You know it, and I know it, and if you don’t know it, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Whether it’s a book, a television show, a video game, or a play, if it’s popular enough, there’s someone off in a corner at a film studio ready to make an adaptation.
I can definitely understand why the industry takes on adaptations. The general storyline, the framework for setting and characters, and the target audience already exist. You don’t have to sit around and think about good ideas that are popular enough to sell. You just read a cool book called Fight Club and rely on its fanbase, at minimum, for profit.
Not to say that there’s just no effort that needs to be put into adaptations, there is, but the load is definitely easier to bear.
This trend has become more intense though. I’ve probably seen more adaptations within the past few years than in any other time in my life, although my life hasn’t been that long. It’s less like a waiting corner and more like an anime corner.
I get it. Books like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings blew up as movies, and you would either be stupid or think quite highly of yourself to not get on that trend. But as anything increases in volume, there is more of an opportunity to have bad versions of those things.
What I’m saying is, I’ve seen too many bad adaptations to continue to support this trend with as much vigor as I might have when Return of the King won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Now, bad adaptations can be indicative of bad directors, or even some concepts that just can’t be translated well into the film medium. But the sheer increase in volume of adaptations being done, to me, points toward more grave challenges that film is facing.
Those challenges can consist of many things on a case-by-case basis, but I’ll mention two for now that are of my personal concern as an aspiring filmmaker.
The first is the profitability of film. Adaptations, as mentioned earlier, have a more secure target audience: the people who know and/or are interested in the source material. This is guaranteed box office money at least, for those who are curious enough about it to see it in theaters. Movies are much easier to consume than entire book series and more accessible than plays, more often than not. But does this mean that money has won the struggle between it and creativity as the primary motive for producing content?
The second challenge is a dearth of creativity, or originality. Original content isn’t nonexistent, but it’s definitely not as popular as adaptations. Original films are most common among the independent film industry and thrive at places like Cannes or Sundance. And adaptations being more popular makes sense because human nature often means going with things that make you comfortable. Still, does our society value comfort and nostalgia and feeling good of creativity, challenge of thought, and different or new perspectives?
Or is it just the general desire to invest in something that has a lower risk of disappointment? As an audience member, it’s completely understandable to feel better spending your money on something you already know you’ll like versus something you could like that runs the risk of not being done well..
I think it would be romantic if society could value creativity over money in the realm of art, but that’s rarely ever the case in this economy. While that struggle rages on, I’ll be in my emo corner, figuring out how I can have one without sacrificing the other.
I wonder how many times I’ve said adaptation in this post.