Now that the Teens are done, it’s time to look at the breakdown of popular movies by originals and adaptations. In 2015, Lost in Translation looked at the decade up to that year to wrap up the History of Adaptations series at the time. With five more years gone by, things have changed. Once again, I’m using the compiled list at Filmsite.org.
Toy Story 3 – sequel. Pixar’s most popular series of films.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – sequel and adaptation. The last of the Harry Potter movies based on the first seven books.
Marvel’s The Avengers – adaptation.
The Dark Knight Rises – sequel of adaptation, The Dark Knight.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – sequel and adaptation. Covers the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy.
American Sniper – adaptation of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Pyle.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – sequel. The first Star Wars movie released after Disney bought Lucasfilm.
Jurassic World – adaptation. It’s a tough call, as it was marketed as a sequel but doesn’t share much between the original Jurassic Park movies or the book. It’s more, “What if Jurassic Park didn’t have the dinosaur break-out shown in the book and movies?”
Avengers: Age of Ultron – sequel of adaptation. The Marvel movies that led up to this release didn’t make the list.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – spin off. The first of several films meant to look at other parts of the Galaxy Far Far Away that aren’t part of the main Skywalker saga.
Finding Dory – sequel of original. The second Pixar film on the list for the Teens.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – sequel.
Beauty and the Beast – remake of adaptation. Part of Disney’s series of live action remakes of their animated classics.
Wonder Woman – adaptation. The second DC property to make the list.
Black Panther – adaptation. Diversity matters.
Avengers: Infinity War – sequel of adaptation.
Incredibles 2 – sequel. Another Pixar film, this time fourteen years after the original.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – sequel of adaptation.
Avengers: Endgame – sequel of adaptation
The Lion King – remake. Computer animated remake with photo-realistic characters.
Toy Story 4 – sequel of original and fourth of the series to be mentioned in the History series.
Captain Marvel – adaptation.
Disney is a big winner, with fifteen films listed above. The list breaks down to six adaptations, six sequels of original movies, five sequels of adaptations, two movies that are both sequels and adaptations, and one spin-off. There are no original movies on the above list, the worst showing for any decade. Since popular movies tend to stay in the pop subconscious, the backlash against adaptations has a point. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been popular original movies. Us was knocked out of the top ten of 2019 by The Rise of Skywalker in the final weeks. If anything, the Teens was the decade of the blockbuster, big budget films.
Superhero films were popular, with nine total in the list, including the one not based on any comic book character. Superhero films are filling the niche that Westerns once had, becoming almost ubiquitous. The trend of adapting Young Adult novels that heralded the start of the decade faded; few YA novels ever had the buzz that Harry Potter and The Hunger Games had.
Gone from 2015’s list are Alice in Wonderland, Iron Man 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hunger Games, Iron Man 3, Frozen, Despicable Me 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inside Out, and Furious 7. The Teens’ top grossing movies come mainly from the latter half of the decade. Part of the losses were to be expected; as the decade continued, more movies had opportunity to outperform what had already come. But the latter half of the Teens had more blockbusters, more record breaking grosses than the first half. Some of it can be chalked up to Disney’s marketing department. The rest of the explanation needs some further study.
As the new Twenties dawn, adaptations hold ground. At this point, it’ll take a sleeper hit to get studios to put the money they do for adaptations behind an original, untested work. Risk avoidance means original works won’t have the spectacle of an adaptation. It may take a well-known name to get an original work done to the same level at this point. For the next few years, expect adaptations to get the lion share of budgets and marketing.
Welcome to the history of adaptations. I’ve been looking at the top movies of each decade, analysing them to see which ones were original and which ones were adaptations, and of the adaptations, what the source material was. I’m using the compiled list at Filmsite.org as a base. Last time, the Aughts had fewer original movies than the Fifties, which had three, including the two Cinerama demo films.
The decade isn’t over yet, but the general trend has been for big budget adaptations based on comic books and Young Adult novels, or so it feels. Does this feeling hold out when looking at the popular movies so far this decade? Both Marvel and DC have a number of movies scheduled over the next few years, with Valiant getting in on the action. Movies adapted from Young Adult novels soared with the later Harry Potter films and the Twilight adaptations. Sustainability is in doubt, but the studios are making too much money to ignore the cash cow.
The top movies of the decade, by year, up to 2015:
Toy Story 3 – sequel. Pixar’s approach to storytelling means that they won’t create a sequel unless there is a proper story to be told.
Alice in Wonderland – adapted from the 1872 Lewis Carroll story, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.
Iron Man 2 – sequel of an adaptation and part of the lead up to Marvel’s The Avengers.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – both an adaptation and a sequel. The movie covers the latter half of the last book of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon – sequel of an adaptation of the Hasbro toy line.
Marvel’s The Avengers – adaptation of the Marvel superhero team.
The Dark Knight Rises – sequel of the adaptation, The Dark Knight.
The Hunger Games – adaptation of the novel, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – sequel and adaptations of the second book in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire.
Iron Man 3 – sequel of an adaptation.
Frozen – adaptation of the fairy tale, “The Snow Queen”, by Hans Christian Andersen.
Despicable Me 2 – sequel. The first movie, Despicable Me was an original work.
American Sniper – adaptation of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Pyle
Guardians of the Galaxy – adaptation of the characters and team as seen in Marvel comics.
Jurassic World – adaptation. While intended as a sequel to the first three Jurassic Park movies, there are only two returning characters, including the island.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – sequel to the adaptations, Marvel’s The Avengers.
Inside Out – original but inspired by the daughter of the director
Furious 7 – sequel and part of the Fast and Furious franchise.
Of the eighteen movies listed above, four are original, including the sequels Toy Story 3, Despicable Me 2, and Furious 7. There are nine adaptations, including both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which are also sequels. The remaining five films are sequels of earlier adaptations. Naturally, the divisions weren’t easy to define. Jurassic World could be seen as a sequel of the previous Jurassic Park movies. I placed it as an adaptation because of how little it shared with the previous films. While Universal Studios counts the film as part of the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World only has one character returning, and he was a minor one in the original movie. Thus, I’m placing Jurassic World into the adaptation category.
The source of the adaptations isn’t as diverse as the Aughts. Six movies were adaptations of comic books. Three were based on Young Adult novels. One came from a Michael Crichton work. Disney was the only studio to reach into the literature of the past for adaptations, using works by Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen. While comics haven’t had this strong a showing in previous decades, they aren’t a new medium. The Avengers #1 was published in 1963, bringing together characters from other titles, including Iron Man, who first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 in
19591963*. Jurassic Park, published in 1990, is more recent.
Along with the above breakdown, there were ten sequels in the popular list. While Lost in Translation treats sequels as original works, continuing a story started in a previous film, the general movie audience may not agree with the assessment. The number of sequels, adaptations, and the combination of the two leads to the complaints that there are fewer original works. Yet, the Aughts had fewer popular original movies than this decade.
Next week, wrapping up the series.
* I misread the information at the link. Iron Man’s debut was in 1963; Tales of Suspense started in 1959.