst adaptation of JK Rowling’s unique vision, in my opinion too much was cut and it just did not work.
There are also films like the Time Traveler’s Wife, which is an incredibly moving book, yet almost impossible to make into a great film. The film wasn’t bad but it could never capture what the book created in my mind, which is why I probably would have enjoyed the film more if I had never read the book, or read the book afterwards. Then this draws a conundrum because if I had seen the film first I may not have enjoyed the book as much.
Sometimes it is a disadvantage to watch the film first, I doubt I would have enjoyed the Da Vinci Code as much if I knew about the plot from watching the film. At the time of reading I knew nothing about the idea of the Last Supper and all its connotations whether true or false. At the time they seemed true in the context of what I was reading, which added to the excitement of reading. The film could never recreate that, which in a way causes a dilemma.
It’s always a tough decision whether to read a book you haven’t read before a film is released, personally I wouldn’t. Wait until afterwards unless you have had an interest in buying the book in the first place, and it is always likely that if the book is successful enough to become a film then you may have read it already.