Pointless Changes In Adaptations

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
I do not understand the need to make pointless changes in film and TV adaptations of books. I can understand when the change emphasises a dramatic point (even a different one than in the original), or when it simplifies something in the original.

An example of the first can be found in the movie version of Lord of the Rings. In the books, when Faramir encounters Frodo and Sam with the ring, he immediately states that he would not take it if it were offered - he does not want to see it or have anything to do with it, but will help Frodo and Sam's quest if he can. But in the movie, when Faramir encounters them and realises they have the ring, he immediately wants to (and starts to) taken them back to Gondor with the ring, as his brother Borimor had wanted. It is only later that he realises that would be a bad idea. This is a change with a dramatic point - the director wanted to heighten the tension and conflict in Faramir's mind. I don't like the change, but I understand it and the reason it was made.

An example of the second can be found in the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End. In the book the aliens who 'invade' Earth do not allow themselves to be seen by humans. Their interface with humanity is a single man, with whom the 'Supervisor for Earth' meets from behind one-way glass. In the book, desperate to get a look at the alien, the hero has a super-secret device constructed (think of Bond's Q) and concealed inside a briefcase. When he opens it it throws a bright light which gradually climbs up, hopefully illuminating the alien when the hero holds it up to the glass. In the movie, in the same situation, the hero's girlfriend hands him a camera and tells him to take a photo with flash through the glass. That's a great simplification. Much simpler, much easier - dramatically better in every way.

But the pointless changes...in the book of Childhood's End, humanity's liaison with the aliens is the Secretary-General of the UN. A reasonable, logical person for the aliens to choose. They wouldn't want to pick the leader of any particular nation for fear of perceived bias - so they choose the closest thing to an un-partisan person of authority they can find. But in the film adaptation, they choose a nobody farmer from outback US who has something of a reputation in the area as a good negotiator (the announce that the next choice in line was an 80 year old Korean woman, or similar). The farmer, we learn, lost his wife when they were both young and has not yet gotten over her, even though he is on the verge of proposing to his new amor. Now what the hell is the point of that change? It doesn't influence the actual story in any way - nothing changes about the aliens' perception of and interaction with humanity as a result of the different liaison. His dead wife has nothing to do with the rest of the plot; his current girlfriend likewise (although she is the one to suggest the flash camera, but presumably he could have thought of that on his own). So what was they %@&%*[email protected] point?

Sorry...bit of a rant there. One my buttons.
 

Bob1

Well-known member
I do not understand the need to make pointless changes in film and TV adaptations of books. I can understand when the change emphasises a dramatic point (even a different one than in the original), or when it simplifies something in the original.

An example of the first can be found in the movie version of Lord of the Rings. In the books, when Faramir encounters Frodo and Sam with the ring, he immediately states that he would not take it if it were offered - he does not want to see it or have anything to do with it, but will help Frodo and Sam's quest if he can. But in the movie, when Faramir encounters them and realises they have the ring, he immediately wants to (and starts to) taken them back to Gondor with the ring, as his brother Borimor had wanted. It is only later that he realises that would be a bad idea. This is a change with a dramatic point - the director wanted to heighten the tension and conflict in Faramir's mind. I don't like the change, but I understand it and the reason it was made.

An example of the second can be found in the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End. In the book the aliens who 'invade' Earth do not allow themselves to be seen by humans. Their interface with humanity is a single man, with whom the 'Supervisor for Earth' meets from behind one-way glass. In the book, desperate to get a look at the alien, the hero has a super-secret device constructed (think of Bond's Q) and concealed inside a briefcase. When he opens it it throws a bright light which gradually climbs up, hopefully illuminating the alien when the hero holds it up to the glass. In the movie, in the same situation, the hero's girlfriend hands him a camera and tells him to take a photo with flash through the glass. That's a great simplification. Much simpler, much easier - dramatically better in every way.

But the pointless changes...in the book of Childhood's End, humanity's liaison with the aliens is the Secretary-General of the UN. A reasonable, logical person for the aliens to choose. They wouldn't want to pick the leader of any particular nation for fear of perceived bias - so they choose the closest thing to an un-partisan person of authority they can find. But in the film adaptation, they choose a nobody farmer from outback US who has something of a reputation in the area as a good negotiator (the announce that the next choice in line was an 80 year old Korean woman, or similar). The farmer, we learn, lost his wife when they were both young and has not yet gotten over her, even though he is on the verge of proposing to his new amor. Now what the hell is the point of that change? It doesn't influence the actual story in any way - nothing changes about the aliens' perception of and interaction with humanity as a result of the different liaison. His dead wife has nothing to do with the rest of the plot; his current girlfriend likewise (although she is the one to suggest the flash camera, but presumably he could have thought of that on his own). So what was they %@&%*[email protected] point?

Sorry...bit of a rant there. One my buttons.
Agreed. It's not very pleasant when you sit down to watch a movie after having read and enjoyed the book it's based on... and discover that the movie moguls have made ridiculous changes to the story.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Agreed. It's not very pleasant when you sit down to watch a movie after having read and enjoyed the book it's based on... and discover that the movie moguls have made ridiculous changes to the story.
They sure made a mess of The Hobbit. There's a fan edit out there which shows how good it could have been without all the bloated action scenes and extraneous plot lines.
 

Komodo

Active member
I do not understand the need to make pointless changes in film and TV adaptations of books. I can understand when the change emphasises a dramatic point (even a different one than in the original), or when it simplifies something in the original.

An example of the first can be found in the movie version of Lord of the Rings. In the books, when Faramir encounters Frodo and Sam with the ring, he immediately states that he would not take it if it were offered - he does not want to see it or have anything to do with it, but will help Frodo and Sam's quest if he can. But in the movie, when Faramir encounters them and realises they have the ring, he immediately wants to (and starts to) taken them back to Gondor with the ring, as his brother Borimor had wanted. It is only later that he realises that would be a bad idea. This is a change with a dramatic point - the director wanted to heighten the tension and conflict in Faramir's mind. I don't like the change, but I understand it and the reason it was made.

An example of the second can be found in the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End. In the book the aliens who 'invade' Earth do not allow themselves to be seen by humans. Their interface with humanity is a single man, with whom the 'Supervisor for Earth' meets from behind one-way glass. In the book, desperate to get a look at the alien, the hero has a super-secret device constructed (think of Bond's Q) and concealed inside a briefcase. When he opens it it throws a bright light which gradually climbs up, hopefully illuminating the alien when the hero holds it up to the glass. In the movie, in the same situation, the hero's girlfriend hands him a camera and tells him to take a photo with flash through the glass. That's a great simplification. Much simpler, much easier - dramatically better in every way.

But the pointless changes...in the book of Childhood's End, humanity's liaison with the aliens is the Secretary-General of the UN. A reasonable, logical person for the aliens to choose. They wouldn't want to pick the leader of any particular nation for fear of perceived bias - so they choose the closest thing to an un-partisan person of authority they can find. But in the film adaptation, they choose a nobody farmer from outback US who has something of a reputation in the area as a good negotiator (the announce that the next choice in line was an 80 year old Korean woman, or similar). The farmer, we learn, lost his wife when they were both young and has not yet gotten over her, even though he is on the verge of proposing to his new amor. Now what the hell is the point of that change? It doesn't influence the actual story in any way - nothing changes about the aliens' perception of and interaction with humanity as a result of the different liaison. His dead wife has nothing to do with the rest of the plot; his current girlfriend likewise (although she is the one to suggest the flash camera, but presumably he could have thought of that on his own). So what was they %@&%*[email protected] point?

Sorry...bit of a rant there. One my buttons.
Pretty clearly they wanted to appeal to their American audience by adding an American major character. It's probably something the studio insisted on as a requirement for getting the film produced. Same thing happened with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Tom Sawyer was added to the "League" (which in the original consisted of characters from H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and other English and European authors). Although that was actually one of the least jarring changes the film made.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
They sure made a mess of The Hobbit. There's a fan edit out there which shows how good it could have been without all the bloated action scenes and extraneous plot lines.
I have been a huge fan of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for over forty years. I could not count how many times I have read both of them, as well as all his other works. I have never watched The Hobbit solely because I have heard so many bad things about it and do not want it ruined for me.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
Pretty clearly they wanted to appeal to their American audience by adding an American major character. It's probably something the studio insisted on as a requirement for getting the film produced. Same thing happened with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Tom Sawyer was added to the "League" (which in the original consisted of characters from H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and other English and European authors). Although that was actually one of the least jarring changes the film made.
You know, I never even thought of adding an American major character to boost the appeal to American audiences. Never even occurred to me, but you're very probably right.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
I have been a huge fan of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for over forty years. I could not count how many times I have read both of them, as well as all his other works. I have never watched The Hobbit solely because I have heard so many bad things about it and do not want it ruined for me.
I totally understand. You should definitely avoid the theatrical cut. But do yourself a favour and check this version out: https://tolkieneditor.wordpress.com/. It cuts out all the added stuff, returns Bilbo to the center of the narrative, and cuts the 8hrs of the three movies down to one 4hr movie. I've also been a Tolkien fan almost since I was old enough to read, I loved the LOTR films, and this cut raises The Hobbit nearly to the same level.
 

Komodo

Active member
You know, I never even thought of adding an American major character to boost the appeal to American audiences. Never even occurred to me, but you're very probably right.

It seems to be the reflexive reaction of the studios to anything foreign. Imagine the reaction of Harry Potter fans if Warner Bros. had had their way:

"With its towering turrets and set in an ancient castle, Harry Potter's wizarding school Hogwarts might seem like a quintessentially British creation.

"But the producer who worked on the film franchise of J.K.Rowling's hugely-successful books has revealed the plans by some film bosses to turn the story of the boy wizard into an American teenage drama instead.

"David Heyman, the 51-year-old who bought the film rights to the Harry Potter series in 2009, said in initial discussions with Warner Brothers it was proposed that the wizarding saga should be relocated to across the Atlantic.

"'In some of the first talks with writers in America there was talk of moving it to the States, you know, cheerleaders and the like,' he told the Independent."
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
It seems to be the reflexive reaction of the studios to anything foreign. Imagine the reaction of Harry Potter fans if Warner Bros. had had their way:

"With its towering turrets and set in an ancient castle, Harry Potter's wizarding school Hogwarts might seem like a quintessentially British creation.

"But the producer who worked on the film franchise of J.K.Rowling's hugely-successful books has revealed the plans by some film bosses to turn the story of the boy wizard into an American teenage drama instead.

"David Heyman, the 51-year-old who bought the film rights to the Harry Potter series in 2009, said in initial discussions with Warner Brothers it was proposed that the wizarding saga should be relocated to across the Atlantic.

"'In some of the first talks with writers in America there was talk of moving it to the States, you know, cheerleaders and the like,' he told the Independent."
Oh, dear.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
The James Bond books are the worst. The first few movies are not so bad, but by the time they get to Mookraker, there is zero correlation between the plot of the move and the plot of the book.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
the pointless changes...in the book of Childhood's End, humanity's liaison with the aliens is the Secretary-General of the UN. A reasonable, logical person for the aliens to choose. They wouldn't want to pick the leader of any particular nation for fear of perceived bias - so they choose the closest thing to an un-partisan person of authority they can find. But in the film adaptation, they choose a nobody farmer from outback US who has something of a reputation in the area as a good negotiator (the announce that the next choice in line was an 80 year old Korean woman, or similar). The farmer, we learn, lost his wife when they were both young and has not yet gotten over her, even though he is on the verge of proposing to his new amor. Now what the hell is the point of that change? It doesn't influence the actual story in any way - nothing changes about the aliens' perception of and interaction with humanity as a result of the different liaison. His dead wife has nothing to do with the rest of the plot; his current girlfriend likewise (although she is the one to suggest the flash camera, but presumably he could have thought of that on his own). So what was they %@&%*[email protected] point?

Sorry...bit of a rant there. One my buttons.
Hyper-partisanship is a real thing, and smart marketers will be aware of it. If you want millions of people to watch a movie, be careful of putting in it anything that might alienate a third of your target audience.

I'm guessing references to the UN were removed for this reason.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
The James Bond books are the worst. The first few movies are not so bad, but by the time they get to Mookraker, there is zero correlation between the plot of the move and the plot of the book.
When I was young (9-10 years old), I was collecting the Ian Fleming books. At one point, I must have been talking to the barber cutting my hair, because he offered to buy them off me. I remember putting them in a paper bag, and my Dad taking me to the Shop to sell them. It was a lot of money to me (and Dad was probably there to make sure I wasn't getting too ripped off).

I regret that sale to this day. I'd read all of the books back then, and I loved them - and this is why I loved most of the Sean Connery movies but hated the rest. After him, the visual adaptations didn't seem at all like the books I'd read...
 

Mr Laurier

Well-known member
I do not understand the need to make pointless changes in film and TV adaptations of books. I can understand when the change emphasises a dramatic point (even a different one than in the original), or when it simplifies something in the original.

An example of the first can be found in the movie version of Lord of the Rings. In the books, when Faramir encounters Frodo and Sam with the ring, he immediately states that he would not take it if it were offered - he does not want to see it or have anything to do with it, but will help Frodo and Sam's quest if he can. But in the movie, when Faramir encounters them and realises they have the ring, he immediately wants to (and starts to) taken them back to Gondor with the ring, as his brother Borimor had wanted. It is only later that he realises that would be a bad idea. This is a change with a dramatic point - the director wanted to heighten the tension and conflict in Faramir's mind. I don't like the change, but I understand it and the reason it was made.

An example of the second can be found in the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End. In the book the aliens who 'invade' Earth do not allow themselves to be seen by humans. Their interface with humanity is a single man, with whom the 'Supervisor for Earth' meets from behind one-way glass. In the book, desperate to get a look at the alien, the hero has a super-secret device constructed (think of Bond's Q) and concealed inside a briefcase. When he opens it it throws a bright light which gradually climbs up, hopefully illuminating the alien when the hero holds it up to the glass. In the movie, in the same situation, the hero's girlfriend hands him a camera and tells him to take a photo with flash through the glass. That's a great simplification. Much simpler, much easier - dramatically better in every way.

But the pointless changes...in the book of Childhood's End, humanity's liaison with the aliens is the Secretary-General of the UN. A reasonable, logical person for the aliens to choose. They wouldn't want to pick the leader of any particular nation for fear of perceived bias - so they choose the closest thing to an un-partisan person of authority they can find. But in the film adaptation, they choose a nobody farmer from outback US who has something of a reputation in the area as a good negotiator (the announce that the next choice in line was an 80 year old Korean woman, or similar). The farmer, we learn, lost his wife when they were both young and has not yet gotten over her, even though he is on the verge of proposing to his new amor. Now what the hell is the point of that change? It doesn't influence the actual story in any way - nothing changes about the aliens' perception of and interaction with humanity as a result of the different liaison. His dead wife has nothing to do with the rest of the plot; his current girlfriend likewise (although she is the one to suggest the flash camera, but presumably he could have thought of that on his own). So what was they %@&%*[email protected] point?

Sorry...bit of a rant there. One my buttons.
Americans don't like to not be the star of the show.
 
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