Investigated – What makes a good adaptation?

Posted May 13, 2014 by Emz Chang in Investigated / 2 Comments

investigated
It is starting to seem like my favorite to talk about is book to movie adaptations. With 2014 dubbed as the “year of book movies” it’s hard to get me to shut up about them. I promise I’ll try to limit my posts on them, but today my friends and I were talking about them and I just had to share my thoughts. Our discussion basically boiled down to the question “what makes a good book to movie adaptation?” So here are some of the things I feel make or break a book movie.

Author Involvement
I think this one is a bit tricky. You want the author to be involved in turning their story into somewhat of a reality (or as real as you can get). But you also don’t want to give them too much control. I think areas authors should be involved in are the plot, the set design, and the script. The plot. Authors know their story the best so I think they can help producers and everyone who is involved tell the story right. They know the storyline – what happens, when it happens, why it happens. They know the setting. Should it be more dark and gloomy or should it be more cheery? And most importantly, they know their characters. They know what each character will and won’t say and do. Take Percy Jackson for example. While it can be considered a good movie, it is a horrible, horrible adaptation. Most of the things that were wrong with it could have been fixed with some help from Rick Riordan (who was not included at all). On the flip side, you don’t want them to have total control. Most authors only have a vague idea of how the movie industry works. Most of them also have an idea of how each of their characters looks. And this is why it isn’t exactly the best idea to let them be in charge of casting – they probably are more likely to cast on looks, rather than talent. There is also a thin line of what works in a book and what works in a movie. Authors may be more inclined to stick as close to their storyline as possible, even though it might make the movie goers suffer.

Good Actors
This one is another tricky one. The problem with casting for a movie adapted from a book is that most of the audience will already have a preconceived notion of what each character looks like. So not only do the producers and casting directors have to find people who can act, they also have to find people that can somewhat look the part. So many movies have been ruined by the struggle to find the balance between talent and looks. People are a bit alienated when the actors look too far off from what they envisioned. But they are also irritated when an actor needs to improve his / her acting chops. Personally I would rather have an actor that somewhat looked like the character, but has a lot of talent. That brings me to my next point…

Character Descriptions
For the most part, I believe that character descriptions should be followed to an extent. Only the important features should matter. For example, it didn’t matter that Daniel Radcliffe had blue eyes, but Harry Potter has green ones. It won’t matter that Ansel Elgort has brown eyes while Gus has blue ones. However, it does matter that Alexandra Daddario, the actress that played Annabeth, was a brunette in the movie, while Annabeth is a blonde in the books.

Staying True to the Book
This one is kind of obvious as well, but like a lot of the other points I mentioned, I feel like this should only apply to a limit. Before you guys start yelling at me, let me explain. Some things that work well in books, like telepathic communication, just doesn’t work so well in movies. Who wants to go to the movies just to see two actors stare at each other while listening to a voice over? That being said, the movie should not go over what happens in the first book of a series, and then some of the second book too, all under one movie under the name of the first book.

What do you think?
What makes a good adaptation?

Emz Chang

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2 responses to “Investigated – What makes a good adaptation?

  1. Staying true to the book is so important. Sure some things may need to be simplified to make it easier for time constraints, etc. But don’t change the dang story!