Created By: repicheep22 on May 3, 2010 Last Edited By: repicheep22 on May 3, 2010
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The Sliding Scale of Adaptation Decay

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Launching Fri. Apr. 30

Alternate Titles:
  • The Sliding Scale of Faithfulness vs Finances

When creating a movie from a story already well-known in another medium, those making it are often faced with a crippling dilemma. How true can we stay to the source material without risking a failure at the box office? It can be a very hard call for a director. On the one hand, Fan Dumb will cry "Ruined FOREVER" should he change one iota of the source material, and he may find himself a victim of the fandom's ire from then on. On the other hand, not changing a thing can result in either a very poorly-made movie or one that relies so heavily on the source material that people unfamiliar with the work will be completely lost.

The scale runs something like this:
  • 5. Identical Adaptation: a movie in which next to nothing is changed. These rarely fare well outside the established Fandom.
  • 4. Near-Identical Adaptation: a movie that changes the material just enough to gain a PG rating or be of reasonable length. Usually rereleased with a Director's Cut.
  • 3. Pragmatic Adaptation: probably the most ideal rating. A movie that manages to capture the spirit of the original work, while at the same time, embracing the new medium. These are generally big hits.
  • 2. Recognizable Adaptation: still bares resemblence to its source material
  • 1. In-Name-Only: Shares only the name and possibly the main characters

The scale, however, is not set in stone, and often times, there is overlap. Also, Tropes Are Not Bad as any movie in any of these categories (except possibly 0) can become a great success. However, the further a movie falls from the center, the less likely that is.

This trope almost always applies to movies, because when making a book, tv show, or comic of a movie, there is a lot more room to work with. See The Problem with Licensed Games for the video game equivalent.

Examples:

Type 5:

Type 4:

Type 3: Pragmatic Adaptation

Type 2:

Type 1:

Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • April 19, 2010
    Fiwen9430
    I would put The Lord Of The Rings in Type 3 (and if you follow the link to Pragmatic Adaptation it is listed as an example), along with other adaptations like Harry Potter.

    I would put The Princess Bride at 4, seeing as they did make tiny changes or omissions but it was still very faithful.

    For 2 I would put Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame, and maybe some other Disney movies too.

    I'm not sure about the title though, seeing as the most successful are usually in the middle and therefore the bottom few categories don't really fit the faithfulness vs finances scale. Can't really think of a good replacement though.
  • April 19, 2010
    Shrikesnest
    The Harry Potter film adaptations belong somewhere around 4. They've been pretty financially successful, but they're slavishly loyal to the books (especially the early films), usually cutting only what they need to for length. Of course, because the Harry Potter series is laden with foreshadowing and continuity, even those minor cuts have come back to bite the filmmakers in the ass once or twice.
  • April 19, 2010
    Warlock
    I'd say How To Train Your Dragon is about a 2. (some would say a 1, but it still covers the same rough themes, according to the original writer.)
  • April 19, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Watchmen @ 4, no? They took out a couple/three subplots and replaced the squid, but other than that it was fairly faithful (at least as compared with some of the plans they had).
  • April 19, 2010
    TBTabby
  • April 19, 2010
    Wyvernil
    Perhaps call it Sliding Scale Of Adaptation Decay, since there is little correlation between how faithful a work is to the source material and its profitability (After all, the middle of the scale seems ideal since works In Name Only may end up driving off diehard fans while failing to attract new ones).

    They Just Didnt Care probably clocks in at Type 0-2, depending on how much they managed to get right.
  • April 19, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    {{300}} is definitely no. 1. Not that that's admirable in this case.
  • April 19, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The upcoming Marmaduke is either 1 or 0. Probably 1.
  • April 19, 2010
    Maxmordon
    Sin City is a high-marks 5.
  • April 20, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Dresden Files TV Series is probably Type 2.
  • April 20, 2010
    Blork
    I think we should drop Type 0 as it seems to be just Type 1 Done Badly, with a case of Complaining About Directors You Don't Like. Uwe Boll is terrible, but his movies tend to fall into Type 1 or 2.

    Anyway, the Battlestar Galactica remake would be Type 2 - same premise and many returning characters but those characters were changed dramatically and the tone was completely different.
  • April 20, 2010
    repicheep22
    How can you call Harry Potter "slavishly loyal to the books" when it omits just about every major Snape scene in the entire series? (It's not like Snape is a minor character.) I went to see The Order of the Phoenix specifically to see one seemingly minor but crucial (character-wise) scene from Snape, and walked out at the end grousing that they hadn't even alluded to it.

    That aside, I can see how you'd put it there, I guess :)

    Oh, and as far as fan reactions to this stuff: If you have a work you really like, then you definitely want the feel of the original and no less. While it's possible to take the Disney approach and reinvent the source material with a whole new mood, it's not the sort of thing that's going to please the fans. But if you keep the mood and stick fairly close to the characterizations, you can easily do a series reboot (as with the first X-Man film) and have us clamoring for more. (Not to mention, you've sown a whole new field for fanfic writers to grow plots in.)

    I'd call Miyazaki's Howls Moving Castle for Category 2. It hits at plenty of the original, but the changes are striking: The main villain gets neutered, the climactic final battle gets cut entirely (in favor of a weird feel-good "aww guess she's not so bad after all" moment), a war that was merely background gets foregrounded, and a background character gets raised to the level of Big Bad. Apparently in large part because Miyazaki was mad over the Iraq war at the time.

    It's all the more disappointing to me because I had actually been working (unsuccessfully) on a script for that book for years. My skills weren't yet up to the job, so I was excited to hear the project taken on by one of the foremost directors in Japan, whose work I already adored. Not to say the film was bad (in and of itself), but... what a letdown.
  • April 20, 2010
    karstovich
    Harry Potter is probably classified as type 4 is on account of the fact that, while a substantial amount of material was cut for time reasons, very little was actually altered.
  • April 20, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    @76.126.160.152: 300 is much more of a 5 than a 1. It stuck to the source very closely, even if it added a few ogres and Gorgo's subplot.
  • April 20, 2010
    repicheep22
    The Black Lagoon anime is mostly a shot by shot animated version of the manga. It has a few minor tweaks at a few spots, but unless you have seen both, you likely wouldn't know what version someone is talking about.
  • April 20, 2010
    repicheep22
    Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is, aside from some pacing cuts, a perfect adaptation, except, strangely, for the eponym himself. I'd say it's about a 4.
  • April 20, 2010
    repicheep22
    • 2001 is probably Type 3, although unlike other adaptations, it takes a relatively straightforward story and turns it into a piece of... um... art.
  • April 20, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Drop the zero and award Uwe Boll Type -1, thus everyone will recognize it.
  • April 20, 2010
    lukebn
    Cheaper By The Dozen is a definite 1, the only things in common with the book being the title and number of children
  • April 20, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The movie Cirque Du Freak based on the Saga Of Darren Shan books definitely is a 2.
  • April 20, 2010
    Warlock
    No, I think the rating for 300 is based on the differences between both the comic and the film and the Real Life history. Definitely a 1.
  • April 20, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Shouldn't Home Alone 3 be type 2? The "kid is home alone, fights people trying to break into his house with improvised traps" is still clearly present. It's spin-offy (new settings and characters), but still more than a name.
  • April 20, 2010
    highcastle
    I agree that most of the Harry Potter films are probably type 4, but the third film cut things which make understanding the plot without reading the book almost impossible. It also changes quite a bit of the plot and lore (the werewolf appearance sticks in my mind) adding in many scenes and dialogue which didn't take place in the original. YMMV to a huge degree. While the other three five films seem to just make cuts out of necessity and are otherwise fairly faithful, this one took a machete to the original book.
  • April 20, 2010
    karstovich
    Not going to get involved in the Harry Potter debate having clarified the original issue.

    If we're going to measure 300, we'll have to be clear about it: the graphic novel is probably 1-2 relative to the historical Battle of Thermopylae, but the film is a definite 4-5 relative to the graphic novel. In other words: it should be listed twice.
  • April 21, 2010
    joeyjojo
    i think we should stick to adaptation of fictional rather than historic material. it open up a can of worms if we start arguing on historic matters.
  • April 21, 2010
    Kellor
    Why is 300 being compared to real life when Princess Bride and Battlestar Galactica aren't? That's arbitrary.
  • April 21, 2010
    arromdee
    This has another problem: thete are reasons other than fuinancial why adaptations are made less faithful.
  • April 21, 2010
    PkMARIO
    Yeeah, Home Alone 3 should be 2 at least. Home Alone 4 though is a 1 definitely.
  • April 21, 2010
    joeyjojo
    the later home alone movies aren't Adaptations they're sequels.
  • April 21, 2010
    karstovich
    The reason that 300 might be compared to real life is that it purports to be based on the historical Battle of Thermopylae. That's really about it.
  • April 21, 2010
    Prfnoff
    Another problem is that how good a movie is depends on other factors than how faithfully it was produced from its source material. Case in point: The Sound Of Music and Hello Dolly were both adapted from Broadway musicals by the same studio, with similar production values and approximately the same degree of fidelity. There's little doubt that The Sound Of Music is better by no small degree.
  • April 21, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Yeah, I like this idea, but you should really do something about 300. I thought it was quite similar to the comic.
  • April 21, 2010
    Lagore
    And, um... sorry for double posting, but also most anime that is based on manga (ie. most anime). Unless the show is still airing... (Gainax Ending, Filler, etc)
  • April 21, 2010
    Edgukator
    I think before we place Charlie And The Chocolate Factory anywhere, you have to explain which version we're talking about. Both feature significant variations from the plot at the end of the story, which has an effect on the theme of the story.

    While the Gene Wilder movie deviates less, the idea that Charlie "redeems" himself for his previous actions is a significant change to the theme of the story. The Tim Burton version deviates more significantly, and the psychological deconstruction of Willy Wonka changes the entire tone of the character.
  • April 22, 2010
    Stratadrake
    For titles, Sliding Scale Of Adaptation Decay is clear and intuitive. By contrast, the words "Faithfulness" and "Finances" are not mutual opposites and therefore don't make much sense as the extreme poles of the spectrum in discussion.

    PS: No mention of Disney's Pocahontas? Wasn't that a 1 or a 2?

    PPS: Might consider "Verbatim" for type 5. Not that "identical" is bad, but "verbatim" means literally word-for-word.
  • April 24, 2010
    Fiwen9430
    Does this not have enough examples to launch it now?
  • April 24, 2010
    whereismytea
    Brokeback Mountain probably ranks a 4 or 5. New stuff was added in because the source was a short story and it needed extra length. Basically every bit of the original is in the movie however, and the new stuff fit pretty seamlessly into the film, so it ranks pretty high for faithfulness, I should think.
  • April 24, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    It might be a good idea not to include things adapted from real life. It would cut down on arguments of things like the whole {{300}} classification.
  • April 24, 2010
    Taeraresh
    @repicheep22: 2001 is also a strange case, in that the film was being made at the same time the book was being written. There were some serious disagreements between Clarke and Kubrick, which is part of why the book explains a lot of things that film doesn't.
  • April 24, 2010
    Desolator22
    Legendofthe Seeker is a Type 1 adaptation of the Swordof Truth series.
  • May 2, 2010
    EdnaWalker
    Could you please launch this trope, repicheep22.
  • May 2, 2010
    Labrynian_Rebel
    Eragon is a 2 Studio Ghibli's Tales from Earthsea is a 1
  • May 2, 2010
    Stratadrake
    I hate to ask this at this time, but why are there so many gradations again?

    And why single out Uwe Bowell for the extreme end of the scale? Why not just label it as They Just Didnt Care ?

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