Staying faithful: should movies be exactly like their source material?

Book fans contest the all too common conception that “the book is always better than the movie”. This is largely due to the fact that the film adaptations of books often leave out details from the text or change the plot entirely.

The underlying reason most readers find film adaptations disappointing is the lack of emotional attachment they feel with the movie characters. While a movie spans only around one to two hours, reading a book can be a long, fulfilling process. With such little time to develop characters, films often fail to create connections between the audience and the protagonists. Character development may feel superficial or rushed, and fans feel unfulfilled.

Literary-based movies can sometimes conflict with the way readers personally imagined the characters and plot. A film adaptation is the story seen through the lens of a certain filmmaker and will not be able to please everyone.

Cinema win: Fight Club was a masterful adaptation of its novel
Photo courtesy of Cinema Aficionado

While some film adaptations are subpar to their literary counterparts, there have certainly been movies that went beyond expectations, even to the point where some may consider them better than their books.

Movie fail: the Percy Jackson film franchise was a complete flop
Photo courtesy of Amazon

Take Fight Club for example. While the movie did make some significant changes to the novel, it still became a huge success, even spawning one of the most iconic lines in cinema history. The film adaptation streamlined the plot, adjusted the motivational angles for the protagonist, and executed the major plot twist phenomenally. Even Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the original novel, has stated that he thinks the movie is better than the book.

Creative liberty can be a slippery slope. Often times, as in the case of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians film series, filmmakers can distort the plot of the source material so drastically that the stories essentially diverge into two different worlds. Conversely, with a film like Silence of the Lambs, small plot changes coupled with excellent actor portrayals can produce an excellent cinematic adaptation.

Movies should stay faithful to their source material in such a way that it doesn’t create plot holes or drastically change the overall arc of the story. Creative liberties, when executed well, can help the audience develop a stronger bond with the characters or allow for a smoother rendition of the plot, creating a unique identity for the movie itself.

Written by Isaiah Kim

Isaiah is a Staff Writer and Video Editor for the Sun. His hobbies include eating massive amounts of unhealthy food after training, asking people random questions, and sleeping until noon on weekends. He is overly hyperactive and very dangerous. Do not pet the Isaiah. He will bite.

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