Posted on by Scott Delahunt

After five years, Lost in Translation has seen a number of adaptations, the good, the bad, the mixed.  The result is a body of work trying to understand what makes for a good adaptation and why.  This week, a look at the best adaptations reviewed so far, presented in no particular order.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Scott Pilgrim is a film that shows that a good adaptation doesn’t necessarily mean a good return at the box office.  The film failed to take hold at the box office, in part from a disjointed marketing effort that didn’t quite catch the movie properly.  However, as an adaptation, the movie not only caught the feel of the original graphic novels, it used them as them as storyboards.  Scenes appeared on screen as they did in the novel, and Edgar Wright filmed on location in Toronto, using the settings that appeared in the comic.  The only deviation came at the end, where Bryan Lee O`Malley hadn`t finished the series yet, and he was on board the production as a story consultant.  The result is a cult clasic for the video game age.

The Beverly Hillbillies
At first glance, the adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies is an odd choice.  Yet, the movie managed to capture the essence of the TV series while still acknowledging how Los Angeles had changed between the end of the TV series in 1961 and the movie’s release in 1993.  While the choice of TV show may seem odd, The Beverly Hillbillies was a top rated series during its run and lasted beyond in syndication, making it a known factor.  The movie managed to keep the feel while still updating some ideas, helped in no small part to its cast, including Jim Varney and Lily Tomlin.

The LEGO Movie
How can a movie be made based on a toy that relies on the imagination of the person playing with it?  The LEGO Movie answered that question by remembering to be fun.  The movie felt like someone was playing with their LEGO, letting imagination run wild.  The big reveal hammers home that core idea.  The LEGO Movie looks like a LEGO world, with the main characters being Minifigs, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more or less that that.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Popular novels tend to be made into movies.  Studios want to maximize the audience, and using a popular work means there will be people coming in curious to see how the work turns out on the big screen.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took some liberties with the novel, but needed them due to the change of medium.  The big changes came at the end, in part to curb ending fatigue.  The movie tightened the narrative, but the key elements appeared just as in the book.  Helping with the success of the adaptation is the director’s use of locations in Sweden, bypassing the trend to Americanize foreign works.

Richard Matheson’s short story, “Steel”, saw two adaptations reviewed over the past five years.  Real Steel changed the story greatly, keeping just the idea of a robot fighting league.  Matheson’s own adaptation of the story for The Twilight Zone, though, remained true to the work.  Elements that helped with keeping to the original work include having the original author on board and being in an anthology series known for pushing the envelope with science fiction and fantasy.  The Twilight Zone was groundbreaking when it aired, tackling issues that weren’t normally seen.  “Steel” was a study of human perseverance, the lengths one man would go, even getting into a boxing ring against all odds of survival to fight an unfeeling machine.

Each of the above managed to take the original work and translate into a new medium without losing the key features that made the work popular.  Next week, the bad.

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