I’ve written a lot about adaptations. There are so many feelings that an adaptation due to its conversion from on medium to another. It’s often hard for a succeeding medium to surpass the original in quality. Then there is a unique situation in which a person comes to a story and it isn’t the original medium and connects with it. At that point even if the original medium may be “better” it is hard for the new fan to see it. The first medium they encountered was their version. The reason this can often happen tends to be that the mediums are so very different.
It is inevitable that when stories are converted from one medium to another, there will be differences made in order to make the story work. In some mediums, the changes become so drastic that only the framework of the original story are there in place. While other stories, only change minor things and cut what can’t fit into the new medium. One results in a story that feels completely different, while the other results in a story that feels almost identical to it’s original. These differences depending on how well executed can end up being praised or admonished. However, in the eyes of a fan any changes can be seen as blesphemous as it tarnishes the story that is upheld as the best it could be. Somehow an adaptation needs to be able to stand on its own two feet while respecting the source.
Straying Too Far
As much as I have enjoyed The Hobbit movies. Yes, I have enjoyed them as they are well executed action movies. however, they do tend to run too long and have long stretches that lull in excitement or development. This is largely because the series was expanded from being a duology to being a trilogy. The result was needing to use additional material not from The Hobbit, but other stories of Middle Earth. The result was a film that felt like it was straying from the heart of the story. Now, like I said, I enjoyed the movies enough, but there is no way I would ever conflate the story of The Hobbit in the movies with the one from the book. The book was a far more concise journey focusing on Bilbo. It is a sword and sorcery story. The events of the story effect a group of people not all of Middle Earth, in fact a number of people turn a blind eye to the dwarves journey. The movies take that personal journey that only effects a subsect of the population and make it feel more like an epic journey akin to The Lord of the Rings. That is the Hobbit movies biggest failing, making it more global and less personal. The result is that the movie doesn’t even feel like it is the same story.
Straying Just Enough
I know The Maze Runner has yet to hit theatres, but it is the perfect example of a movie that changes quite a bit from the book while maintaining a similar feeling and tone. The movie changed things to benefit the story in the new medium. There are certain things that don’t translate well to the screen or unnecessarily complicate a plot. A book can deal and devote additional time to a certain part of the story, but a movie has 2 hours to tell a story. I’m looking at you telepathy. (Honestly, I didn’t like it much in the book.) The Maze Runner changed quite a number of things, from making certain characters less abrasive and more likeable. They changed orders of events and how they actually played out. Despite all the changes that they made that can be quite drastic, it all aided the story. It made the story work better for film (except one change that left a logic inconsistency for the characters). Even with the extreme changes in some cases, the tone and urgency of the Gladers situation was amplified. I worried for the characters in the film, more than I did in the book. So, yes a number of things changed, but it did so to the benefit of the film. The result is a movie that has notable differences, but feels distinctly the same.
Keeping it in Line
Then there are films that are by the book. I’m looking at you The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Both films were very by the book in their interpretation of the source material. I almost want to attribute this to the nature of the books that in many ways criticized our ability to sit back and watch horrible things of TV with such passivity (thus making the book primed for a screen itself). Even still, The Hunger Games have been very faithful to the books. If you watch the movie and read the books, you get more in depth and a few new tidbits, but ultimately it feels very much the same. It is a movie, so not everything can make it in and certain elements need to be cut to make room, which inevitably mean small holes need to be plugged up. At the end of the day, The Hunger Games so far has been extremely faithful to the novels.
What is your favorite adaptation? Do you prefer major deviations or faithful adaptations?
2 thoughts on “Adaptations: Major Deviations or Faithful”
The Hobbit is just one book, but that is why I can’t watch the movies. The Lord of the Rings movies had so much dead space in them and there was only one movie per book. Here we have one book being stretched into 3 two hour movies, and it’s just ridiculous.
That said, I always much prefer they stay true to the book, but if the book has a stupid ending, like say, with Watchmen, then I am all for changing it to something that actually makes sense, which is why I actually really like Watchmen. It made me feel better. Lol! So far, I’m torn between Harry Potter 7.1 and Catching Fire for favorite adaptation.
The Hobbit movies are tough. They are enjoyable, but they are not a faithful or true depiction of what the book is. I was all for splitting the story into two movies, but three was unwieldy and it shows in the films.
Catching Fire was so faithful I was extremely surprised. Although, I’m not sure that is why that particular movie was good. it was in the hands of some really great people who brought it to life. I still find the story of Catching Fire effective, but ultimately repetitive with enough alterations to keep it interesting.