For a lot of readers, the holy grail of a film or television adaptation of their favourite story is how close it comes to the original book.
If a screen version gets something wrong, whether it’s that the central character doesn’t look as we imagined them to or it completely changes the ending, we’re liable to complain. Loudly.
But watching the final series of True Blood has made me think a little differently. When the show started out, it was pretty faithful to the novels. In fact, series one was a close adaptation of the first novel, with the exception of a few key things, mainly changes in the status of certain characters, or a new one thrown in.
As the series went on, the differences from the original novels grew, until by series five we were pretty much following a new story. As a fan of the books, you’d think this would annoy me, but I actually really enjoy the change in direction. Even rereading the novels alongside watching the later series on television hasn’t dulled that feeling. The plotlines are different, the characters have relationships with different people, or they die unexpectedly. But it stills feels true to world created by the books.
In contrast, Game of Thrones has so far been incredibly faithful to George RR Martin’s novels, with only a few minor exceptions. But it would be interesting to see the producers follow the path of True Blood and write their own version of the story.
I’ve been wondering for a while now how the show will deal with its own ending. Based on the pace of Martin’s writing, it seems inevitable the TV series will actually reach the end of the tale before the books do. It would be a shame for it to reveal what happens before the books, as they’ve been building up to this for so long.
But what other options are there? Whilst part of me would love to see the show take its own route, die-hard fans would no doubt be frustrated by any major changes. If new plotlines were introduced early enough it might work, but it would be controversial. And of course, any well-received alternate ending would still take away from the conclusion of the books, if it came first.
So I guess that’s my question: why does it work when some adaptations make big changes to the original text, but not others? I’d love to know what you think, or any examples of TV shows or films that have got it right…or badly wrong.