Are Movie Adaptations Always Worse Than Originals?

Logan Busbee, Co Editor In Chief

Original stories are hard to make, and as such, it’s generally cheaper to adapt a popular story to a different medium rather than create a new story. These adaptations tend to come under scrutiny for being unoriginal and pale shadows of the original. However, that is a heavy generalization, seeing as the best adaptations add unique elements that set them apart from the original despite the major change of mediums.

The most infamous type of adaptations are of video games to movies. However, in recent years video game adaptations have become far better and more adept at both telling stories and being faithful to the source material. The Netflix show Castlevania is based on the NES game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse from 1989 is one example. While the show delivers an interesting story by using the basics of the game, it adds new details to flesh out the world in a way not possible in the game’s initial release. Add onto that the references to the original series, and the focus on good storytelling that works with the series. The choice of making it a TV show also helps by giving it multiple seasons to focus on the story, rather than cramming it into a two hour movie.

Yet some games don’t have a large story to pull from. By taking out the gameplay, the thing that makes video games unique, the movies are left without the feature that makes them special. One of the worst examples is Super Mario Bros from 1993, which has little relation to the source material. The story is nonsensical, and it’s reported that many actors were drunk on set because they couldn’t film sober. Simply put, this was a terrible adaptation of a video game known for simplicity and fun gameplay. 

Yet while Castlevania was an example of a good adaptation that adheres to its original series’ lore, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a good example of how changes can be made to better suit the new story. While there are many similarities to the comics they’re based on, the MCU still changes ideas to streamline them for general audiences, update them to be more culturally relevant, or alter them to better suit characters’ arcs. 

The largest example is the character of Thor, who is currently a giant goofball in the movies. While the movie version started out similar to his comics counterpart, with a noble and mythic attitude and style, that didn’t resonate with audiences. So the movies changed it, and the character has become better liked because of that.

Adaptations have to walk a fine line in order to be good. They shouldn’t deviate too much from the source material, otherwise it feels unfamiliar and should have been an original idea on its own. However, they shouldn’t be a one-to-one recreation, as there’s no need for that, since the original is the same. But great adaptations can end up better than their source material, by staying similar to the original concepts, but adding unique twists and layering new elements to create a new experience from an older story.