Posted on by Scott Delahunt

After three and a half years, Lost in Translation has built up a number of terms that haven’t been well defined.  The History of Adaptations forced the issue, running into works that were both sequels and adaptations and were sequels of adaptations.  What follows is a working set of terms defined as used so far, complete with examples.  The definitions may be a bit fluid; as more reviews are done, the better an idea I get of the breadth of adaptations there are.

Adaptations – A catch-all covering any form of media that is based on another work.  Adaptations include remakes and reboots, and can be in the same medium or taken from one medium to another.  The better known adaptation is the movie based on a novel or, especially lately, comic.  Also possible is the movie to TV series adaptation, such as M*A*S*H, and the international adaptation, such as Three’s Company, based on the British series, Man About the House.

Remakes – A work that re-tells the story from the original.  Typically done with movies, the remake takes advantage in advances in film technology, whether it’s the advent of sound, colour, or special effects.  The 1956 The Ten Commandments is a prime example, remaking the 1923 silent film of the same name.  The upcoming The Jungle Book from Disney appears to be a live-action remake of the animated feature based on the Rudyard Kipling stories.

Reboots – A form of remake that is typically found in series, whether a movie franchise or a TV series.  The reboot creates a new baseline for plots to work from and can feature a new cast.  Star Trek: The Next Generation is a prime example, as is the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series.  A sequel can be considered a reboot depending on how much time has passed between the original work and the new.

Sequels/Prequels – Works that continue, in the case of sequels, or set up, in the case of prequels, an original work.  Sequels and prequels are generally out of scope for Lost in Translation unless they are also adaptations.  Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a sequel.  The movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is both a sequel to the film version of The Hunger Games and an adaptation of the novel, Catching Fire.

Sequel of an Adaptation – A work that follows up to an adaptation without itself being based on an original work.  This is different from a sequel that is also an adaptation in that there is no original work the sequel is based on.  The 2004 movie Spider-Man 2 follows from events in the 2002 Spider-Man, but isn’t based on a specific storyline from the Marvel comics.

Partial Adapatation – Any adaptation that takes just a portion of an original work, whether due to time limitations or sake of comprehensibility.  Blade Runner is the best example; the movie takes just the android hunting from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep while dropping the religious subplots.

Loose Adaptation – A work that takes the premise of an original work and goes in a different direction.  Such a work is often said to be loosely based on an original.  Real Steel was such an adaptation of the short story, “Steel”, taking the idea of the robot boxing league but changing the story to one about a man and his son.  Often, the title is changed, emphasizing the difference, as seen with Alien from L.A.

In Name Only – A loose adaptation that doesn’t change the name.  Often happens when the adaptation fails to understand the appeal of the original.  The 1998 Godzilla is often called GINO, for “Godzilla In Name Only”, reflecting the adaptations failure to understand what Godzilla is.

Shot for Shot Remake – A remake of a film that duplicates the original.  While such a remake can work, especially when there has been improvements in film technology, the new film could just have audiences wondering why the new film was made, especially when the original is considered a masterpiece.  Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho did use new technology plus colour, but the changes were subtle, and Hitchcock’s use of black and white was an artistic choice.  A shot-for-shot remake of The Last Starfighter today may be better received, taking into account the capabilities of CGI that the movie broke ground on when it was first released.

Tie-in – Derivative works that are licensed from a franchise.  Best known are the Star Trek tie-in novels, featuring original casts of each Trek series plus new casts, and the Star Wars expanded universe.  Tie-ins are out of scope for Lost in Translation, though there are exceptions.  The Nikki Heat novels by Richard Castle are Castle metafiction; the novels that the fictional writer is researching in the TV series, and do count as adaptations.

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