I feel like this t-shirt sums up every book lover's opinion on movie/TV adaptations:
But what happens when you watch the adaptation before you read the book? I usually make it a point to read the book before the movie, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes I don't realize that a TV show is based on a book, and sometimes I can't get a copy of a book before I see a film in theaters. Here are couple of adaptations that I saw before I saw the book, and how the books measured up!
The Prestige is one of my favorite movies, period. Magic, mystery, twist upon twist, and a one killer of an ending (ha.). I have next to no technical knowledge on filmmaking, but even I can tell that every scene was deliberately filmed a certain way. It's beautiful to watch, and you can see the care that went into making every scene just right so that when the pieces come together, you realize the significance of a lot of little details you might not have paid attention to.
When I read the book, frankly I was disappointed. I felt like the explanation for the intense rivalry between the two magicians was much more believable in the film than in the book; when the whole story revolves around the rivalry, it was a major disappointment that the reason for the rivalry wasn't compelling. Another element of the book that was disappointing is that it talks a lot more about the descendants and future implications of Angier and Borden's one-upmanship. I was really excited about that element, but the way things played out, I just didn't care about the magicians' descendants and I felt like the ending left me hanging a little bit.
I love this TV show. I love all the characters, I love how the science behind the science fiction (usually) makes sense, I love how fierce and strong all the women are, and I love how diverse the cast is. When I found out it was based on a book series, of course I wanted to read it. So far I've only read the first two books, but even from book 1 there were a lot of differences between the source material and the adaptation.
The characters' essences are the same: Clarke is a well-meaning workaholic, Bellamy is very protective of a rebellious Olivia, Wells is a natural leader but is ostracized by the others. There are lot fewer characters in the books, and who lives and who dies is actually really different. My favorite change in the book is getting to know the stories of people still on the Ark, like Glass. We don't see much of the Ark on the show, and when we do, it's always the people in charge and not really every day struggles.
These two are so different that I can't really say one is better than the other. I really like both of them, but I have to say there are a few things that tip the scales in the TV show's favor. The show really plays up the interactions between many strong women, including Clarke, Raven, Olivia, Abigail, and Lexa. The show really shows how complicated and tangled everyone's relationships and motivations are, while the book is a little more simplistic in that regard. There aren't as many characters, so things aren't as complicated.
I feel like it's traitorous of me to say I liked the movies better than the books, but it's true! To be clear, I am not talking about the Hobbit movies. Those were a disaster. I feel like the LOTR movies captured the epic scale of the books and really brought everything to life without being bogged down with pages of rambling descriptions and campfire songs. The movies were a super tightened-up version of the 1000+ page story, which I really enjoyed.
One change I didn't like in the films is the fact that they took out the entire "return to the Shire" portion at the end of the book. At first I felt like it was random and just tacked onto the end of the books, but I ended up really liking it. It shows us that there are often challenges even after the Big Boss Battle and that it takes a lot of time to pick up the pieces and make life normal again.