Alright, here’s my policy: If at all possible, watch the movie before reading the book.
Why? Because the movie is almost always a let down after you’ve read the book. By watching the movie first, I can enjoy it as it is, and then I can read the book and appreciate it for what it is. That being said, I’m still going to be the first one in line to see The Hobbit in December, but that’s because the director has basically devoted his life to Tolkien.
Now I’m not saying every movie based on a novel is a terrible let down. The Lord of the Rings movies are excellent. The Harry Potter movies are pretty good, as are the new Narnia movies.
But just because a book is amazing, that doesn’t mean it will make an amazing movie. I saw The Hunger Games movie earlier this year. However, I had read the book beforehand, so I wasn’t entirely impressed. In the movie I didn’t get any of Katniss’ thought process, so it felt like a silent movie with a bunch of action scenes. If I hadn’t read the book before seeing the film, I think I would have been terribly confused.
I saw Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist when it came out. I remember enjoying it, but I didn’t remember all too much of it. Recently I actually read the book and absolutely loved it. But upon re-watching the movie, I couldn’t stand it. The movie was a huge let down. The basic premise was there, but the plot was morphed and the thought process wasn’t there.
And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, I’m sure you’re waiting for my opinion of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. It was awful. I will say no more.
My suggestion: Unless you’re willing to minimally edit what happens (and, if possible, work with the author) don’t turn books into movies. That being said, I think it’s a huge honor for any author to have their book turned into a film. Just the fact that people liked your book so much should be enough, regardless of the quality of the film.