The Art of an Adaptation

If you were to look at the films listed in cinema today and compare them to what was in theaters 20 or 30 years ago, one couldn’t fail to notice some names repeat themselves in droves.   

In the world we live in, remakes, adaptations and sequels have dominated cinema. With this rehash, I believe there should be a standard to making what can be considered a great adaptation.

1) Be a nod to fans and an introduction point to the everyday viewer

When a movie adaptation is announced, the reaction is either excitement or apprehension. Audience members who subscribe to the camps of avid or curious moviegoers or fans of the original work can go into a movie with different expectations.
With this split in audience, a film has two tasks to keep in mind: The film has to be enough of a nod to its fans to show that they respect the source material as well as an introductory point for the average moviegoer who would be unfamiliar with the source material.

In doing so, adaptations have to walk a line of expositing enough information without becoming muddled in exposition, info-dumping on viewers so much so that the film is too slow for the audience. Adaptations also shouldn’t be too focused on making the movie solely an action-packed visual spectacle to where it loses the source material’s base meaning, becoming style over substance.


This goes without saying, but casting for a movie can make or break the reception of a film. With current issues of whitewashing in films to fancasting expectations of characters not matching up to official casting, filmmakers can experience backlash if their films don’t meet this expectation even before their films are released.

Casting introduces another interesting juggle for filmmakers: to appeal to differing audience members with vast expectations of the adaptation or to go through with their own vision of the adaptation.

There have been cases where public outcry to casting choices have been proven wrong.

Heath Ledger as the Joker and Daniel Craig as James Bond were casting choices in the past that the public weren’t hot on, but once their respective films released, the argument could be made that these actors are the best portrayals of said characters.

Casting can be a gamble on whether it works out or not. Being aware of public perception as well as weighing the options of sticking to your guns and standing by your acting choices or appealing to what the public would want should be considered.

3) Don’t be a cash-grab.

The film industry, perhaps ideally, is about the portrayal of the human condition. The industry is also about making money. When a big title is announced down the pipeline of upcoming films, the motivation behind production of the adaptation can be based on either or both aspects of the film industry.

When an adaptation is announced, there is the possibility that its production is a result of the namesake of the adaptation being a big draw for audiences. The film can appear mailed in and turn out to be mediocre or just bad.

Michael Bay’s adaptation of the Transformers franchise is the best example of what I’d consider a cash-grab. In an interview with MTV News coming off of the release of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Bay spoke on his relationship with the Transformers fans.

“They love to hate, and I don’t care; let them hate. They’re still going to see the movie! I think it’s good to get a little tension. Very good,” Bay said.

This frame of mind, an audience seeing a movie no matter the quality, is something that’s become present in film. When this pertains to making a good adaptation, I’d advise not following this line of thinking. Don’t go into making an adaptation because the source material’s namesake prints money.

4) Don’t be a carbon copy of the original.(Remain faithful to the original works, but take some risks)

Film adaptations are a special thing. Adaptations offer to portray a story through a different medium. Through lighting, camera techniques and casting, film adaptations shine.

A film adaptation gives opportunity to show parallels to its source material from how scenes are shot. Where a film shouldn’t entirely draw similarities to its source material is the plot.

For some, an adaptation that is a rehash of its source material put to film is solely what is to be expected. Because film has more to offer visually and as a storytelling mechanism, why limit yourself to the structure of the source material? Being a carbon copy of the source material is boring.

Experiment with different ways to tell the story. Whether that’s in the plot being told out of order or even diverting from the source material by raising questions, or issues that were left out of the source material. As long as the message isn’t lost in an adaptation, a film has free reign to explore different ways to tell a story.


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