Adapting a book to a movie or TV series is a difficult climb. What a book can do and what a movie can do (and what they can’t do) are very different and some alterations are to be expected. Audiobooks are a bit easier since its just someone reading a book. Meanwhile video game adaptations and adaptations of video games have their own issues. Adapting is hard, but has resulted in some great stories in a fresh style.
The following video from Center Row on YouTube goes over the problems of adapting books to movies and he touches on adapting video games. However, that’s where he stops and I’d like to add some other adaptations he missed.
I would love to see the original script to Herbie: Fully Loaded. I didn’t hate the movie but it wasn’t all that great either. This is the problem with so many people on a project. The more voices there are the likelier it is that the final product will not be very good. Those producers and executives who look at other films and want to just make that are a problem. You can understand a project and make good improvements, but if you don’t understand the project you aren’t right for the project.
The host discusses adapting books to movies and the length of a book being longer than a movie. This works the other direction as well. For example when I reviewed Total Recall‘s adaptation Piers Anthony had to add details to flesh out the length of novelization so we get the origin for the oxygen machine…and Quaid’s pervy thoughts but that’s another discussion. On the other hand some of his changes, like giving that one guy we saw getting Quaid his briefcase with the nose picker and instructional video a full backstory, killed the ambiguity Paul Verhoeven was going for as the director. The other novelization I’ve reviewed, Fantastic Voyage, also had author Isaac Asimov adding extra science and political intrigue in the form of the medical and military sides arguing over what to do with the shrink ray, while doing the cliched hero and one female character fall in love angle that wasn’t in the movie.
However, some of this may have run into the big issue of the author only getting the latest draft of the script. The novel has to come out the same time as the movie, sending the viewer of the movie to get the closest thing he or she would have to the home video version until the rise of that market if they wanted to see the movie again. That means any changes on set due to budget, like various shooting and mechanical issues, and just changes shoved on the movie by some higher up or some actor who feels their vision is more important than the writer or director’s visions and are far enough power-mad to misuse their clout won’t get represented. For example in the novelization to ET The Extra Terrestrial you see Elliot laying out M&Ms because that was the sponsor Spielberg was courting at the time, only for M&M Mars to turn them down. This sent the director to seek out Reese’s who gladly let them uses Reese’s Pieces, and that tie-in was the first time I heard of them making something other than peanut butter cups. This also affects comic adaptations of movies, but that also suffers with the publisher rarely giving the proper space needed to adapt the story. Only the Star Wars original trilogy has been given this among the comic adaptations I’ve read, giving the time needed to get the character moments in as well as the series of events.
I also think video games work better taking place in a book, comic, or movie’s universe rather than strictly adapting the story of the movie. They have to make scenes that are fun to play. I’ve also seen the latest draft issue affect games. I’m not sure which is responsible but the ending of the video game adaptation of the first Spider-Man game ends with Peter and Mary Jane getting together, when in the movie Rami opted for Peter to not want to risk Mary Jane’s life by putting her into Spider-Man’s dangerous world…which was subverted by the MTV series supposedly set in the same universe with Indy but that’s also another discussion. I don’t know if that was the game writers wanting to give Peter a happier ending or what was in an early draft. What I do know is that Scorpion still hasn’t shown up in live-action and yet fighting him is a level in the game. You can also replay the game with Harry Osborne finding his father’s Green Goblin gear and searching for his killer, fighting another Green Goblin. It’s just the same levels but you play as Harry’s Goblin, so this includes fights and missions not in the movie. It’s like a whole new story that only shares Peter’s origin section of the movie. An original story set in that universe may not be canon but it’s easier to make a good game out of without the same level of adaptation errors.
I also think the host didn’t emphasize one key detail about a changed adaptation: keeping to the core of the source material’s themes and characters. Man Of Steel was a decent superhero movie but a terrible adaptation of Superman because his core themes are poorly explored, and Snyder’s Batman abandons them altogether. I also have my own issues with Christopher Nolan’s Batman and I’m not 100% on board with Richard Donner’s Superman in a lot of ways but both were a far better Batman and Superman adaptation than Synder’s. If the core of the character or theme of the show is lost (see Battlestar Galactica‘s remake, whatever the quality of the final product may be) then it isn’t a good adaptation. If you can’t adapt the story, at least adapt the concept properly or there will be problems.
You can’t review an adaptation while ignoring the source material, and the creators need to remember this since it means you can’t properly make a movie or whatever by ignoring the source material either. Otherwise the very fans you wanted to draw in will become you’re biggest critics, and if they aren’t happy, no defense will change their minds. Just adapt the material correctly. Put people on the project who understand what you’re doing, what the source material is, and can do the job correctly. That’s how you’ll get better adaptations and better stories if competent people are attached.