Movies have a way of working that forces Hollywood and independent filmmakers to adapt. It is truly hard to ignore the fact that several movies each year stem from something that came prior, whether it be a book, movie, game, or even animation. It’s nothing new, and there are some that would argue that nothing is unique anymore and that it’s “all been done” before. I would argue that it’s fine with me. New content is great, but I’m always hungry for more adaptations that bring my favorite content to the big screen. I would also say that most adaptations are better than people would like to admit, and here’s a rundown of why that it is.
First you have to look to the source material itself. Some content is easy to transfer to film than others, and that lends to the quality of the finished work. Translating Harry Potter to film ends up with arguably important content being cut for the sake of runtime, but the quality of the source material meant that even with details left out we are still left with a beloved franchise, even if there are a few sour moments along the way. Other series take the source material, like Watchmen, and follow it down to the letter, yet we still find a way to hate the movies. On the flipside we get adaptations like the recent Death Note that change up quite a few details while keeping most of the core values. Both films, Watchmen and Death Note, we received with mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, and both represent opposite ends of the spectrum with what can be done with an adaptation. Therein lies the question of where is the sweet spot for an adaptation if there even is one at all?
When it comes to movie adaptations there should obviously be the core values as set by source material. With that source material is then determining which events can translate well to film. Harry Potter loses a fair deal of characterization with Hermione Granger when the films completely neglect her house elf philosophies, but with runtime being a thing and more plot relevant details needing to make the cut, some things end up getting left out, ultimately leaving characters undeveloped. Watchmen does the adaptation near perfectly, making only a few changes here and there to not throw the audience into a “what just happened” frenzy. Shifting a psychic monster out for a bomb makes the ending significantly more grounded and reasonable for a movie goer. Arguably Watchmen is one to be appreciated for how well it did everything, even if it’s reception was only average at best.
That brings us around to the third mentioned movie, Death Note. At its core it retains the underlying premise of the original manga/anime. A smarter than average boy finds a book dropped by a death god and thinks he can bring real change to the world as it ultimately corrupts him. Where the movie tangents off is setting, changing the characters’ races, names, and some of the events. I won’t lie and say I hated the recent Death Note film, actually I quite enjoyed it and thought it was a worthwhile endeavor. That being said, Death Note is one of those films that raises the question of “how much should be altered in an adaption?” How much is too much?
My answer to that would be whatever is necessary to make an enjoyable movie. People so often forget that some of their most beloved comic books movies are adaptations that have been put together like Frankenstein’s monster in order to get those characters on the big screen. Looking at most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you can see clear adaptations of storylines, but never anything perfect. Why are we fine with movies like that making changes, and not an adaptation like Death Note? Is it because the source material was so perfect? Or perhaps, we’re so disconnected with the premise of the original comics that changes for those movies don’t bother us?
Adaptations take the source material and they run with it. They are often another person’s take on a very broad subject or a long, structured story. These movies allow us to see the stories we love told from someone else’s viewpoint of that content. It works, sometimes, and other times people like to grab their torches and pitchforks and go off on a witch hunt. The source material remains unchanged, a new way of viewing the story is born. There are no ruined childhoods. Except for The Last Airbender. That was just bad.
We’ll be going into more detail on this subject and taking a look at sequels and reboots as well, so tell us what you think by leaving a comment. Do you agree or disagree with anything above?
If you enjoyed this article "like" and "follow" us on Facebook and Twitter.