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Death of Creativity: The Issue with Book to Movie Adaptations and Remakes

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

There are many things that make my blood boil: students talking during lecture, 8am classes, spiders hiding in my room then surprising me at inconvenient times, bike roundabouts—but there is one thing that makes my blood boil above all —MOVIES OR TV SHOWS BASED ON A BOOK THAT DON’T FOLLOW THE BOOK!

On the fateful day of June 12th, 2020, the Artemis Fowl movie was released on Disney Plus. I remember the day Disney announced they were adapting the book into a film. I was so thrilled that I wouldn’t shut up about it to my mom. As a kid, I loved the books because they strayed away from predictable plotlines and characters by introducing a criminal mastermind child as the protagonist (or rather antagonist) who later matured into a better person at the end of the series. It had plot twists, humor, mature themes, and fairies all set in a sci-fi-high-fantasy-espionage! Of course I was excited to see it on the big screen—my inner child was being awakened. 

I had my reservations though, since Disney had a track record of producing bad live adaptations of their animated films, and they’re no stranger to watering down mature themes so they can appeal to helicopter parents. However, I wanted to give Disney the benefit of the doubt. 

Well boy was I wrong. 

THE MOVIE WAS NOTHING LIKE THE BOOK! A powerful treasure called the “aculos” was the center of the plot which was never in the book. There was a scene where Artemis was fencing when he was never athletic, and his character was reduced to a scared little boy. Holly Short (a fairy cop) was whitewashed, and Artemis’s dad apparently was a hero who “protected powerful secrets that have kept mankind safe from the dangers of another world.” He led a criminal empire in the book. To top it all off, Holly Short becomes besties with Artemis. They’re enemies in the book! As one commenter put it elegantly, “Disney removed every element that made the books good with the precision of a neurosurgeon.” The movie had become like any other cash grab Hollywood hero movie. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. 

Yes, it seems silly that I’m getting worked up over a children’s movie but the lack of care put into this movie is disrespectful to Eoin Colfer, the author, and his life’s work. It’s heart-breaking. 

Artemis Fowl, the Percy Jackson films, Rings of Power, A Wrinkle in Time (2018), The Giver, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are all proof that studios prefer bland characters, action, and boring plot over originality and complexity.  

Kenneth Turan, a film critic, described Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief in the Los Angeles Times as “standard Hollywood product…unadventurous and uninteresting.” Rick Riordan, the author, has publicly criticized the final script and said that he emailed recommendations for script changes to the producers, but was ignored. According to him, authors don’t have much control over the filming process: “Even if some reboot happened someday, I would have ZERO control over it, because those rights were signed away before the first PJO book was even published.” This was a while back, and now Rick is the executive producer of the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians show, but this was only possible as he actually pitched an adaptation to Disney and they agreed to greenlight it. This doesn’t take away from the fact that once authors sell the rights to their books, they have no authority over the adaptation of their own book, demonstrating that producers want entire creative control. This would allow them to spin the story in whatever way they like. They don’t care about originality and artistry, and it’s terrifying to see. 

Today, there is no respect for authors. Creativity and originality are dying, and the future of Hollywood is bleak. 

Unfortunately we’re already seeing the beginnings of this reality with the many awful book to movie adaptations, lazy remakes of original films/TV shows (Avatar the Last Airbender and the live action Disney princess movies), the many boring Star Wars spin-offs, cringey Wattpad adaptations (The Kissing Booth), and the refusal of big production companies to properly compensate their screenwriters, indicative of the disregard they have for them and the grueling creative process. Movies and TV shows today are much like fast fashion, produced quickly with little quality. 

timothee chalamet in dune part two
Niko Tavernise / Warner Bros

There is some hope, however. The release of the Dune movies has been especially groundbreaking in its faithfulness to the books and (unsurprisingly) has done very well in the box-office. Denis Villeneuve, the producer and director of Dune, is a huge fan of Dune and wanted to make sure he made a faithful adaptation. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Little Women (2019), Anne with an E, and the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV show have also been faithful to the source material and have received critical acclaim. These, however, are one of the few faithful adaptations in a sea of unfaithful ones. My hope is that people recognize that creativity and individuality is in jeopardy, especially with the rise of AI in the arts. I hope the next generation of artists will prompt a revival of originality, artistic integrity, and respect for all artists, from writers to digital artists. 

Evelyn is currently a first year Cell Biology major at Davis. While she is not stressing over her classes and suffering in lab, she loves to bake, play piano, read (fantasy novels especially!), and binge watch shows (she recommends Community).