Which comes first: The movie or the book?

WITH Vampire Academy set to hit screens next year, self-confessed mega fan Juliana Mare asks whether it’s better to read the book or watch the movie first.  

All six Vampire Academy books plus the Bloodlines series. Image by Juliana Mare.

With six books in the series, this could be Hollywood’s biggest film adaption since Harry Potter. Photo: Juliana Mare.

Adapting novels into films always causes a tremendous amounts of stress for fans. Will the actors correctly resemble the characters? Will the set design and costumes do your imagination justice? Are they going to skip the scenes you love?

Hollywood is no stranger to book-to-film adaptations. This year, a number of extremely successful book franchises like the Hunger Games, City of Bones and Beautiful Creatures shined on the big screen.

But on March 2014, a new young adult film franchise will launch. With six books in the series, this could be Hollywood’s biggest film saga since Harry Potter.

It’s Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (VA). 

The Plot:

The book series follows the life of Rose Hathaway, a completely badass dhampir (half-vamp, half-human) who’s in training to become a guardian and protect the Moroi species (benevolent vampires) from the Strigoi (ruthless vampires).

Unlike so many young-adult supernatural novels, the VA series isn’t another sappy romance between a human and immortal.

Rose Hathaway is a fierce fighter with superhuman combat skills and a sassy, humorous, I-ain’t-got-time-for-your-nonsense attitude. Although she finds herself some pretty epic relationship drama with her hunky Russian trainer Dimitri, this doesn’t overshadow the plot. Instead, the budding romance only adds fuel to the fire and drama that already exists within the secret vampire world.

The first novel begins with Rose and her best friend Vasilisa ‘Lissa’ Dragomir being forcibly returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a prestigious school where dhampirs are trained to become guardians for the Moroi.

With a rare psychic bond between her and Lissa, Rose is determined to finish her training to ensure she become Lissa’s guardian. But all of this is threatened when Lissa is kidnapped and the book becomes a gripping page-turner to see if she can be found and rescued in time.

The films' promotion poster. All rights reserved.

The films’ promotion poster.

Which brings me to a most important question: What should you do first? Read the book or watch the movie? We ask Meld readers: 

Read the book first:

Once you let someone create a movie that’s representative of his or her own experience or even the author’s, you take that power away from the reader. It’s like finding out what was in your head the whole time was wrong, which shouldn’t be the case. – Jake Manwaring, 21.

Given the style of the films promotional poster, a seemingly clique-y, preppy school with pupils who wear heels (Rose Hathaway would never, ever wear stilettos!), and the director’s prior claim to fame with Mean Girls, I feel like the school setting of VA is going to be too cliche. A predictable boarding school with vampire pupils, which isn’t at all how St. Vladimir’s is conveyed in the books or in my imagination.

“Viewing a movie removes the individual experience. A reader constructs their opinion based on their own history and views. Viewing a film homogenizes this experience because as a viewer you are dictated to, as in this is how characters are supposed to look and sound.” – Jacob Lewis, 29.

The unique, hunter-style school environment and wit, sass and self-professed tomboy nature of the protagonist are what make the books so fantastic so it’s a huge concern for me that these elements may fall short of my expectations.

“I think sometimes having read the book gives you a greater understanding of the movie. For things like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games I often notice little subtleties in the movie that if I didn’t know the back story from the book I wouldn’t pick up.” – Amy Foyster, 22.

Another potential problem for the movie will be adequately conveying the differences between the three vampire species that exist, the Dhampir, Moroi and Strigoi. These unique vampires aren’t found in any other vamp fiction so will be previously unheard of by moviegoers who haven’t read the books.

“Read the book first if you want to understand all the inside jokes that the scriptwriters inject into the film. However, this means you’ll probably expect the movie adaptation to be faithful to the source material and might be disappointed if it isn’t.” – Grace Yew, 21.

While the differences will have to be explained in the film, it’s the little things like a Strigoi’s craving specifically for Moroi blood or their inability to walk on consecrated ground that might sadly go amiss in the screenplay. This may not be damaging to the plot, but it’s these bonus interesting facts that make the book characters seem much more complex and well thought out than their screen counterparts.

Watch the movie first:

You shouldn’t read the book because knowing what happens at times ruins the experience. If you read the book, in your mind you’ve made your own picture of the characters and settings in your head. Therefore if you don’t like the direction of the movie, its mostly because it doesn’t fit what you’ve already imagined.” – Carlos Iacuccio, 20.

And herein lies the crux of the fandom struggle. One of the joys of reading is the ability to independently imagine characters, costumes, locations and accents, absolutely anything any everything else within the book universe. Films take this creativity away.

On the other hand, if you agree with the film making and casting decisions, there’s nothing greater than seeing your favourite fictional characters come to life.

The verdict:

Given how cleverly written the VA books are and how unique the author’s brand of vampires are, I would recommend reading the books, or at least just the first, before the film is released.

The VA world is fascinating because while it fits within the wider supernatural young-adult genre, it’s completely unique, filled with wonderfully complex characters and isn’t bogged down by a cliche love story.

Read the books and fall in love with Rose, Lissa and Dimitri on your own terms before Hollywood sinks its teeth (pun intended!) into this franchise.

Do you agree with Juliana’s verdict? Share in the comment box below! 

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