How to make a book-movie adaptation

Yesterday I wrote about the negative side of book-movie adaptations but today I’m going to take this topic from the other side of the spectrum and talk about what makes a good book-movie adaptations.

When I ordered the ‘Scorch trials’, I also ordered the extended edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the ring’. Two book-movie adaptions, two completely different outcomes. What did The Lord of the Rings get right that the scorch trials didn’t?

Here’s three points that make a book-movie adaptation work:


  1. Story

One thing that seems like common sense when adapting a book, is following the authors story. A lot of the time directors and writers on a film like to spin their own twist on the story that they’re adapting but why deviate from a story that’s already loved? You’re setting yourself up for failure.

The scorch trials was terrible for mainly this reason. If they’d stuck to the book, then it would have had potential to be a good movie.

Another book-movie adaptation that was ruined by the story was ‘Eragon” by Christopher Paolini. This was one of my favourite childhood books and the movie changed the story so much that I can’t bear to watch it anymore.


  1. Character

Stories are famous for their characters. Their protagonists and antagonists are what can, essentially, set the book apart from others. Miscasting a character will have a dramatic effect on the final verdict of the film. Many of us readers choose to not watch book-movie adaptations because we don’t want our characters ruined for us.

Misreading a character’s intentions or appearance can be an easy mistake for a director. That doesn’t always make it a forgivable one. Our favourite characters have a certain look and appearance in our mind. If the movie doesn’t reflect that image, then it can ruin the whole movie for us.


  1. Setting

Just like characters, a books setting is something that we have to visualise. Books generally give us a good description of a world and its setting but we still have to visualise it in our minds. Having that visual image taken away from us will either make or break the film for us.

Setting is not something that you should go cheap on. It’s also not something that should be overdone. If you look at the settings in The Lord of the Rings compared to Peter Jacksons adaptation of the prequel, ‘The Hobbit’, the setting is a lot more minimalistic and there is hardly any CGI used to create the land. However, the scenery in the Hobbit movies were loaded with CGI which felt a bit unnecessary to me. We had a good representation of Middle-Earth from Lord of the Rings and if it isn’t broken then why break it?

At the end of the day, if you’re a director filming a book-movie adaptation, then just be honest to the book. The fans of both the book and the movie will respect you for it and 9/10 times it will be a better movie. What’s your favourite book-movie adaptation? Post it below.

-Chris Gutteridge



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