The Problem with Movie Adaptations

By Akil Brathwaite

Staff Writer

Image Source: hypable.com

Movie adaptations of novels, comics, and classic TV shows are a very popular type of project in Hollywood these days. Ask someone what their favorite movie is, and I’m sure you could find a decent amount of people whose favorite movie is a movie adaptation – the Harry Potter movie series, for example, is very successful for multiple reasons, like how it took a very beloved book series and turned it into a mostly well-received movie series that allowed fans to see their favorite characters and plotlines on the big screen.

The reason why it’s such a good movie adaptation is because it stayed faithful to the source material while also giving platforms for child actors and adapting it into a different form of media.

Sophomore Tia Tura felt similarly about the adaptations. “[My favorite movie adaptation is] Harry Potter because there are very little differences [compared to the books].” She elaborated, “The main character’s personalities were captured well, actions taken were the same, even if situations differed, and the way Harry interacted with the characters was the same.” 

A lot of movie adaptations are successful in making a good adaptation because they stay as close to the source material as possible while simultaneously making an enjoyable film. Yet for others, admittedly, it’s not as easy.

One of the biggest contenders of a movie adaptation that didn’t go too well was the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” movie series. If you were to go to a fan of the book series and ask them their opinion on the movies, I’m sure they’d tell you about their dislike towards it, and Tia even said that she disliked the movie adaptations.

“There’s a lot of differences, like in the [first] book Percy is 12 but in the [first] movie he’s 16. There was romance in the first movie, which didn’t happen until later on. The beginning of the [first] movie was different, he was attacked in the beginning of the movie when in the book there was more lead up to it.”

The series is an example of those adaptations that, without the source material, would be more loved as in my opinion it’s a fun series with it’s flaws, but as an adaptation, it’s not considered a good one because of how much it strays from the source material which it’s supposed to be based on. For the majority of the series it turns into something almost unrecognizable to fans of the book series because of how much it strays away from the books.

Straying from source material in some instances isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some things from a book or other medium might just need to be changed to be able to turn it into a movie, but for these movies, that simply isn’t the case. The first movie of the series, “The Lightning Thief,” is clear proof of this.  

Essentially, big parts of the plot from the book are trashed and are replaced with parts that aren’t viewed as much better. Save for maybe a few scenes, any changes were not seen as good ones. Loved characters are almost unrecognizable because they’re aged up and most of the time have completely different personalities compared to their book counterparts. The second movie isn’t necessarily safe from this either.

The purpose of a movie adaptation is to take a piece of media and change it into a movie format, but when you stray away so far from the source material it seems less like a movie adaptation and more like a fanfiction set in the source material, fans and even the creator of the original work will not be happy and nine times out of ten the film will fail in the long run.

Another example of a bad movie adaptation is “The Last Airbender.” Being based on a beloved children’s show, fans of the source material “Avatar: The Last Airbender” were excited for this, but it failed in most aspects and left fans disappointed. In my opinion, the TV series is a big example of a story that wouldn’t be a good movie adaptation, proven by this film.

The movie was based on Season 1 of the show, which was already a challenge as fitting 20 episodes of content into an hour and forty minute movie would already be hard. To make it work in this new medium changes would have to be made, but those changes are ultimately why the movie failed in the eyes of so many fans.

This movie wasn’t safe from controversy, though. Excluding the controversy of how badly recepted the movie was, like the Percy Jackson movie series, this movie strays from the source material but in such a harmful way.

This is due to the fact that characters’ races in the movie are changed, which disrespects the cultures that are used as inspirations for the source material, especially when characters are essentially stripped of their cultures as a whole and for some are casted by white actors. Stripping the cultures away from the characters is harmful to people of those cultures that are used as inspiration and ultimately contributes to the problem so many movie adaptations have, straying from the source material too much. 

Some stories just don’t need the adaptations, in my opinion. If it is already good or even arguably perfect as it is, why do we need to adapt it into a movie format which often fails because certain aspects of the story just don’t translate well in such a limited format? If there are other formats that could easily do what a movie fails in, why do some refuse to learn the lessons of other failed projects and insist on making adaptations in a format that has very clearly shown it’s flaws time and time again?

With the way things are going now, movie adaptations don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Hopefully Hollywood will learn from their past mistakes and make good or at least decent adaptations instead of poorly recepted ones that often feel more like cash grabs rather than actual homages to the source material.

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