There have been many adaptations made over the past several years that have not done well. The most recent of these is Death Note, a movie made by Netflix that has barely reaches past the half-good mark and has received many bad reviews. I originally wanted to write a post on all the things this movie does wrong as an adaptation of a popular anime/manga, but then I looked at other movie adaptations such as Eragon, Seventh Son, Assassin’s Creed, Avatar the Last Airbender, and many many more awful movies and I noticed how most of these movies make the same mistakes in regards to adapting their source material. So instead of making a list of everything that one movie Death Note did wrong, I’ll instead be writing a list of everything that can be done to make an adaptation enjoyable for both the new audience of the movie and therefore source material and everyone who is a fan of the original.
So here’s my list, I guess.
Stay as true to the source material as possible
I understand that it is difficult to fit an entire story that spans about 500 pages in a novel into a movie that is at most two and a half hours long, but one of the easiest ways to make a good adaptation is to not leave too much of the source material out. To stay as true as possible to the source material go through the source material and decide on how important some scenes are compared to others. Leave the less important scenes that do little to further the plot and keep all the more important scenes.
But it is also possible that some scenes are weighted differently to the audience. These tend to be iconic scenes that if left out of the adaptation will make fans of the source material angry, and one thing you do not want is angry fans. An example of this is of course the famous potato chip scene of Death Note which was unfortunately left out of the Netflix movie. When you are weighing the scenes of the source material in terms of importance it is also important to look at the fandom that already surrounds the source material.
Don’t sexualize characters
Now when I say stay as close to the source material, I the same thing with characters. There have been a couple times where I’ve watched a book to movie adaptation and character was different from how I imagined them personality wise because they have been sexualized. This is pretty self explanatory.
Don’t alter the fundamental rules of the world
One of the most annoying changes made in the Netflix adaptation of Death Note was with the rules. By changing the rules and making Ryuk the only god of death in the film, the fundamental rules of the world were also altered. Generally if you want fans of the source material to actually like your adaptation you don’t want to do this.
Use already existing characters and plotlines
The example I’ll use for the new Assassin’s Creed movie. The problem was the lack of characters from any of the games. The plot and characters of a story tend to be what people have a connection to. If you leave them out all you have left are the gimmicks of the source material which in the case of Assassin’s Creed is the war between the templars and assassin’s and the use of technology to make descendents of famous assassin’s remember their ancestor’s history. It’s cool to watch, but other than that it is not that great. Few people will rewatch the adaptation.
Do not change the plot to make it more action packed
Again this is pretty self explanatory. The main draw of a story is not always the action, though I guess that is the case for some like the stories of some video games. Instead the thing that makes people enjoy the story can be anything. It can be the characters, romance, setting, gimmicky things, or even amazing scenes that contain little to no action. Not everything has to be an action packed thriller.
Work with the original author
This is one of the easiest ways to make a good adaptation. One of my favourite book to live action adaptations from recent history is A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. I enjoyed it because I like it was written and directed in a way that made it have the same feel as the books. Now if you go and look at IMDB you will see that Daniel Handler, the guy also known as Lemony Snicket has series writing credits for 21 episodes of the television series.
The original author doesn’t even need to be an active writer or director for the adaptation. They can just act as consultants for the writers and directors. This makes for a much better adaptation., though of course I can understand if a writer doesn’t want to work on an adaptation.
Now these are the things that can be done in order to make a good adaptation, or at least these are things I think can be done. Now hopefully screenwriters and directors start doing these things so that some novels and anime can have the adaptations they deserve.