Don’t judge a movie by its cover: Adaptations don’t have to be faithful to be good

By Bella Whitmore | Arts & Life Intern

Every time a new movie adaptation rolls around, you can’t escape the criticisms that come with it. Everywhere you turn, you hear, “The book was better,” “They’re going to butcher the story by turning it into a movie” or “Did you hear that they aren’t including [insert character] in the movie?” And honestly, it’s getting a little old.

We’ve seen this with “The Maze Runner,” “The Hobbit” and, most recently, the Disney+ adaptation of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty huge fan of book-to-movie franchises. From Harry Potter and Percy Jackson to both adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (but mostly the 2005 version), I have enjoyed and fallen in love with both the book and the movie, despite their differences.

I think the key issue here is that many people are judging the value of the movie based on how true and faithful it is to its original source material. Personally, I believe a movie stands alone and should be judged by the quality of its content without bringing in outside source material.

Essentially, a movie adaptation doesn’t necessarily have to stay faithful to the book to be great. Think of it this way: Books and movies are two different mediums with their own strengths and limitations. What works in a book might not translate well onto the big screen, and vice versa.

When filmmakers take creative liberties with a book, they have the opportunity to breathe new life into the story. They can streamline complex plots, condense timelines or explore different character arcs that might resonate better with a visual audience. Plus, movies have the advantage of using visual and auditory elements to enhance storytelling in ways books can’t replicate.

Moreover, staying too faithful to the source material can sometimes hinder the creative process. It can box filmmakers into a rigid framework, preventing them from taking risks or injecting fresh perspectives into the narrative. By allowing for some flexibility, filmmakers can adapt the essence of the story while still creating something unique and captivating for audiences. So, while purists might grumble about changes, a great movie adaptation can stand on its own merit, offering a fresh take on a beloved story.

The beauty of the book still exists after the movie comes out. They can both stand on their own as great pieces of art.

So, next time you see a movie adaptation being made for your favorite book series, try not to be immediately cynical and nitpick every aspect of what they did right and wrong. Instead, remember the director probably respects and loves the book just as much as you but also has the right to creative liberty. And if the movie isn’t perfect and has the audacity to change the hair color of one of the characters or forget that one piece of dialogue, just know it’s not personal.