Another Rant About Adaptations of Books

Posted July 25, 2016 by Emily in Investigated / 5 Comments

Another rant about adaptations of books

Welcome to my yearly rant about book to movie whatever adaptations. I’ve done a lot of posts about them in the past like this one and this one and this one. I have mixed feelings about adaptations in general.

I just feel like they were the product of laziness. And I say that in the nicest way possible, as I’m pretty lazy myself. Sometimes adaptations feel like the child of someone too lazy to come up with a new story. Someone too lazy to look for people to buy tickets to see the movie. Too often, I feel like book to whatever format adaptations are the easy way out for someone to make money.

Where’s the new story? Where is the new adventure and characters? And okay, so no book or movie or pretty much anything with a plot and characters can ever be considered truly original (hello archetypes). But I feel like adaptations are often a slap to the face when I want to feast my eyes on new content.

When I go to the movie theater (or borrow a DVD from the library), I usually want to experience a new story and not end up watching a story I’ve already read. And I especially do not want to go the movies to see my dream, my vision of a book and its story, come tumbling down and burst into flames because the movie is nothing like how I imagined the book to be.

I can appreciate adaptations in their ability bring stories to life in ways words cannot. They add color and dimension, faces and bodies to characters that were once mere silhouettes. They breathe life to a world that once only existed in my imagination and the pages of a book. But what I cannot appreciate is the fact they often feel like knockoffs and don’t do its source material any justice at all.

Hollywood, like virtually every other industry and business, is driven by money. And what better way to make money than to take something with a built in fan base and sell it in a different format. What better way to make money than to turn a three book series into three movies and a TV show (Divergent, I’m looking at you). The more things consumers can buy equals more money corporations can make.

And going back to the doing the source material justice point, very few things fill me with as much frustration as poor adaptations of a good book. Whether it’s completely messing up the casting (and no, I’m not talking about eye color) or the story, it all makes me want to bang my head against the wall. How hard is it to pick up a copy of a book and read it? Or pick up a phone and call the author if something needs to be fact checked?

I know that some aspects of a book need to be changed when it’s adapted into either a movie or TV show. I know that some things that work in a book simply will not fly on screen. I get it. I understand. What I don’t get is when movies and TV shows completely change the plotline of the book. Like what?. If you’re going to market a TV show or movie as an adaption, you would think that it would be close to whatever it was adapted from, but that’s not the case for too many adaptations.

And sometimes those “adaptations” aren’t even really adaptations at all. Not only are they not true to the book in terms of plot, the characters also feel like complete strangers, despite spending more than three hours with them every book. It feels like only the concept of the story was actually adapted and not the story itself. Which is depressing when the only reason why you’re even in the theater, watching that film, is because you loved the story the book told.

Wow, it kind of sounds like I hate adaptations of books. But that’s actually not completely true. I just happen to have way too many bad experiences with them to count. But even I cannot deny the benefits of adaptations.

Adaptations have the power many books sadly do not have by themselves and that is to bring people into our little niche. You would be surprised by the number of people I know who only fell in love with reading after seeing a particularly well-done book to movie adaptation.

And then there’s also the fact that for every book to whatever adaptation, Hollywood and that industry aren’t the only ones making money; they aren’t the only ones capitalizing on all the profit the movie or TV show is making. The publishing industry and authors are making money too! You can’t tell me that John Green, Veronica Roth, or Suzanne Collins were as popular as they are now after their books have been turned into movies. Yes, they were popular before, but they did not have autographed books go for $500 a piece.

That’s all I have to say. For now. But you can bet I’ll write another rant about adaptations sometime in the future.

What do you think?
How do you feel about book to whatever adaptations?


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5 responses to “Another Rant About Adaptations of Books

  1. Hah! Great rant. I have to admit, though, even if adaptations are often poorly done, I love them. I do my best not to let a bad adaptation ruin my image of the book. And when an adaptation is done well it brings whole new life to the story for me. Like with THG movies, for instance, I love how we get to see more of the happenings in the Capitol and we get insight into President Snow’s thoughts in a way that feels true to the original story.

  2. I don’t mind adaptations. I have trained my brain to go into it like it’s a loosely based story and treat it differently than the book. I know they never get it right. I mean the characters looks and such are all in my head so that is hard for them to get right. I am sure there are things (like you said) that come out better for tv and/or movie so those need to be changed. Sometimes I think they aren’t sure if they will make it to the next installment so they kind of end it weird or combine books. I am sure there is logic in it but i can’t see it. I just say well at least i have a visual and go one with it. I don’t want there dumb choices to ruin it for me so I go into it ready to enjoy it and not compare it. Of course some are just way to hard to do that with but I take it as it is.

  3. I’m on the same side as you! My sister and I actually had a conversation about this same thing before and we agreed about the fact that, well, why aren’t there any original films anymore? It seems to us like almost every book is being adapted into a movie or tv show or whatever, and there are less and less original works shown to the public. I mean, if the producers or scriptwriters or whatever change a lot of things from the book they’re adapting from, then why not just create an original film of their own? >.< I'm sorry if I'm a bit confusing. Though I'm gad I'm not alone with this sort of opinion! Great post, Emz!

  4. This is kind of how I feel about spin-off series (in books). Taking a particular character or set of characters and developing an entire new series (and sometimes several) has become a thing in recent years, and I feel it also errs a little on the lazy side in that something new and fresh in its entirety isn’t being created. (And I also strongly feel that a lot of times this is very much financially motivated, bringing back to an element of lazy.)