Photo: Book-to-Movie Adaptations
Whenever a striking piece of literature is released, it’s safe to assume some sort of adaptation will make its way into the world. Books that reach heightened popularity, especially series, are commonly pitched to be transformed into films or TV shows. Everyone’s familiar with this course of action, from the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, to ‘The Hunger Games.’ Young adult (YA) book adaptations in particular made the biggest boom at the box office. Though in recent years, we have yet to relive the magic of the 2000s and 2010s, which ignited a full YA movie era. However, with several promising projects making their way to the screen in the coming months, there’s more fun to be had, and there may be a new era waiting just around the corner.
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From the new ‘Percy Jackson’ television series to Netflix’s ‘The School of Good and Evil,’ film adaptation, it seems book lovers have a lot to look forward to…sort of. There is a bittersweet element to having beloved works of fiction adapted. On the one hand, you want your imagination to come to life and you want to see your favorite book get the care and attention it deserves. On the other hand, you fear too many differences from the source material, and you fear a bland take on your favorite book, unable to honor it. How do adaptations walk that tightrope and balance expectations? We can only hope these upcoming works match the integrity of the pieces they are based on.
Book-to-Movie – The Adaptability of an Adaptation
Good adaptations are so complicated and so rare. There are changes that must occur because you’re switching over from the medium of reading to the medium of watching. But then if there are too many changes, it can diminish what the original book was trying to say. To make matters even more complicated, every fan is going to have their own opinion on what worked and what didn’t. One of the most interesting examples to analyze is the 2010 ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ adaptation, which garnered a sequel a few years later, only to have the franchise stop after two entries. The movie was based on Rick Riordan’s novel series and came out around the time the ‘Harry Potter’ films were ending, no doubt attempting to fill the void that would be left. For the film, more than a couple of changes were made.
One of the biggest was the age of the characters. It’s not unheard of to age characters up whether it be to have more experienced actors, or to make the characters more “accessible,” and so for the movie, the main characters were changed from preteens to sixteen-year-olds. This change, though understandable, later harmed the character development set up by the books. The characters weren’t allowed to grow into themselves the same way. Other changes were made, including the plot (which is a pretty big change for any adaptation), but the age change is so interesting because it can seem small, but creates such a distance from the original characters.
Fast forward to 2022, and Disney Plus is working on a new adaptation of the ‘Percy Jackson’ books, this time as a television series. It feels right that these witty books are getting another chance on the screen, and author Rick Riordan is deeply involved in this one (and it’s always a good sign when the author has a say in things). Making it a series as opposed to a movie may already help do justice to the story because there is more time and it is closer to the format of the books. And this time around, the characters have been cast with age-appropriate actors, bringing them back to 11-12, the ages they were initially written as. Fans are already excited as Walker Scobell (best known for playing a young Ryan Reynolds in ‘The Adam Project’), Leah Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri are taking on the roles of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover respectively. Many have high hopes for the adaptation, mainly due to the dedication and time put into it, as well as the involvement of Riordan. All those details usually add up to a faithful, yet adaptable product.
The Shadows and the Bones
Another strong adaptation is that of ‘Shadow and Bone,’ adapted from the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo. Netflix adapted the series into a television show, and also switched some things around when it came to creating a smooth adaptation. Though the first season mainly tackled the first book, the writers decided to give favorited characters from other books their own storylines. Those characters are the crows from the “Six of Crows” duology, which has been widely regarded as Bardugo’s best work, so it’s no surprise the show would want to service its fans by including these characters. With those added storylines came some more changes to the plot, but the key is the bulk of the plot, and its integrity remains intact.
The show has now wrapped filming for its second season, and everyone’s anticipating how it will continue to service plans and give relevance to all these characters. ‘Shadow and Bone’ is a perfect example of how television can be used to create an adaptation that adheres to its source material while adding layers in order to up the interest and entertainment quality. We can only hope they keep that streak up as the series progresses.
The Excitement Continues!
So now, it’s time to get excited! There are so many travelers in the book-to-film pipeline, and each one is complete with its own personality and genre. Obviously, the new ‘Percy Jackson’ series is coming, along with a second season for ‘Shadow and Bone’ (which we will hopefully get a release date and trailer coming soon). Arriving in time for Halloween this year will be ‘The School of Good and Evil,’ starring Sofia Wylie, known for her work on Disney shows ‘Andi Mack’ and ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,’ alongside Sophia Ann Caruso, known in the theater world for originating Lydia Deetz in the Broadway adaptation of ‘Beetlejuice.’ The film is based on the novel by Soman Chainani and is set up as a fractured fairytale, thus far looking promising!
There are further adaptations to look forward to, including ‘The Midnight Club’ also releasing on Netflix in early October. This series is being adapted from the Christopher Pike novel, and Mike Flanagan (known for his astounding work on ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and its successors) is serving as the showrunner. Next year will see the release of ‘The Hunger Games’ prequel, ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ and ‘Dune: Part Two,’ both of which will be released on the same weekend in November of 2023 (talk about a competition). Even more projects are in development, and it seems like we’ll be seeing a bit of a boom for these types of movies/shows. It’s an exciting time to be a book lover and a moviegoer, and we can only hope that these adaptations deliver.
By Rachel Beltowski
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Rachel Beltowski is a screenwriter and film critic, with a passion for character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes. From adventure to horror, Rachel enjoys stories which take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster and allow for personal expression that would otherwise go silent. Rachel was drawn to The Hollywood Insider’s dedication to individual perspectives and positive world impacts. The Hollywood Insider has provided a foundation for Rachel to share her insights and leap into the center of the entertainment industry. Rachel hopes to bring a fresh voice into the world of film and television, and share her love of stories with others.