Hollywood’s rising adaptation trend

Book adaptations fill theaters this year with biopics, sci-fi films and dramas.


Jack English


Mary Strother, Writer

Think back on the last non-school related book you read. Would it make for a good movie? Perhaps you read it because it already is a film, or is coming soon to the big screen. Film adaptations of popular books have always been a popular medium for the motion picture industry, but have seemingly increased in the last few years. From Erich von Stroheim’s adaptation of “McTeague” in 1924 to Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” this past year, it seems that film studios find it hard to resist the power of the novel on screen.


For anyone interested in film or screenwriting in particular, the distinction is constantly made by professionals between books and movies. Elements that work well in novels, such as voice over or internal dialogue, are not elements that translate over to scripts. Everything in a script, besides camera direction and other cues, must be able to be seen or heard by the audience. Most novels can, with a little tweaking, become a solid screenplay. Even ones heavy on internal dialogue, such as Gillian Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl,” can be convincingly adapted for an audience when elements like flashbacks and voice overs, generally shied away from in cinema, are used sparingly and to great effect.


A piece from CNN in November 2013 described the phenomenon of young adult books being made into feature films, and the main draw was cited as a chance for readers to experience the world they read about in a new way. For the many reasons a book could be adapted — money, franchise expansion, etc. — it seems that the simplest answer is the best. So many books are adapted because filmmakers know, particularly for young adults, that the film can reel in its already established fanbase. When a book is popular, the box office numbers already seem solid. Although it then depends on the quality of the film, and how faithful it remains to its source material, adaptations are still almost always a solid bet for a film studio, and will probably continue to remain so for years to come.


Buzzfeed published an article in January of this year, detailing 21 books being made into feature film adaptations in 2015. Among them are ones already released, such as the mega hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” and young adult novel “The DUFF.” There are still plenty to come, including “In the Heart of the Sea” directed by Ron Howard, “Far From the Madding Crowd” directed by Thomas Vinterberg, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” directed by Wes Ball and “The Martian” directed by Ridley Scott.

While there is plenty of variety every year, it seems 2014 was heavy in biopics, many based on bestselling books, including Oscars Best Adapted Screenplay winner “The Imitation Game,” which was based on the novel “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. This year, however, many adaptations seem more focused on popular fictional novels. Still, there remains plenty for everyone here — whether your preference is fiction, non-fiction and everything in between, it is safe to say you will probably see an adaptation you enjoy at least once on the big screen.


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