Harry Potter, Twilight, The Princess Bride. Arguably, all successful books and series in their own right, went on to become incredibly famous franchises and cult classic films. I know many people reading this article will undoubtably strike up Twilight as the unsavoury outlier in the list, however it raises an interesting question: Should successful books be made into successful film franchises?
From the perspective of the studio executive, yes, if a book has commercial, worldwide success, why shouldn’t it be made into an even more successful and accessible film? And yet, with the increase of book to screen adaptations, comes the increased chance of a film flop. Seen from the latest version of Alice in Wonderland to The Da Vinci Code, adaptations prove time and time again that books should remain in their original form.
This continued push for a quick fire turnaround of movie scripts may also suggest that perhaps the Hollywood industry is just pushed for good ideas. Reworking perfectly good classic novels with frankly trippy visuals and Johnny Depp’s most failed acting is not going to help. In fact, it loses the whole essence of the original books, sometimes adapting things purely for the audiences pleasure. Although this is not entirely terrible, it defeats the purpose of creating the film in the first place. The constant need for reinvention has clearly gone far beyond actresses and their botox. What happened to leaving good things good? The answer lies in the details.
“ We need films that challenge our expectations and completely bowl us over”
With extensive works such as Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series, readers are transported to a different world in which history is completely reinvented. We are taken through a journey to find the Holy Grail and other artefacts with the knowledge of secret organisations and iconography spanning civilisations. That is not something that you can cover in two hours and twenty-nine minutes. Alternatively, take a film such as Gone Girl, which stuck so close to the original text, it was frankly boring for the readers. The producers even teased that the film would have an alternative ending — a complete and utter lie to lure fans of the book to the theatres.
Some may say that the push for adaptations lies in profit; the audience is already there waiting. And studio heavyweights can take their time, sometimes reworking the script several times with several writers before it is deemed fit for the latest straight white actor to bring it to life (but that’s a whole other issue). This is most commonly seen with Marvel and DC Comics, who used a gigantic, inter-generational fanbase and now feed them a new comic every couple of years, of course whilst adapting it to fans’ requests.
This is the generation of film-making we have entered. The audience now holds the key to every successful film that will be made. And although this may seem a good thing, you have to ask yourself if this is what you actually need.
Personally, I want to watch a film that disappoints me. That leaves me with a lump in my throat and an annoyance as to why my ending was not the one I saw on screen. I want to watch a film that completely misleads and confuses me, all the time giving me great original storylines and characters that are accessible to everyone, and not just the many. I want films that engage with the issues of today, not remakes of films that were relevant 20 years ago. We need films that challenge our expectations and completely bowl us over with their brilliance. So next time you choose which film you’re going to watch in the cinema, don’t choose the one that will satisfy your Saturday night. Choose the one that will completely change your view on what films can actually do.