Book To Film Adaptations – Bombshells or Butchery?

There seems to be a huge divide in the success stories of book-to-film adaptations - where does it all go wrong?

Jodie Steer
21st November 2023
It is difficult to miss the increasing monotony of mainstream cinema, particularly as streaming services turn their hand to producing films. Innovation and uniqueness have been buried underneath commercial success and clichés; unfortunately book to film adaptations have been unable to escape the same fate.

Transforming page to screen hasn’t always been a complete and utter car crash – The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999), both based on Stephen King’s short stories, are widely considered to be two of the greatest films made, with The Shawshank Redemption rated number one on IMDB, and The Green Mile in the top thirty.

Films such as Fight Club (1999), Trainspotting (1996) and my all time favourite The Princess Bride (1987), have all achieved cult classic status, and are similarly all based on novels of the same name. It is clear that books can and have been successfully adapted into cinematic masterpieces, so the question must be where are filmmakers often now going so horribly wrong?

stick to the classics and steer clear of YA amateur hour

My answer: overly ambitious streaming services. In the past several years, Netflix were the first to set the trend of distributing a series of young adult book adaptations. Although a success with pre-teen adolescents, who let’s face it have practically only just graduated from Peppa Pig, YA novels such as All the Bright Places (2020), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018), and The Sun is Also A Star (2019) have been slaughtered during their journey from page to screen.

These shoddy attempts leave you wondering whether anyone involved in the production ever read the book at all, or just skimmed the Wikipedia summary before boshing out what I view as a crime against screenwriting. However the real villain here is Wattpad. Watching the After (2019-2023) and Kissing Booth (2018-2021) series (both dreadful Wattpad success stories) would be my equivalent of a Saw trap; it’s like when Doctor Octopus reformed the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider Man #334 – the dreaded collaborations of super villains, ready to cause catastrophe in the book to film universe.

All in all, page to screen adaptations can be groundbreaking homages to their original forms, but equally can be enough to drive you to the cusp of insanity. My recommendation: stick to the classics and steer clear of YA amateur hour, particularly if you have any nostalgia that you don’t want to be brutalised in front of your very eyes.

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