From Video Games To Books: Why Are Movie Adaptations Usually Bad?

Adaptations are surprisingly common in the movie industry, but the critical response to many of the best-known films that are based on other works can be less than enthusiastic.

So what is it that makes it so difficult to get movie adaptations right, and are there any examples that buck this trend?

Image Source: Pixabay


The Unapologetic Cash-Grabs

There are a few reasons that movie execs choose to give so many adaptations the go-ahead, and money is always at the top of the agenda.

Unlike films based on original premises and fresh scripts, which have to start from scratch to build marketing momentum, those which are being founded on an established IP can tap into a pre-existing fan base and thus have a better chance of making a profit.

This means that the main motivation for developing most adaptations is cash, rather than quality. This also suggests that plenty of attempts to adapt works which seem entirely unfit subjects for narrative cinema are made based purely on the same principle.

Even games with the most basic storylines, such as Doom, have been turned into movies just so studios can piggyback on the popularity of a property generated in another medium.

Of course, it also works in the other direction, with sites like featuring a host of games that have been adapted from movies, usually with much more success than when things go in the other direction.


The Missed Opportunities

The poor quality of many adaptations which make it to cinemas or streaming services may start with the fact that they are being made purely for profit generation, but this can only be compounded if the people who take charge of the production do not have a deep appreciation for what makes the source material so compelling in the first place.

Video game adaptations are especially guilty of this issue, with a swathe of merely bland or outright awful films taking the loosest inspiration from successful interactive franchises and failing to thrill either existing fans or curious outsiders. From the entirely forgettable Max Payne to the truly terrible Dragon Ball Evolution, the list of adaptations which have entirely fallen short while also completely ignoring so many aspects of the original work is worryingly long.

Then there are films which not only stoke the ire of acolytes of the original IP but also manage to avoid making any money to double down on the disaster. Warcraft is a great example of this, as it did not break even in spite of the army of fans that the game series has at its disposal.


The Unexpected Triumphs

Even with the unfortunately large number of movie adaptations that end up leaving a bad taste in the mouths of audiences worldwide, there are plenty of cinematic works which are based on stories or ideas found elsewhere which do deliver in terms of both quality and commercial impact.

One of the most bizarre examples is the original Pirates of the Caribbean film, which arrived in 2003 and was inspired by a theme park ride. This sounds like it should be a pretty flimsy basis for a movie, yet the end result was a hearty dose of family-friendly swash-buckling fun that evolved into a $4.5 billion franchise over the course of the next decade and a half.

The quality of the subsequent Pirates movies may have deteriorated, but the original remains a shining example of how even the most bizarre adaptations can do well if they manage to get the artistic aspects right.

There are also a whole host of movies which most people in the audience will not even realise are adapted from elsewhere. Everything from Die Hard and Forest Gump to Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect first appeared in print in one form or another before getting snapped up and retooled for Hollywood.

The moral of the story is that the lesser-known an original work is, the better its chances of becoming a successful movie adaptation will be. Often if there are no prior expectations in place, a movie will have the opportunity to be judged on its own merits.

Jessica Alexander

Jessica Alexander

I've always loved to write, but I'd never want to be famous. So, I write as Jessica A. over here at ADDICTED. You can think of my like Carmen Sandiego, you trust me, but where in the world am I?
Jessica Alexander

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