It’s hard to find any movie that isn’t based on a book, comic or other non-film source, and you might feel suffocated by the endless flow of them. Adaptations are generally made because their original sources are either bestsellers and therefore have fan-bases, or because the producers would like to build popularity for lesser known sources.
The eternal question that comes up is: how faithful is the adaptation towards the original source?
Is it great or fair to give a director and crew a chance to show their interpretation of the story? Do they owe existing fan-bases?
I’ve noticed that television adaptations are better at sticking to their source than film versions do and there’s a rise in cinema-quality adaptations, with many film actors/actresses flocking over to be a part of them. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) are examples.
Of course, changes and additions are inevitable but TV seems to be the best place for the novel since there’s more screen time for sufficient and smooth development – in films, everything has to be condensed (even if it’s a series); some aspects of the original source aren’t interesting enough or financial constraints force the crew to make changes.
Martin Moszkowicz, head of Constantin Film and TV, explained about rebooting The Mortal Instruments: “There was so much from the book [City of Bones] that we had to leave out of the Mortal Instruments film. In the series we’ll be able to go deeper and explore this world in greater detail and depth.”
Television also tends to be an alternative for the original creators if they don’t find the film version of their work satisfying. Stephen King was disappointed at how The Shining turned out and didn’t approve of Jack Nicholson’s take on the main character. “[Stanley] Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel.” said King. “So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones… it never gets you by the throat and hangs on the way real horror should.”
King turned to television and co-produced/co-wrote a mini-series adaptation that followed his book closely. Despite being more faithful to the book, the mini-series wasn’t as popular as the film.
While they could’ve been made into movies like the seven-book Harry Potter series, multiple-book based Game of Thrones, True Blood and Outlander stuck to television. Again, the advantage is that the adaptation can follow the original source closely. Every chapter and character doesn’t get left out. There’s more room for changes and additions without butchering the plot and characters (though Game of Thrones fans would disagree at the moment).
Additionally the weekly schedule hooks the audience in and perhaps gives more intimacy than films do because of it. Not to mention that TV is more affordable and accessible (you can catch up on a show online) and with channels like HBO, do so in cinema quality.
The current trend for film adaptations is serialisation, and if the source is already a series, then the last film is split into two… even if there’s little left of the plot in the second half (the last Harry Potter/The Hunger Games: Mockingjay). The Hobbit became a trilogy despite that the book is a standalone. However, because of demands from the producers, a larger target audience, the loyal Lord of the Rings fan-base and The Hobbit’s lack of details (it’s a children’s book), the story needed to be fleshed out and linked to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Not everything has to be a trilogy or serialised – that’s what television does. But hey, whatever keeps the audience and companies happy.
Depending on how well the adaptation is, film and television are great mediums to translate a story from its original form. Though I’m on television’s side. What do you think?