May's Theme: "Adaptation"
Every complaint about Hollywood lately seems to be some take on lack of originality. All they seem to make now are sequels, adaptations, reboots, or sequels to the rebooted adaptations. But is that so bad?
Sometimes adaptations are great. I mean, we just got sequel number 22 in an adaptation of an entire comic book universe and it’s one of the most creatively (and financially) rewarding franchises Hollywood has ever put out. And I for one am grateful that the 8-part Harry Potter film series, the 6-part Mission Impossible series, and roughly 1,218 minutes of the Lord of the Rings universe exists. Not to mention classics like The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, or Doctor Zhivago, the sci-fi epics 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, or Children of Men, and animated classics like Shrek, Iron Giant, and How to Train Your Dragon. Had these stories not been adapted to new media, you and I may not have ever experienced them.
Adaptation isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, oftentimes it’s a requirement. In nature, organisms adapt to new environments in order to survive. In our own lives, change is inevitable. As our environments change, we have to learn how to adapt ... or die (metaphorically speaking).
Environmental changes might mean you get married or have kids. It might mean you face sickness. It might mean you get a raise or lose your job, or that you catch your big break but that big break doesn’t quite look like you’d hoped. And as you chase your creative goals, all of these environmental changes affect you.
The greatest movie adaptations stay true to the source material. It’s not that they don’t make changes (in fact the best ones cut and rearrange and add in order to best fit the medium), but a great adaptation figures out what the core of the story is and builds everything else around that.
At its core, Harry Potter is about a boy without a family, chosen for a task he’s ill-prepared for, and finding a family in the process (with the antagonist being a mirror image of this—Voldemort choosing power over family). The core of Harry Potter is that love is the most powerful force of all. If you protect that, you can take liberties with the on-screen choices.
In your own life, the key to adapting to these new environments properly is to first figure out your core. What drives your art? Maybe it’s connection with other people. Maybe it’s a value like compassion or honesty. Maybe it’s your intellect or a thirst for knowledge. Whatever that core is, let that guide you as you journey through the ups and downs of your environment.
The truth is you can’t control environment anyway. You’ll only wear yourself out trying. But you can control how you respond to it. Don’t be afraid of adapting. It only makes you stronger.
Poke around the site for the month of May and you’ll find lots of different takes on the theme of adaptation, from filmmakers learning to adapt to the current distribution climate to deep dives into some of our favorite adaptations. Share with us below your favorite book-to-movie adaptation or bare your soul with us and share your “core.”