About two Vermilion issues ago, I wrote about why book-to-movie adaptations always seem to miss the mark when it comes to translating our favorite books for the screen. But while writing the article, I started thinking about all the times I liked the adaptation.
There were times when I liked the changes that were made and the creative liberties that were taken. These examples were just bouncing around in my head, so I finally decided to type them all down.
Sometimes, the author of the original text will be the one to adapt their stories, allowing them to have more creative control over how their stories are told. Stephen Chbosky did this when he adapted his 1999 coming-of-age debut novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” into a movie in 2012.
Chbosky, as the film’s screenwriter and director, translated a lot of what made the novel work while also changing minor things like omitting a subplot.
One of the elements that could have easily been a major miss was changing the way the story is told. “Perks” is an epistolary novel, which is a book written in the form of letters. In the book, the main character and narrator, Charlie, writes a series of letters to an unknown person about his first year in high school. And the movie does a good job of establishing that the audience is seeing things from Charlie’s perspective.
What made Chbosky able to adapt his own book successfully was that he already had screenwriting and directing experience prior to making the film.
The book “High Fidelity” (1995) and its movie (2000) and Hulu (2020) adaptation all in some way make changes to the story that are visible to the audience. The book takes place in London, the movie is set in Chicago and the show is set in Brooklyn. But even with these changes, it is still a very faithful adaptation of the book. Both the movie and show break the fourth wall to mimic the first person point of view of the book.
Both adaptations at one point even say the opening lines of the book, “My desert-island, all time, top five most memorable split ups, in chronological order…”
The show has some of the biggest departures from the book, like casting Zoe Kravitz as a gender-swapped version of the main character Rob, but she still has most of the characteristics of book Rob. In all three versions, Rob is still someone who owns a record store, loves making top five lists and visits their exes to see why they broke up in the first place.
There were changes that were made to the plot when it got transferred over to television, but the changes make sense in this version of “High Fidelity.”
I am going to let you in on a little secret. I prefer the show “High Fidelity’’ to the book (which I thought was good) and movie (which I do rewatch on occasion) and to this day I am still bitter that the show got canceled after one season. It deserves more seasons.
I read the book “High Fidelity” after I already watched both versions and seeing what was changed from book to screen did not bother me.
The more I watch book adaptations, the more I prefer when they decide to make a TV adaptation of the book rather than a movie. With a show more of the book’s plot can be shown and characters can be fleshed out more.
Adapting books into TV shows is not a revolutionary idea. A lot of beloved TV shows started out life in the written word.
I grew up watching “Little House on the Prairie” (1974-1983) which was based on a series of children books Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her childhood as a pioneer and settler family in the late 1860s to the 1890s.
In more recent years especially with the rise of streaming services we have seen a boom of book to TV show adaptations that have in large part stayed true to the books.
I have always believed that book series especially work better as a multi season TV series because more time can be dedicated to world building.
After years of being in development hell, two of Neil Gaiman’s works “Good Omens” (1990 which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett) and “The Sandman” (1989-1996) were both adapted into television shows by Gaiman. “Good Omens” came out in 2019 and “The Sandman” in 2022.
Both adaptations have been well received by fans and if they did get the movie adaptation as originally planned, I do not think they would have the same level of popularity and acclaim the shows have received.
Movies can be a great medium for adapting certain books, but not every adaptation will be mega successes in the way “Harry Potter,” “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” were.
The opposite of those successes is the “Divergent” series which got the first two books made into movies and half of the final book.
There was a plan for part two which would have wrapped up the franchise, but the last one did not do so well so the finale got scrapped. A TV show was in development to replace the fourth canceled movie, but ultimately was also scrapped due to lack of interest from the film’s cast.
In the end, it is all up to personal taste and let’s hope in the future that more adaptations do our favorite books justice.