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I watched all 8 of the Harry Potter movies before I even cracked open the first book. My Potterhead friends hated that. They told me, “But the books are so much better! If you don't read the books you won't get what's going on!” My reasoning to them was this: if I read the books, I would always be comparing the films with the books, and I wanted to enjoy the films for what they are before inevitably ruining them with the genius, detailed storytelling the book offers.
My boyfriend, who has a degree in Film Studies and who frequently works on the sets of TV shows and movies, told me that film is a completely different artform than literature and should be treated as such. When I complained to him that it's the little clever moments of dialogue or rhythm in the storytelling that I craved in the movie adaptations, he made a great point that those moments are specific to the reader and it would be impossible to realize all of that in a 2 hour movie (or 7 seasons of a TV show… ahem, Game Of Thrones). It seems to me that movies tell the story of what is happening while books tell us how it happened. Showing Harry’s hallucinogenic dream of Dobby’s heads as Christmas baubles or Sirius singing “God rest ye merry hippogriff”, I'll admit, though reluctantly, does not help move the story along. After all, this is why 2-hour-long movies are wildly more popular in our world which is constantly searching for instant gratification than one-week-long books. And it's true; if you can find out what happens in an entire story in 2 hours, why find out in a week?
For a lot of people, just watching the story happen is enough. You get the jist of the story accompanied, more often than not, by spectacular explosions and steamy kisses between two very attractive people. It's easy, it's quick, and you can move on with your life right after the closing credits (which you should always sit through, post about that coming soon). But if the movie is made well enough, it should act as a book trailer to those who have yet to experience the book in all of its unabridged glory. It should leave you wanting more. And this is often where I find myself: wanting to flesh out the skeleton that is the movie.
Now, for those of you out there (and I know you exist), who argue that the book should always be consumed first so that you can build your images of the characters first without the corruption of popular actors and director’s decisions, I am going to offer another way of thinking. I am a strong believer that knowing something happens doesn't mean you know how it happens. Because of this, the movie adaptations cannot hurt the books. I am also a believer that movie characters and book characters are different people with different motives and needs; think of them as being in parallel universes with mostly similarities and a few key differences. Therefore, it is easy for me to separate the movie portrayal of them and the ones from the book which I've built up in my imagination.
Finally, I would like to offer up some Kathee logic. It is almost always better to go from less to more, be it food, friends, or puppies. Therefore, theoretically, it should be better going from film, which has less information, to literature, which has much more. Just think! By watching the movie first, you'll get to enjoy it as it was intended to be enjoyed without having to constantly compare it to your colorful, vast, personal imagination. And afterwards, when you do decide to pick up the book, you'll be visiting an old friend, and getting to know them better.