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Discussions with Damaris

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  • Damaris Chanza

How True Should Movie or TV Adaptions Stick to Their Source Material?

Nowadays, there are countless film and TV adaptions of books and video games, but how true should these adaptions stick to their source material?

Writing an original screenplay for a movie or tv show has become more and more of a scarcity. Anything that isn't a reboot of a previously successful enterprise is more often than not an adaption of a successful enterprise in another form of media, i.e., a book or video game. This practice has proven profitable because the source material has an established story with developed characters and a dedicated fan base willing to pay good money to see the characters they know and love come to life. However, there is difficulty in recreating an entire world that fans are intimately familiar with. Will they hate it, or will they love it?

There is a delicate balance when it comes to adaptations. There is a dedicated fan base who knows every minuscule detail about the storylines and the character arcs, but the adaptation cannot just appeal to the fans. This story has to be introduced to an entirely new audience that may not be familiar with the source material. Creating a screenplay that services existing fans and makes new ones is the challenge that writers and producers face.

The main challenge is deciding how close the adaption should be to the source material. What aspects of the source material are necessary, and what can be discarded? It's a question not just for the writers and creators but for the fans too. It's polarizing in every fandom.

When the Percy Jackson series received its film adaption, one fundamental change affected the entire plot – the character's ages. Aging up the characters meant that the original plot of the series had to be changed for the films. Fans of the book series almost exclusively hate the films, but otherwise, audiences find it a decent movie.

When the video game, Halo, was adapted into a tv series, revealing the main character's face was a big deal to fans of the game. Gamers and people who have read the numerous books of the game's lure know that his face is always a mystery, even though he removes his helmet on multiple occasions. For people unfamiliar with the game, taking off his helmet at the end of the first episode may not have been very important, but to fans, it was unfathomable.

When writers take creative freedoms with the source material, it can be detrimental and defeats the purpose of adapting something with a dedicated fan base. The only way to ensure the adaption is successful is to ensure it is good regardless of how much it sticks to the source material. It needs to be excellent for viewers who have no idea what the source material is; that way, even if the fans are upset, there will still be viewers.

The Last of Us, The Hunger Games, Charlie and Chocolate Factory, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie were well received by audiences because, despite their source material, the movie or show was excellent and worth watching.

With the success of movies about toys, such as Transformers, Barbie, Lego, and Dungeons & Dragons, there is a shift in the type of film adaption. Toys don't all have explicit backstories and lure like books or video games, meaning the potential for creative freedom is higher. Theoretically, this means the combined nostalgia and novelty of the film or tv adaptation will surely garner more viewership as long as the movie or show is good. Then the question becomes, what makes a movie or show good?

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