Cinema Sins: The Adaptation Edition

Image Source: Moon Township Public Library

As a reader, I have far too many opinions on what it takes to create a successful book-to-movie adaptation. If it were up to me, I’d insert myself into the writer’s room, director’s chair, and post-production office so I could ensure its honorable translation and use what I’ve learned over the years. 

With the concept of following the book being point number one, we’ll jump straight into the juicier lessons!

  • Read fan theories. Whether this be dream casts, scene ideas, or frivolous requests, writers and directors should go straight to social media and online forums to hear what dedicated readers have to say. If I were lucky enough to be on the film side, I’d love to have “cheat codes” for pulling in the desired audience! There are plenty of times that casting directors and writers’ rooms most certainly know better than inexperienced fans, but I think there’s value in listening to those who know the work inside and out. One example of this is the recent casting for Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us. Though I’ve never read it, I did witness a disconnect between the fans’ visions and who was cast (much of the issue being age and appearance). 
  • Character ages. Altering ages in order to “tap into a broader audience” actually alienates the very people you’d be drawing into the theater in the first place. We saw it happen with The Lightning Thief when Percy and his friends aged almost a decade. As a result, the young fans who hoped to see their contemporaries were disappointed and the movies fell flat. This is just one monetary reason why the source material should be honored! 
  • Complete departure from the plot. Last year, I read Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series and enjoyed every giggle-inducing and foot-kicking moment. I also enjoyed the show’s atmosphere and the characters’ chemistry. My only issue was the vast separation between the books and the movies. The setting and characters remained the same, as did the basic romances. But much of the content was altered, which resulted in less of an “adaptation” and more of an “inspiration.” As I said, I loved it, but because I was expecting the book, it surprised me! 
  • Pacing issues. Despite my clearly passionate feelings on the matter, I understand not everything from a book makes it into the script. But once you make the decision on what to include, it’s important the correct momentum is set. If it’s rushed, what began as a cohesive and well-executed world becomes choppy and unimpressive. No matter the material differences, if the movie travels you from the ticket stand back to your car in the blink of an eye, it was well done. 

With the public’s growing bookish interest (thanks TikTok) and the rise in screen adaptations, I hope the film industry stewards our favorites well and provides a new way for fans to love their favorite characters.