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Books vs. Film: The Adaptation Debate

As long as there has been film, there have been adaptations of novels translated to the screen. The debate has always raged when it came to these adaptations about whether the film "holds up" to the novel in comparison, either by transferring it faithfully to the screen or doing enough different to merit individual worth. The debate has always favored the novel over the film adaptation, but why exactly is that the case? Is it because the original has final authority over the material? How do people interact and absorb stories differently through these medium? What are some examples of film adaptations surpassing their novel counterparts?

  • 'Surpassing' is subjective, I'd come up with a standard definition for that. I personally like the penultimate question best, but no edit required; it's simply a very open-ended prompt. – m-cubed 6 years ago
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  • My favorite example of this debate is James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential vs. the 1997 film. The two versions share common threads but are distinctly different. I would also look at novels adapted by their writers like Perks of Being A Wallflower and the Godfather, where the authors had a hand in the film versions. – SeanGadus 6 years ago
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  • Personally I don't think that it's wholly fair to compare a film to the book it was based off of. If an adaptation is worthwhile, then it should stand alone without requiring reference to the text on which it's based. That said, I think it's somewhat bizarre that films are often adapted from books in a way that's meant to be a 'faithful' representation. Can you imagine if someone tried to do the opposite, and turn a movie into a book? I'm all for mediums inspiring each other, and there are plenty of great film adaptations of movies, but I think ultimately a 1:1 translation of art to a new medium is impossible, which may account for why most film adaptations are so awful. – woollyb 6 years ago
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  • I don't personally think we could have an answer for this. As a book leaves the reader to view the world however he pleases most of the people who prefer the novel adaptations are offering a subjective opinion. Reaching an objective stance on this is going to be tricky as results always vary. – TheUbiquitousAnomaly 6 years ago
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  • A lot of the classic examples of films considered to have surpassed the novel are often films that most viewers aren't even aware was originally based upon a novel to begin with thus allowing the viewers to see the movie on its own merits first. Whereas novels that were mainstream popular prior to film releases are rarely considered to measure up. – Bookaddict27 6 years ago
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  • Books are the soul to another universe. And movies takes you to that universe. For me after reading he HP series and watching the film, it's a little disappointing but I keep wanting to watch the movie over and over again, because it kinda transports me into a universe which I can visually see. Some movies like Sherlock Holmes, in which I have not read any books on, makea me want to write a hold of the novel to read them, and not the movie adaptation but he original novel. Hence, I can't say for sure if we have a true answer! – Zuccy 6 years ago
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  • Books require more attention to detail and more concentration. It had *more* in it. However, I believe that some books are better as movies - such as 'The Martian', as it is written as a documentary on film. – essie 6 years ago
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The Pros and Cons of Longer Movies

Oftentimes, particularly if a movie is an adaption from a longer novel, fans moan and complain about key details and scenes left out. Sometimes it is even released later that those scenes were filmed and subsequently cut to save time. "We’ll watch a 6-hour movie that is an exact replica of the book," they say. But would we? And more importantly, would movie theaters play them? In the ever growing market for adaptations, it might be time to examine the pros and cons of making longer, more accurate films.

  • I have friends who have watched the extended edition of Lord of the Rings on more than one occasion, so I would say that if the storyline is something they're devoted to, it's quite possible that people would be willing to sit for it. The con to that would of course be the small attention spans and the chance that nobody would ever want to watch the movie again. I've seen Titanic at least ten times in my life, so I would say that six hours may be pushing it, but saying that the average movie length of an hour and half may not give the viewer the full effect they're so craving, would not be an understatement. – Shelbi Sarver 6 years ago
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  • I think 6 hours is a lot but I would not mind watching a 3 hour movie if all the key scenes from the novel were present and that the editing is well done that the movie is not dragging. – sheffieldprintco 6 years ago
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  • Analyzing audience is a vital part of weighing the stakes. If you develop a longer film, which is heavily detailed according to a novel,etc., you run the risk of limiting your audience to watchers that consist of a preconceived fan bases of the novel, comic book, video game. Whereas, a viewer with no prior knowledge of the story might be turned off, as details don't often translate to an entertaining film, as suspense is at a higher risk of diminishing with longer bouts of time. However, the reverse is also a potentiality. You may serve to expand film goers', who generally seek instant gratification over quality of character and plot development...just a thought. – TortoiseGlasses 6 years ago
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From comic to film: deviate from or abide by the original?

This seems like a controversial issue in the wake of all the new Marvel/DC Comic movies. In light of all the talk over Suicide Squad, there seems to be a rising debate. Should film adaptations follow the characters and plot lines, or are the comics just inspiration for a blockbuster? Every time something Batman related in particular comes out, there is a storm of analysis and critique about the abidance to the original story in the comics, or the original TV shows. Perhaps they altered a character’s personality, or the origins of the character’s story. This is always met with vehement criticism. But why? Is there really any harm in being inspired by a character’s story, and taking it and running with something new? Is it just glorified fan fiction then? Why or why not is it important to remember the comics in all of this? What are the pros and cons either way?

  • Other examples, which represent both sides of the argument: "V for Vendetta" "300" "Sin City" "Wanted" "Constantine" – Tarben 6 years ago
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  • Very interesting topic but very heavy in content. When writing this it would be good to organize this well and be careful to keep an unbiased tone -- especially when discussing pros and cons, glorified fan fiction, and why comics/origins are and aren't important. I'm not sure if this would work, but perhaps organizing this topic in terms of a compare and contrasts with an ending critique/opinion would be best. – Mela 6 years ago
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  • I think the crux of adaptations are that they must keep the spirit of the story alive. Yes, the characters can change and evolve. Spiderman has been successful because it has kept the character of the misunderstood hero intact. The same with LOTR, small Hobbit triumphs over massive evil with a tiny band of hopefuls. My view would be if it ain't broke, don't fix it. – Munjeera 6 years ago
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  • Abide all the way – Riccio 6 years ago
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  • I definitely agree with Mela that structuring it as an objective compare/contrast of both sides, and ending with a critique/opinion would work best. – eadewaard 6 years ago
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  • I think one consequence of overdoing truth to the comics is the general flatness of the MCU. It isn't quite realism and it isn't quite camp. This is because they refuse to create a world different from the one in the comics, so the films often fail to come alive in the new medium. – TKing 6 years ago
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  • That depends... If Oliver Stone's writing the screenplay, feel free, Olly, to change nothing from the original. If Vince Gilligan's doing the screenplay, give him carte blanche. – Tigey 6 years ago
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  • You would also have to define the parameters of this article, as there are so many ways to look at the films. You have the MCU, The DCU (both film and screen), then there is the animated films that DC produce which stick closer to source material than some of the films, as well as the original batman films. It is a very rich area and so would need to become more focused. – Tyler McPherson 6 years ago
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  • An example might be the way the Watchmen movie was done. Many scenes were visually the same as comic panels, and dialogue was often word for word. However, some people didn't like that certain plot threads got left out or deemphasized even though the movie was already long enough, and I'm not certain how much sense it would've made if I hadn't read the graphic novel first. So should an adaptation be reinterpreting the ideas for now, or just moving from one medium to another? – sk8knight 6 years ago
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