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Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification

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When creating an adaptation of 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 financial or critical bomb? It can be a very hard call for a director. On the one hand, if the changes are done poorly or without rhyme or reason, fans will complain that They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, 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 adaptation 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:

  • Identical Adaptation: An adaptation in which next to nothing is changed.
  • Near-Identical Adaptation: An adaptation that changes the material just enough to gain a specific rating or be of reasonable length. Sometimes re-released with a Director's Cut.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Probably the ideal rating in most cases. An adaptation that manages to capture the spirit of the original work, while at the same time, embracing the new medium. These are often big hits.
  • Recognizable Adaptation: Contains many deviations, but still bears enough resemblance to its source material that it can be realized as an adaptation. May involve a Setting Update.
  • 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 Tools as any adaptation in any of these categories can become a great success. However, the further an adaptation 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, video games) have room for more material. See also The Problem with Licensed Games for the video game equivalent.



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  • 300, which like Sin City above tries even to look like the comics.
  • 1776: The film adaptation is nearly identical except for Richard Henry Lee mounting a horse during his song and the removal of "Cool, Considerate Men" due to literal Presidential levels of Executive Meddling. Rises to Type 5 on the DVD release, which restores the cut number.
  • Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast (2017) is sometimes seen as a Tropes Are Not Good example, with some arguing that it's too similar to the original, except for some minor changes that don't affect anything even if they should.
  • The Blue Bird (1976 film)
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • The Butter Battle Book (the Ralph Bakshi animated adaptation): Almost a 5. It follows the art style, story and tone of the book to the letter, but also sandwiches in some new stuff.
  • The Cat in the Hat (1971)
  • The Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime series follow the manga pretty closely, but it's broken up with a lot of Filler that wasn't in the manga. Also gives Goku Adaptational Heroism compared to the manga.
  • Fences had a screenplay written by the original playwright, and all that really was changed was the location of a few scenes (the play took place entirely in a backyard).
  • Fiddler on the Roof cuts a few musical numbers, but is otherwise identical.
  • Fight Club most drastically changes the ending from the book, which the author actually preferred to his own.
  • The Fly (1958)'s main changes to the short story are giving it a Bittersweet Ending rather than the original short story's Downer Ending and fleshing out a few secondary characters.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which was explicitly made to be this in contrast to the 2003 anime adaptation, which deviated from the source material in the second half due to overtaking the manga. Brotherhood is even criticized by some fans for speeding through material that the first show had already depicted in order to get to the un-adapted content faster.
  • Season 1 of Game of Thrones tightly adapts nearly all of the major and minor events of the first novel with only mostly small changes to fit time, budget, and clarity constraints of the new medium, with some time left over for some Adaptation Expansion. The series strays lower down the scale as it progresses, the books get more convoluted, and eventually stop existing, with some fans hoping the last season will fall into Canon Discontinuity.
  • The Godfather
  • The first two Harry Potter films, Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, are the most faithful adaptations of the series, only trimming out some of the less important details and other relatively minor changes. In part it was because they were adapting from the two shortest novels and could comfortably fit most of it into a film.
  • Animal Farm: Both film adaptations stick fairly loyal to the original book besides some minor character changes or omissions. The Downer Ending of the original book however is expanded in both takes to have the pigs get their comeuppance, likely to mirror the gradual downfall of the Soviet Union they were based on after the book was written.
  • The animated version of The Hobbit.
  • Chuck Jones' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!; there's some Adaptation Expansion like a longer sleigh ride sequence and several new songs, but the plot is nigh-identical, as is most of the narration and (minimal) dialogue.
    • Horton Hears a Who!, too. The only real difference from the book is that the mayor is downgraded to a science professor named Dr. Hoovey and a subplot is added involving the townspeople ridiculing his claims about there being life beyond Whoville and being an outcast as a result.
  • Hogfather
  • Holes
  • The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and both parts of Mockingjay
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's anime adaptation is extremely faithful, but it does cut some minor scenes while adding a few of its own. The fourth season also swaps around the order of certain chapters in order to improve the pacing, but this doesn't really change the overarching plot.
  • K-On! just made Adaptation Expansions to the Story Arc of protagonists' senior year, but otherwise the overall trajectory of the story remains untouched.
  • Kick-Ass
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Kim's Convenience's first season is a Type 4, with some scenes being a Type 5. It follows the plot of the play almost beat for beat while introducing all-new characters and showing several scenes outside the convenience store, allowing for the expanded running time from a one-act play into a 13-episode sitcom.
  • Life of Pi
  • The Little Prince (1974 film musical)
  • The Lord of the Rings (Ralph Bakshi's adaptation)
  • The Martian
  • The Maze Runner
  • National Lampoon's Vacation changes some names and gives the story a mostly-happy ending.
  • Peter Pan: Although very little of the original dialogue is the same, the storyline is quite faithful to Barrie's stageplay.
  • The Princess Bride
  • Sailor Moon Crystal
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • The Shawshank Redemption: As an adaptation of a shorter work, it had to add parts in, but otherwise adheres almost verbatim to what is in the book.
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Thunderball, as the original book was even an expansion of a proposed television movie\episode.
  • The 2020 animated Toldi mini series, which is basically the original poem's text being read verbatim and visualized. Some verses are only animated but not read out, a few non-narrated scenes are added for pacing and atmospheric reasons, and slight corrections are made for the benefit of the story and historical accuracy. Even all of the poem's metaphors are made literal, adding a thick surreal layer to the otherwise mostly grounded story.
  • Tower of God first season anime: Some details of scenes changed, some elements of the story expanded and others given less space, but otherwise amounts to pretty much the same thing with the same story.
  • Vampire Academy is mostly loyal to the first novel of the Vampire Academy series. The differences are generally minor. Three characters receive name changes, one character is younger and more attractive than her book counterpart, three characters are of different age than their book counterparts, two characters who survive the original novel are killed in the film, Natalie Dashkov kills a different person than the one she killed in the novel (Ray instead of Mr. Nagy), Lissa does not practice Self-Harm, and some minor book characters do not appear at all in the films. The most obvious change comes from the style of clothes the characters wear. In the books, the students of the Academy wear regular street clothes. It is a sore spot for Rose that she can't afford decent clothing, at one point wearing clothes she received from the Salvation Army. In the films, both Moroi and dhampir students wear school uniforms. Rose wears a relatively stylish uniform.
  • Variable Geo: The anime adaptation of Advanced V.G. is mostly faithful to the original source material, despite making several major changes, such as Miranda Jahana already being deadnote . Likewise, the OVA casts Satomi as its deuteragonistnote  by making her the target of the Jahana Group, instead of Yuka.
  • Watchmen. The most notable change is the squid being replaced by a city-disintegrating explosion.
  • When the Wind Blows: Aside from remaining true to the text, there are a few lines omitted from the comic. One, in particular, being Jim's passage about the British Empire rising from the aftermath of the war. He also never says "Stupid Bitch" in the comic, and instead uses the words "Stupid Fool" with Hilda still berating him for it just before they duck and cover. The intro, attack and ending sequences are also more drawn out, and there are a few imagine-spots added in. Without these changes, it goes up to a type 5.
  • The Falcon's Malteser: the screenplay for the film adaptation, Just Ask for Diamond, was written by the book's author Anthony Horowitz, and simplified one action sequence (Nick's escape from a flat he's being held prisoner in) and dropped another (Nick goes back to the scene of the crime and is attacked by the Big Bad) altogether, both for logistical reasons. Apart from that, the two versions are near-identical, and there are long stretches of dialogue in the film that are word-for-word the same as the book.

     Pragmatic Adaptation 

     Recognizable Adaptation 
(aka Adaptation Inspiration)

     In Name Only 

Special Cases:

  • 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 3.5 or 4.
  • The first Shrek film is somewhere between a Type 1 and Type 3. The film borrows very few elements from the William Steig book save for Shrek himself and Donkey (who only appeared on one page), but a picture book does require some major Adaptation Expansion to make it viable for a feature length film.
  • 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).
  • Matilda: Scores about a 3.5. Changing the setting to America leaves an impact on the film, but it's one of the more faithful adaptations of Dahl's works.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe. While most people would agree it's usually a 3, there are some movies that hit 4 (using a lot of elements from the comics as they were, e.g. the Super Soldier serum), with others that hit the 2 area (removing or heavily altering comic book elements, e.g. how Pym Particles work).
    • On the higher end of the scale, Thor: Ragnarok is a Type 4 that maybe slips into a Type 3; it adapts several storyarcs from The Mighty Thor canon that delve into Ragnarok and takes ideas from each one while condensed into a single story, while also throwing in Planet Hulk and a reworked backstory to Hela. Tone-wise, however, it's the closest to a genuine 80's comic and lifts entire scenes and sequences verbatim from Walt Simonson's run, arguably the most iconic Thor run published. Several ideas it uses also have roots and basis in Norse mythology and/or the history behind themnote 
    • On the low-end of the scale, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a Type 2 that almost borders on the Type 1; it has Peter still as a young teen after Civil War (he was married and in his 20s when this happened in the comics), and he attends a charter school designed explicitly to nurture scientific minds when typically Peter attended a public school. He was bullied for his intelligence and had no friends in school originally, whereas here he's got several and is instead admired for his intelligence as he's a valued member of the school's academic team, while Flash Thompson, typically a jock, is a spoiled rich kid who's obnoxious behavior makes him the unpopular outcast. In the post-Civil War world, Peter is a loyal sidekick to Iron Man and longs to join him in the Avengers, whereas in the comics Peter has cut ties with Tony out of disgust over what he did during the war. Vulture's backstory is similar to his comic counterpart (being a businessman screwed over by richer businessmen, in this case Tony Stark), but here he's upper-working class/lower-middle class who's more a leader than an inventor, whereas typically he was a well-off inventor and scientific genius but was too sociopathic to lead others.
  • 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 Adventures 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.
    • Zigzagged by Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Compared to the original Detective Pikachu game, it's at least Pragmatic with the same cast of characters and basic premise. However, the game is a rather obscure spin-off. When placed side-by-side with media like the main game series and the anime which the general audience would be far more familiar with, it's In Name Only, with the only point of commonality being that it has Pokémon in it.
  • Hunter × Hunter has three separate anime adaptations, each one falling on a different part of the scale. The Jump Festa short film, produced shortly after the manga began, ranks as a Type 2 by adapting the introductory chapters more or less faithfully, but adding in battles against sea monsters that weren't in the original and are a tonal mismatch for the rest of the series. The 1999 anime is a straightforward Type 4, largely adapting the manga straightforwardly, but adding in multiple elements of Filler that either expand on existing elements of the manga or introduce new situations to lengthen the story, and giving some slight changes to Killua and Kurapika's personalities and demeanor. The 2011 anime is a borderline Type 5, adapting the manga near-identically (though a couple moments in the first few arcs suffer mild Bowdlerization due to the move to a daytime timeslot), with the only major story deviation being Gon's backstory with Kite being kept a secret until the beginning of the Chimera Ant arc.
  • 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).
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017): The first three episodes (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window) are all Type 4, while the fourth episode The Miserable Mill (which is the only episode so far not to be written by the original author, Daniel Handler) scores somewhere around a 2 or a 3. The rest of the series is a solid 3, with the changes present for the series carrying over across all the other parts of the story.
  • Stanley Kubrick's film of The Shining is interesting in that it starts out as a Type 4, but it gradually deviates further and further from the book until it becomes a Type 2.
    • The Nutty Professor remake has a similar process. The first half ranges roughly between a 3.5-4, and the second half becomes a Type 1, but turns into a 4 again at the Climax.
  • The Disney Silly Symphonies shorts adapted Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling twice—the 1931 short is a Type 1 (In Name Only) adaptation of the original story, while the 1939 short is a Type 4 that sticks much closer to the source material.
  • Simon Birch, the film adaptation of A Prayer for Owen Meany, goes from Type 5 to Type 1 as the story progresses, passing through almost every type along the way.
  • The Betty Boop cartoon Snow White (1933) starts off as Type 4, but drifts into Type 1 around the middle.
  • Dragon Ball Super and its manga is an odd case - Neither the anime nor the manga are adaptations of each other, but rather based on a plot outline provided by franchise creator Akira Toriyama. Since the plot outline in question is evidentally rather loose, the anime and the manga vary wildly in different aspects - major plot points can be completely different and anime-exclusive transformations are commonplace, but random throwaway jokes appear in both formats. In practice, they're ultimately both a Level 2 to each other.
  • The Abridged Series are all pragmatic and altered to at least some degree, but how much this is the case can vary. Some of the more faithful ones (Dragon Ball Z Abridged, most notably) go as high as a 3.5, most (such as Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series and Sword Art Online Abridged) lean towards a 2, and a few (Alternate Reality DBZ being one particularly glaring example) go as low as 1.5. However, reliance on the original footage means they can never really reach full In Name Only territory.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The first three books, radio show, TV version, and movie are pretty consistent — a 2 or even a 1; even the dialogue sometimes matches. But the episodic bits are often shown in different order. The movie added some new material.
  • Son of the White Horse shifts between types 4 and 2, but mostly lands in 3. Being based on an ever-changing folk story, it slavishly lifts certain elements, lines and scenes full-cloth from different versions of said tale, but alters their meaning, combines their characters, expands them with material taken from unrelated myths, and mixes in plenty of original content. The visuals and added symbolism veer closer to type 2.
  • Thomas & Friends started off a type 4 for its first two seasons, adapting The Railway Series stories near word-for-word besides some mild streamlining and certain stories being Out of Order. Seasons three and four took more liberties with the books, and also made some original stories, but still adapted a lot of events faithfully, keeping it roughly type 3. Afterwards the series stopped adapting anymore stories directly and took more liberties with the material, bringing it all the way down to type 1. A handful of stories were adapted in Season 20 as well as the first stories getting a retelling in The Adventure Begins, which are largely all a type 3 adaptation with occasional liberties and restructuring.
  • Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 plays it safe by adapting only Volume 2, Section 5 of War and Peace, but it scores a solid 5 for that section.


  • The older and more established the original work is, and the more existing film adaptations that have been done with it, the less "need" new adaptations will feel to stick closely to the original, and the more likely it is that they will take their own approaches. This is especially true if the work is in the Public Domain, and that's why works by people like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens get so many Setting Updates and reinterpretations.
    • Conversely, if the vast majority of preexisting film adaptations fall low on the scale, some filmmakers will feel a greater need for a future adaptation to stick closely to the original; if the earlier loose adaptations causes Adaptation Displacement, this can both incentivize and deincentivize a more faithful later take, depending on how the filmmakers and studio executives respond to it. This can also occur if a work only had a single adaptation (or at least a single high-profile one), but it was relatively loose in approach and old enough to fall into legacy status (e.g. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory vs. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 34 years later).
  • Musicals and more recent plays that get film adaptations tend to be relatively faithfully adapted, other than for length. It helps that they're already adapted to a more similar medium (they have a script, they take into account the visual element in a way novels don't, etc.)
  • Anime fall into some predictable patterns:
    • Manga and novel adaptations that are of finished works tend to be in the 3-5 range, unless they are very old and established works with previous adaptations, in which case they might fall lower on the scale.
    • Manga and novel adaptations of ongoing works vary based on what the original creator and the studio want them to do with it. If they just stop the story at a certain point (planning to animate more when there's more if the show does well enough), they're usually type 4-5. If they stall for time using "filler arcs" (see: Naruto and One Piece), the presence of those fits them into type 3. Series that get anime-original endings vary based on how early the ending is established, varying from type 2-3 depending on that.
    • Video game and Visual Novel adaptations necessarily have to make some changes to turn a branching story into a linear one, so they usually fall in the 2-3 range. In the case of some mobile or card game adaptations, they might have to make up a story from scratch where the original didn't have one, falling into type 1.

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