'Dragon Tattoo': Is it better that I didn't read the book?

December 6, 2011
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I’m about to go into a screening of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” having not read the book or its sequels. Honestly, I don’t really have much of a clue what it’s about.

As a rule, I tend to prefer going into movies completely cold, letting the film stand on its own and not having it compete with my own mental images I’ve created from reading. Only a few books I've loved have made the transition into films I've loved. A short list would include "Double Indemnity," "Never Let Me Go," and "The Princess Bride.")

But I also know that I am very unlikely to read a book once I have seen the film version.

What about you?

Does seeing a film spark a desire to read its source material? Does reading a book make you more or less likely to enjoy a film adapted from it?

And are you looking forward to seeing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”? (If you are seething with jealousy over my early look, you should know that I’ll be announcing a sneak preview event here shortly. Check back soon.)

Side note: If it were up to me, there’d be an industry-wide ban on previews that show even a glimpse of anything that happens in the second half of a movie. And while I appreciate detailed film criticism after I see a film, if I’m reading a piece prior to a screening, I’m furious at writers who tell too much.

Your thoughts?

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  • Agree with Lou
    I agree with Lou when it comes to viewing movies completely cold. The movie should stand on its own merits and often knowing the storyline can ruin the experience.
  • The Girl Who...
    The movies, while interesting, do not and can not come close to showing the plots' tension; dept of character development and Swedish geography. Having listened to the trilogy via books on CD, I had formed preconceptions of the characters. I wasn't entirely disappointed in the movies' actors, but the movie was not additive to my experience.

    The movies (available by streaming from Amazon in subtitle format) are good but pale representations of the novels and necessarily so due to time compression.
  • Lost in translation
    I never had time to read back in college because I was always studying but now that life has slowed own a little, I can attribute my amazon kindle to reason why I read much more now. I did read the Devil Wears prada prior to seeing the movie and thought that the movie could have been so much better. According to my friend who has read dragon tattoo, she said that the first 100 pages are pointless and very dry, then the book gets good. I guess it just depends. I love all films that were made from John Grisham's work, but I can honestly say that all of his books are incredibly boring in the beginning because he tries to give way to much background story and way too much detail about the way the law works instead of focusing on the plot. Go figure though, he was a lawyer.
  • Depends on the book
    I agree most of the time the movie falls way short of the scenes and images I create in my mind but there have been a few that enhanced my experience by reading the book first. The best example for me was Water for Elephants. I read the book during a week's vacation and couldn't put it down, I don't remember much about the trip except for that book! It was great to see how similar the movie was to the images I created and felt closer to the characters since we had already shared a vacation together!
  • Read AND see
    If I love a book I want to see the movie; though I typically expect the book to be better. Having seen, and loved, all of the Harry Potter movies (and I'm an older adult) makes me want to read the books. Go figure.
  • Films usually don't measure up
    It has been my experience the the essence of a book is hard to capture on film, and most films do not succeed in doing so. Exceptions for me would be few...the Godfather and Silence of the Lambs are two that are very good in both forms, though I'd not call Thomas Harris any more than a crime novelist...indeed Demme's film may be better than the book. As for reading the book after the movie, I have done it once because the film was so underated I wanted to read it's source material..."A Simple Plan" was a really good film, and the book is excellent also. I agree that reviewers should not reveal key plot points also...I am with you on that.
  • Girl
    Does this mean that you also missed the 3 Swedish films based on the Millenium Triology? Too bad -- the three books and the Swedish movies were very gripping. What was interesting, from a mystery afficiando's viewpoint, is that each of the Stieg Larsson's books represent a different mystery genre (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - locked room genre; Girl Who Played with Fire, police procedural genre, etc.) Also Noomi Rapace was phenonmenal in the all 3 films. Daniel Craig could be suffient to help carry the US adaptaion, but I worry about Rooney Mara in the lynchpin role of Lisbeth Salander I plan, with some trepidation, to see this film although I ususally dislike remakes.
  • Flexible Rule
    I don't have a hard and fast rule on whether to read a book before seeing a movie adaptation. However, reading some books, like the Stieg Larsson's "Girl" books, helps fill in the gaps when I see the movies. Books can provide some additional context for plot-dense movies that cannot devote the time to all the subplots or nuances.
  • Cut to the Chase
    While overall I have enjoyed the first two books in this triology, I must say that I will probably like the paring down that will be necessary for the movie.
  • Books and movie trailers
    I have seldom read the book after seeing the movie version, but if I liked a book, I'm generally interested in seeing the movie to see the film makers vision.

    As for movie trailers, I HATE it when they give away too many important plot points. I remember when movie trailers were just teasers that only introduced a bit about the movie. These days, they sometimes include a pivitol scene and it drives me nuts!
  • Book lover
    Read the book first! I love to read, and can picture the characters in my head immediately. The movie may hit or miss on the choice of actors, but it allows me to see how Hollywood portrays the main character. In recent times, Harry Potter was spot on while in the past Clark Gable was the perfect Rhett Butler to Vivien Leigh's Scarlett. Grisholm' books are always better than the movies, while Stephen Kings movies generally pick out just the highlights of his books. I would pick a book over a movie any day... The movie just "colors" the book!

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