George R.R. Martin feels “things have gotten worse” with TV and film adaptations

M. Robert Gibson

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Short article from the NME

I have to agree with this
“No matter how major a writer it is, no matter how great the book, there always seems to be someone on hand who thinks he can do better, eager to take the story and ‘improve on it.”

“They never make it better, though. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, they make it worse,” he added.

*cough* The Hobbit *cough*
 
I hate to argue with the man...
A novel is not a film or TV script.
Take a 3-400 page story in to a 120 minute film and more than 2/3 of the original text has to go.
What and why they get rid of what they do, is another question.
For me, too often the Director [or whoever] can see the spectacle and forget the story needs to make sense too.
 
Film and TV (and Plays) are totally different to Books. I've read books where everything happens inside the head of the protagonist. They "think" this. They "imagine" this. Maybe they are even totally delirious in a coma. If the book is told from the point-of-view of the protagonist, how can you film what's going on inside their heads accurately except with long voice-overs? Personally, voice-overs make very boring film and TV. Alternatively, a five-page description of a room or a landscape can be a 10-second camera panorama, or the scene could never be accurately described by words. A play is much more easily filmed than a book, because it is often about the juxtapositions of the characters, and their interplay. Exactly where they are standing on the stage is important. Screenplays may lose some of the subtle meaning of clever word-play, but they make up for it with perfect timing. And there are things that are impossible to film because the punchline would be obvious to all right from the off.

So, I have no expectation that a filmed book will be exactly the same as the book itself. I expect it to tell the same story, but I accept that it must be adapted. I also expect both mediums to play to their strengths and not be hobbled by these differences.

The problem with Game of Thrones, as I think we all know, is that he left no source material for the final season and ending.

And I dispute what he says about Shogun too. Having read many authors complaining about the adaptations of their books before, I don't recall a single one who was happy with the screenplay. It is always going to be more of a "team effort". Even if the author took "control" and wrote the screenplay, and directed the film themselves, there are always executive producers holding the purse-strings, the edits on the cutting-room floor, and the dreaded censors.
 
Screen adaptations better than the written word: Stand by Me (The Body), The Shawshank Redemption (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and Stardust.... and maybe The Green Mile and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

It's a very low bar, but each and every James Bond film has to be better than the book. Which leads into Martin's comment on anti-fans who would rather discuss things they hate rather than things they love.

Most of the time, I feel like I stand completely alone in disliking The Lord of the Rings movies. Fellowship: A+. Towers: F-. Return: D. That being said, the visuals of Rohan are stunning.... and Sam's fight with Shelob and the Charge of the Rohirrim are two of the best things I've ever seen. But what would Tolkien have thought? After twenty-four years he might not have gotten any further than arguing the details of Bilbo's party or he might love the scene at the Grey Havens.

And yet, when an artist signs over authority to someone to reproduce a work there is an inherent danger of the artist not liking the end product. Prince wrote Nothing Compares 2 U and reportedly hated Sinnead O'Connor's version. And no matter how many times Prince performed it, hers is the definiitive version. While on the other hand, Bob Dylan admits that Jimi Hendrix' cover of All Along the Watchtower is the definitive version. I dunno what Dolly Parton thinks of Whitney Houston's And I Will Always Love You, but Houston's version is the one most people know.

As far as I know, neither Prince, Dylan, nor Parton signed over permission to remake their works.... they just had to live with the results. Martin got paid up front for signing over his works and then complains. It does not leave a good taste in my mouth. If he had an end to his story, then people might understand his intent better.

I think that GRRM will end up refuting all the supernatural in ASOIAF's religions and prophecies. But I think he will make the World Wide Weirwood Web a positive corrective institution for the salvation of humanity. In his mind (I think), the hivemind is the ultimate way to know and to be known. I think this is a fundamental aspect of GRRM's beliefs. He wants a supernatural/celestial union without a god. His characters all reflect the desires to know others aand to be known in return.... and I think that by not accepting the hivemind of the Weirwood trees, Jaime will not find redemption, Cersei will not find peace, and Tyrion will never be loved.

Back to my first comments, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman write smaller stories that adapt better to the screen. Martin has written short stories, novellas, and novels as well... but they've not caught the attention of the mass market. He just needed to write faster so that we could judge the work and his intentions fully. I feel too many people assume, that by using certain tropes, Martin will fulfill the ending they expect. I know that I used to do that. There is no way Dany, Jon, Arya, and Tyrion all survive. At least two of them will go with Cersei, Jaime, Brienne, Melisandre, Barristan, and all the Greyjoys to join Eddard, Robb, Catelyn, and all the other murdered people.
 
I don't think they make changes because they think they can do better. Rather, these are policies made given the argument that such changes may lead to more viewers, and thus more profits for investors.

And likely most viewers have not read or do not care about the source material.
 
I don't think they make changes because they think they can do better. Rather, these are policies made given the argument that such changes may lead to more viewers, and thus more profits for investors.
Which is exactly their idea of doing better. What else do they care about?
 
The Godfather, Jaws, Bladerunner, Silence of the Lambs, The Maltese Falcon.

Screen adaptations better than the written word: Stand by Me (The Body), The Shawshank Redemption (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and Stardust.... and maybe The Green Mile and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Those are all quite old, though. According to that article, GRRM's point (whether or not it has any merit) is that adaptations are now done less well than they were.
 
The first few seasons of GoT were very, very good. There were also complemented the books, giving faces and voices to the characters that all felt right.

I still find it almost impossible to believe that the screen writers would not have consulted Martin in relation to the storyline after the tv show went past the point to which the books had taken us.

I'm sure that he would have been in a very strong position to guide the writers of the tv series in the right direction. The problem with the last few seasons of GoT is that they eschewed a lot of the intrigue and foreshadowing of the earlier episodes, and replaced them with storylines that allowed for a series of climatic action/battle scenes.

These were done very well in the earlier seasons, as they were few and far between, and were the payoff for all that had happened in the last few episodes. They tended to be at the mid-season break or at the end of the season, and were something to look forward to. By the time we get to the last few 3 seasons, we seem to be having one of these every single episode, and it loses much of its impact.

As for other tv series adapting books, it's very much a hit and miss affair, but more often the latter. Das Boot, I, Claudius, Yrs Minister and the Sharpe series are all good examples of a tv show nicely complementing the books
 
Surely Yes Minister was actually a book complementing the tv series as it was on TV first?


Yes sorry, the tv series came first here. The book complements the tv series very well in that in an alternative format.

I think it's a good example of a tv series/film being adapted successfully into a book.
 
Those are all quite old, though. According to that article, GRRM's point (whether or not it has any merit) is that adaptations are now done less well than they were.
So does Dune, Annihilation, The Expanse, Stardust, Arrival, Sandman or Three Body Problem count?

How many fantasy books are being adapted in a given decade?
 
I don't think they make changes because they think they can do better. Rather, these are policies made given the argument that such changes may lead to more viewers, and thus more profits for investors.
Of screen writers - does "for a modern audience" ring a bell? Look at their profit success.
 
Which is exactly their idea of doing better. What else do they care about?


Money, probably. Changes weren't made to The Hobbit to improve the story, they were done so that it could be stretched out into a trilogy. And as a consequence make three times as much cash. Which they succeeded in doing.

Why did Jaclson agree to it? Well he made a ton of cash himself, but perhaps he thought that he could do a better job than a new director being brought in. The Hobbit was going to be a trilogy regardless of who was involved in its making.

It's possibly the most embarrassingly obvious grab for cash in movie making history.

Having said that, it was a tremendous success at the box office, and there are a lot of people - including film critics - that think they are good movies.
 

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