In almost every ‘which is better, book or movie?’ debate, the book wins. For a plethora of reasons, from intense detail to unique character-building, books are almost always dubbed better than their adaptations.
But what about the film adaptations that are better than their original book?
Offer several examples of adaptations better than their original. Discuss what they do so correctly that allows them to win this battle.
Do they take away the difficult language of a book to make an important story more accessible? Are the characters better rounded and more realistic? Does the film cut out unnecessary details that are included in the book? Is there a changed detail that improves a film — different setting, different main character, different conclusion, perhaps. Is it simply a case of visuals portraying the content better than words can (say, an intense action sequence for example).
There could be ANY number of reasons and ANY number of films to be discussed.
This topic does run the risk of coming across as too subjective though, so ensure that sound analysis is offered to justify your claims.
I like this topic, but I would hesitate to characterize any movie or book as "better" than the other adaptation, because that's strictly a matter of opinion. What I would do instead is, focus on how books and films are completely different mediums, as well as how and why certain books lend themselves better to film adaptations. I might start with longer-form books, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The books are great, but as someone who read them, I'd say they're also a slog. The movies definitely communicate the books' messages more clearly, and leave more room for discussion/exploration. – Stephanie M.1 month ago
I'm so glad you brought up this topic! I don't believe books are always automatically better than their film counterparts. Perhaps it is also a matter of upholding whatever came first. As you mention, there are many films which are based off of an initial written text. What about the case, though far less common, of films where a book was written in conjunction with or second to the film? For example, one of my favorite films is The Third Man. The screenplay was written by Graham Greene, who also developed a novella version. The book does a good job of illustrating certain details one might miss in the film, but the film is a masterpiece when it comes to "underplaying." It only says what it needs to, which makes it so memorable and striking. I also prefer the film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's to Truman Capote's novella, despite the fact that the film departs quite a bit from the source material. One of the reasons is I found Audrey Hepburn's version of Holly Golightly far more vulnerable and sympathetic a character. Truman Capote lingered on the superficiality of his characters, which left me feeling uninterested by comparison. – aprosaicpintofpisces1 month ago
You managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. As has been stated in prior posts, adaptations are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy a film adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the director. As far as adaptation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece,followed by an equally acclaimed film adaptation, one may argue. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process.Nevertheless, it's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the filming process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, it is not uncommon for the reverse to occur and achieve rather successfully. For instance, the Star Trek TV episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels on time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair.A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, in those times there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for shining light on the pressing matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as is today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire1 month ago
I feel like this topic has been discussed over and over again over the past year. I believe there may be an article about this topic on the site over the past year. – Sean Gadus1 month ago
I feel like we have almost moved past the "which is better?" question. Growing up it was always comparing the film to the source text, but as I become older I find myself comparing the media less often. I focus on if the adaptation did the source text justice, and if the changes that were made were justifiable. The film version of Gone Girl, for example, sticks to the novel pretty nicely, but with some detail changes that both enhance and take away from the book. While films like Annihilation and I'm Thinking of Ending Things are different visions from the source texts, and I respect them both for what they are. They almost become separate stories, but so long as the intent of the source text is respected, then I can happily enjoy the film versions. – Benedetto4 weeks ago
I think this is an awesome topic. I recently took a literature and cinematic adaptations course and it was probably one of the best classes I've ever taken. The plethora of subject choices for this topic leaves the submission possibilities endless. Seeing some of the other comments in regards to the 'what's better' stance, I think having an opinion, as long as you provide your reasoning, makes for great reading/ writing. However, I do think an interesting twist to that line of thought would be s to examine whether or not the written work complements the cinematic version, are they sisters or do they seem to be unrelated whatsoever? Awesome topic! – megantheninja3 weeks ago
What exactly do fans want with an adaptation of a comic, book, anime or manga. Sometimes fans are upset because films stick too close to, or deviate too much from the source material. There have been effective adaptations on both ends of the spectrum, but what is it that fans really want to see adapted to the big screen?
I feel like "fans" will never truly 100% agree what they want out of adaptations. Some people really do want the exact same story translated perfectly into the big screen from a book.But others do want an adaptation that is only inspired by the original work, but goes it's own direction.I think there is a balance to be found between paying respect and homage to the original work, while also trying new things that only the medium you're adapting into can pull off. – Dimitri2 years ago
I think a good adaptation needs to stand on its own, apart from the source material. Whether the adaptation sticks closely to the original source material, or it deviates into something else, it needs to be able to be viewed without knowledge of the source material. I think video game movies often make the mistake of trying to stay true to the game, and end up creating a movie that is only enjoyable (or sometimes comprehensible) by those who have played the game already. – rachelfreeman2 years ago
I agree with rachelfreeman and also think a good adaptation needs to stand on its own. That thought works really well with your title ("What does a good adaptation look like?") but quite not so well with your subsequent discussion of fans. Perhaps a better title would be "What do fans want in an adaptation?"My sense is that fans would mostly want a very "faithful" (or literal) adaptation. To me, the word "fan" suggests a strong emotional attachment, not simply strong appreciation of a work. – JamesBKelley2 years ago
The biggest complaint I see from adaptations is that a season's worth of anime content gets crammed into a movie-length live-action adaptation. There's no proper way to do that without major pacing issues and lack of character development. I don't personally believe the change in format from animation to live-action is the problem, just the limitations of the story format of series to movie and so forth. – Slaidey2 years ago
I do not think that maintaining fidelity with original work earns the adaptation brownie points. These are two different worlds. You cannot just put out a verbatim original work on the screen, due to its limited time frame and content presentation. But this does reduce the artistic creativity of the screenplay writer and the director. The movie has to adapt a different narrative technique, which all runs down to how the director wishes it manifest in the screen. – Azira101phale2 years ago
In terms of the topic and its intended title, my inclination is to say that a good adaptation is grounded in the original objective, one. Two, it thrives in its current literary climate from either perspective: fan, critic, understudy or advocate. The ultimate test is, three; does it contribute fruitfully to its own category of art as well as any periphery discipline, where one would least expect it to emerge and actually pique unlikely audiences? – L:Freire1 year ago
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about the dissolution of the physical descriptions of characters in books if the narrative does not periodically draw attention to their descriptions, and particularly if the character’s physical description is not a crucial part to the story (e.g. Harry Potter’s tousled hair, scar, and "eyes like his mother’s," etc.). Instead, we posited, readers start to develop their own visions of the characters in their mind based on the people in their life with similar personalities. What are the psychological factors at play here and what are the ramifications of this? Is this valid?
Alternatively, how critical are physical descriptions in casting adaptations of novels? Are they more or less critical than establishing the same personalities/motivations of the character in the novel? Why?
This is super relevant topic especially considering race, a common statement made today when a PoC is casted in a book adaptation, for example "The Darkest Minds" people say that the main characters race was never specified so people could interpret her in anyway they like. Seeing how physical descriptions affects a readers perception on a characters would be a fascinating topic – tmtonji2 years ago
These are two interesting topics that may serve better as a two-part series than one combined piece, unless you could have one naturally flow into the other.That being said, the first component here is relevant to aspiring writers and those who want to consume writing content in a more informed way. I for one would love to read that piece and learn more about how we construct fictional worlds (characters, but this could also extend to things like objects, sensory experiences, and settings) from our own collections of experiences, and how writers best help us recall those experiences in their own work.The second component, as tmtonji discussed earlier, is very relevant politically. To reference your example of Harry Potter, the casting of Noma Dumezweni as Hermione in the London performance of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" made headlines and (I would posit) introduced the public to changing the way we imagine characters or link their identities to race. Another example is the Marvel company's changing of race and gender of some of their classic characters (perhaps, more accurately a transfer of a character's title to a different canonical character, but still) and how different audiences have reacted. It's definitely something you could delve deeply into. – Shaboostein2 years ago
I am highly interested in this topic and how readers (psychologically) make their characters look like in their minds. For instance, Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series was never described in terms of skin color, and this goes for many other characters in other books as well. An important note to make when writing this article is how many book adaptations to film tend to have light-skinned actors/actresses, and figure out whether it is intentional or not, and WHY this occurs so often. – Yvonne T.2 years ago
This is a great topic. Personally, when Im reading I prefer character descriptions to be vivid and frequent. I can't pot a random face to a character when I read. I don't know if this is due to my own inability of imagination or what. But I also feel that since reading is a form of escapism for a lot of people, making a characters face in the image of someone they know might be counter intuitive. – vmainella2 years ago
Film adaptations are the result of taking a story, usually a text, and adapting it to, well, film. Adapting a piece of work for the screen is not easy. A novel, for example, was created with specific detail. Taking a 300-page novel and condensing it into a 120-minute film is challenging. You are forced to remove or adjust certain characteristics to fit concerns, like financing. Otherwise, you may have a short story with hopes to create a full feature. That’s just the beginning. Imagine if there is a verbal story carried on through generations. What does a screenwriter do then?
Can something that was created for another medium successfully "work" as a film, narratively and stylistically?
Optimally, art should be as protean as possible, and the borders between the various art media should be as porous, permeable, and flexible as possible, so as to foster dialogue (meta and otherwise) between media. Film adaptations at their best are a great reflection of this ideal, but it begs the question: why are the inverses--film novelizations, say--not nearly as prominent? Novelizations do not have nearly as great a critical reputation as adaptations; they are usually hastily written cheap paperbacks, sold as tie-ins and/or for franchise-building, out of print quickly. If filmmakers have frequently been able to distill novels into films--into effective unions of image and sound derived from text--then why can't (or don't) authors expand images and sounds into text that can interact meaningfully and/or provocatively with the film by addition, subtraction and/or alteration, as film adaptations do with their source texts? If novels are used as source material for other media but films aren't, what does that say about how our culture values (or not) those media in terms of art and entertainment? Of course films can expand upon novels, so could novels not expand upon films by, for instance, coloring in the characters' psychological states? Novelizations, qua adaptations, provide (I believe) a ripe opportunity for artistic renaissance, if there are any authors out there willing to consider it and take the plunge! – Alec Johnsson3 years ago
Coincidentally I have recently watched 'Ten Canoes' (2006), an Australian film entirely in the Aboriginal languages used by those who appear in it. It's a morality tale told during a hunting expedition, which attempts to address the verbal story carried on across generations theme you suggested. Well worth watching. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different. – Amyus3 years ago
I think the worst decision you can make is to try to copy and paste a book scene for scene and make it a movie. With a completely different medium, screenwriters and directors need to make conscious cuts and changes because the books were never intended as a blueprint for a film. Changes have to be made.To see successful adaptions, I suggest you look at how screenwriters and directors make conscious changes to the source material. Example: Both Godfather book and film are successful but Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola make decisions about cutting material from the book and changing some things.L.A. confidential by James Ellroy was another successful adaption in 1997 by Curtis Hanson (with Russel Crowe, Kim Bassinger, Kevin Spacey, and Guy Pearce. In order to adapt the 500-600 page book, clear changes were made to the source material, entire storylines were cut, but the movie captured the essence of the book and it was an impressive creation on its own right.Another fascinating adaption is Blade Runner, which is vastly different than its book counterpart (Do Androids Dream...By Philip K. Dick) yet was a huge influence on many films and books and has surpassed the popularity of the film. – Sean Gadus3 years ago