Recently I signed up to a free one-month trial of Netflix, the online film and TV streaming service. My main motivation for this was so that I could binge my way through several seasons of Battlestar Galactica without having to buy them on DVD, which I did in shamefully short order. Having greedily plowed through Battlestar and two seasons of Heroes, I began to explore more of what Netflix had to offer. For those who haven’t used Netflix before, while you can search through to see what takes your fancy, you are also given a number of recommendations by Netflix based on what you have watched so far. Unsurprisingly I was recommended all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy films and TV shows, but one in particular kept popping up, which was one of the Hunger Games films.
Given my enjoyment of all things sci-fi and fantasy, the Hunger Games should be a safe bet as something I’ll enjoy, but as it happens I simply wasn’t interested (regardless of how many times Netflix suggested it!). The reason? I’ve only read the first book in the series. Yep, that’s right – I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to see a film adaptation until they’ve read the book. Now, I can already hear the shocked exclamations – “You’ve only read the first Hunger Games? How could you not read them all?” The honest answer is that I didn’t want to binge my way through all three one after the other (see Battlestar, above!) so I deliberately didn’t pick up the second one straight away. Since then I’ve just not got round to reading the other two – I will do though. Until then however, I’m not interested in watching the movies. It’s not because I don’t think they’ll be good – I thoroughly enjoyed the first film – just that I always prefer to build my own idea of what characters, places, and scenes look like before I see someone else’s interpretation.
There’s a perception that films based on books are never as good as the original book (or indeed that books based on films are never as good). That’s often the case – I’m perfectly happy to risk endless fanboy wrath by sticking to my belief that none of the Harry Potter films come anywhere near the novels – but I still enjoy watching them. In fact I rather like seeing how close the film version is to what I’ve got in my head, and often the films are wonderfully detailed and pick things out that I missed or couldn’t have imagined as beautifully. It’s always building on top of the picture I’ve got in my head though, rather than the other way round.
I think it’s because I’ve always been far more of a reader than a film watcher; as a child I was forever with my head stuck in a book, and while I recall watching films they were mostly repeated viewings of Disney’s Robin Hood or The Blues Brothers. The cinema was a rare treat, as was a trip to the video store, but our house is, was and will forever be overflowing with books. As such I’ve spent so much time living in my imagination that it just seems natural to read something first before watching it. There are exceptions, of course. I watched the magnificent Swedish film Let the Right One In at the cinema without realising that it had been a novel first – that’s on my shelf waiting to be read. Like most of us I imagine, I watched all of the early James Bond films as a child, and am only now catching up on reading the original Ian Fleming novels.
My feeling on this doesn’t always go down well. Not everyone feels the same way I do, and that’s absolutely fine by me; it is after all just my own choice. Plenty of people enjoy seeing a film first, or even seeing a film instead of reading the book (although that’s just plain weird), and it is of course each person’s choice. I’m sticking to my guns though – there’s something about a good book that just imprints on my brain, and I can’t help wanting to get that before someone else gets there. I’ll get round to watching the rest of the Hunger Games films, but not until I get round to reading the books first. I think I’m perfectly justified in doing so.
Or maybe I’m just being awkward.