I’m one of those of those readers who tells people, unequivocally, that they SHOULD see movies based on books BEFORE reading the books. Otherwise, they’re never going to appreciate the movie on anything resembling its own merits — just on its worth as an adaptation of a beloved story. Nothing’s Ever Gonna Match Up.
I think there are quite a few movies that manage to be Great Movies while simultaneously being based on Even Greater Books. The Princess Bride is an example of this. I also think there are movies that manage to be Better than the books they are derived from purely on the dated nature of the original story. A Christmas Carol, I think, has quite a few phenomenal adaptions that are arguably more accessible and interesting (or at least more affecting) than the original Dickens novella. (And I LIKE the original story.)
I had never read any of Tolkien’s works before seeing Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I fell in love with characters, creatures, settings — whole eras and epochs of a made-up fantasy world — without ever having read the books they were inspired by. It’s rare for me to not immediately pick up and devour the books of movies I enjoy, but in this case I tried and failed. Many, many times. For whatever reason, I could not for the life of me get into the books.
But I am a firm believer in books speaking to you at different times of your life, in different ways — sometimes never again, sometimes for the very first time. I’ve re-read books and had my entire perception of them changed, or received entirely new insights, or focused on characters I had barely noticed before.
So it is, I suspect, with my current enjoyment of The Hobbit.
Intelligent, silly, richly drawn and infinitely mesmerizing, Bilbo’s journey there and back again is gripping me in its dragon talons, for the first time ever. Maybe I, too, have a secret yearning for adventure though I often rail against change. Maybe I am in need of a gruff and clever wizard to shake me out of my hobbit-hole and force me on an epic quest. Wherever the draw is coming from, I am just loving The Hobbit.
I’ll post more as I go along — the band of travelers has just left Rivendell. The elves are unrecognizable! Very funny little interlude.