Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification

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 specific rating or be of reasonable length. Usually rereleased with a Director's Cut.
  • 3. Pragmatic Adaptation: Probably the 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 bears enough resemblance to its source material that it can be realized as an adaptation. May involve a Setting Update.
  • 1. In-Name-Only: Shares only the name and possibly the main characters. It likely could have stood on its own as an original work otherwise.

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 can become a great success. However, the further a movie falls from the center, the less likely that is.

This trope is usually applied to movie adaptations — The Film of the Book especially — although it can be applied to adaptations from movies as well, since other formats (books, comics, television series) have room for more material. See also The Problem with Licensed Games for the video game equivalent.


Type 5:

Type 4:

Type 3: Pragmatic Adaptation

Type 2:

Type 1:

Special Cases:

  • Simon Birch, the film adaptation of A Prayer for Owen Meany, goes from Type 1 to Type 5 as the story progresses, passing through almost every type along the way.
  • Power Rangers has varied in faithfulness to Super Sentai from season to season. They range from being as similar as a 4 (Wild Force, Samurai) to as different as a 1 (In Space, RPM).
  • Film adaptations of Les Misérables run the gamut from Type 4 (1934, 1958, 1978) to Type 3 (1982) to Type 2 (1998, 2012) to borderline Type 1 (1935, 1948, 1952).
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: The Wind in the Willows segment scores a 2, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment scores about a 3 (almost a 4).
  • Adaptations of the Pokémon games fall all over the scale, though so far none have quite reached the extremes of 1 or 5. Of the more widely-known adaptations:
    • The original anime is a type 3 with heavy type 2 leanings, with exactly how heavy depending on the circumstances; most of the basics of the world of the games are there and the show adapts parts of the plots of the games to at least some extent suiting its format (collecting badges to face the League, fighting the evil teams of each generation), but there's a lot of Adaptation Expansion and the fine details of it all can get a fair bit different from the games.
    • Pokémon Special is very much a type 3, but has shades of Type 4 and Type 2 in its interpretation of certain aspects of the 'verse, certain characters, and certain plotlines (Type 2 for the latter two being more common early on.
    • Pokémon Origins is a blatant Type 4 (and deliberately designed as one) of the original pair of games. There are still several things preventing it from being a Type 5, however, the most notable being the franchise debut of Mega Charizard X.

Alternative Title(s): The Sliding Scale Of Adaptation Decay, Sliding Scale Of Adaptation Faithfulness, Sliding Scale Of Adaptation Decay, Adaptational Modification