What Makes a Good Movie Adaptation
Sun, April 18, 2021

What Makes a Good Movie Adaptation

Film is one of, if not the most, popular mediums used to adapt books and tell their stories in a different way / Photo by: Neil Judson via Wikimedia Commons

 

Film is one of, if not the most, popular mediums used to adapt books and tell their stories in a different way. If a book already has a large following, the anticipation for its adaptation on screen reflects on its success. In fact, book-to-film adaptations are usually more successful compared to original screenplays, according to the Medium, an online publishing platform.

However, racking up more revenue at the box office doesn't necessarily mean that the audience considers these adaptations as equally as good or giving justice to the books' narrative.

 

Good or Bad Adaptations Are Subjective

Every medium has its limitations in storytelling. For cinema, English writer Virginia Woolf said it's accurately displaying descriptive images that match the words on the book. The Artifice says the power of words is emphasized when written and read—making a great impact on the reader even without cinematic portrayal. The Artifice is an independent online magazine covering a wide spectrum of art media and focuses on "unique topics that are intellectually stimulating and meaningful."

It adds that the imagery of an object described in a book differs from one person to another, but in the cinematic world, only the director of the film has the complete control of its portrayal. The audience is shown the director's ideal depiction of the object—using the aesthetics of film production in a bid to enhance the words on a page—which they may find as a "bad adaptation."

This can be seen in the "Harry Potter" film adaptations, in which major scenes left many fans disappointed. For instance, the scene where Voldemort dies was originally written as him simply collapsing on the ground. This showed that the Dark Lord was merely a human being and not the godly overlord that he saw himself to be.

It adds that the imagery of an object described in a book differs from one person to another, but in the cinematic world, only the director of the film has the complete control of its portrayal / Photo by: PPEkk via Wikimedia Commons

 

However, the director chose to present Voldemort's death through visual effects in which the Dark Lord disintegrated into ashes—the complete opposite of what the author, J.K. Rowling, wanted to show and what the fans wanted to see.

The Harry Potter fandom had differing opinions regarding this particular scene, according to The Artifice. While some were disappointed that it was an "inaccurate display of the original storyline," others simply loved all of the films for the artistic and cinematic qualities put in the production.

"The subjective nature of deciding what makes a ‘good’ adaptation vs. what makes a ‘bad’ adaptation lies upon individuals and what they see as good cinematography or a good storyline," the online magazine concludes.

"Ultimately, the decision lies in the directors’ hands, yet the audience subjectively decides their preferences for either the original play/book or the films. It is impossible to impress every single fan, as some fans appreciate the written qualities of the books while others enjoy the cinematic qualities in films."

Making a Good Adaptation

The biggest challenge to any book-to-film adaptation is meeting the expectations of the books' fans. There are so many of them, with differing expectations and perceptions, that it's virtually impossible to satisfy them all. However, creating an adaptation that many can collectively acknowledge as being good, or at least as good as a literary adaptation can be, could still be possible.

The Film Magazine, an online magazine that provides in-depth, insightful, and engaging content regarding cinema, compiled a list of factors that should be considered in creating a book-to-film adaptation that may help in creating a good adaptation.

• Honor the source material - adaptations don't necessarily mean following everything literally by the book. Instead, what's important is going by the narrative of the original work as closely as possible without drawing out too much. This is the reason why there are films split into a series since the book itself is a series. Include the key events of the book as well as ensure that the plot flows smoothly while staying true to the narrative.

The biggest challenge to any book-to-film adaptation is meeting the expectations of the books' fans / Photo by: Free-Photos via Pixabay

 

• Work with the author - having the author's input can be a great asset to the production. After all, they are the brains behind the story. Pleasing and entertaining the audience is important to film adaptation, but it should be noted that it's also important to listen to the author to bring out the work's full potential.

• Consider the future - think about the possible changes that may need to happen, especially if the adaptation will be based on a book series. It's possible that the cast and crew of the whole production may need to be updated in order to accommodate the possible changes.

• Listen to the fans - if a book has an existing fan base, take their inputs into consideration. They are the people who know the story like the back of their hand and the production's main target audience.

• Know what you're getting into - this is one of the biggest mistakes in film adaptations, according to Film Magazine. Simply turning a book into a movie for the sake of it (or for the money) will likely lead to failure if the whole material is not taken into consideration.