2015 was a big year for movie buffs, and an even bigger one for studios and those behind last year’s blockbusters. With the release of Star Wars in the fourth quarter, Jurassic World in the summer, and the hugely popular Avengers series in the same year, 2015 now ranks as the biggest year for movie sales in U.S. and Canadian box-office history. Beyond record breaking sales, the awards season has also been riddled with a plethora of very popular, critically acclaimed films like The Martian, starring Matt Damon, the emotional rollercoaster of a drama, Room, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest effort, The Revenant. Each of those took away a Golden Globe this past week. And like the Avengers and Jurassic Park, Room and The Martian are adaptations of books turned into feature films.
These few mentioned aren’t exceptions. Other award winning films like 2011’s The Help, 2014’s Wild, and series from Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight, are all adapted from books. The popularity of this trend has resulted in over half of all top grossing films in the last 20 years; 2016 shows no signs of breaking this trend, with at least 40 film adaptations already slated for release this year.
Of course, such practice is not novel (no pun intended), the most popular film of all time is based on a book a of the same title: Gone With The Wind. Still, the idea of something like Star Wars or the nearly equally popular film, Avatar, being created by a lone writer, specifically for film, seems less likely to be picked up or promoted by Hollywood.
The reason for such is likely rooted in the track record for adaptations. With piracy still a concern for executives, as well as other factors like economic uncertainty, home entertainment options, and, now, mobile as well, film producers are more likely to push something with an established fan base or with a remarkable story, with which they can repurpose more than once. Further proof of such can be seen in the industry’s proclivity to release a number of remakes in the last few years, rather than taking a gamble on newer, fresher films. Furthermore, though remakes have declined in the last decade or so, sequels continue to trend upward (the next two Star Wars films are already in the making).
As a result, some have questioned whether Hollywood rewards creativity any more, or if there are any original ideas even being proposed. The reality, however, is that screenwriting or even screen adaptation does require a great deal of skill and creativity. A book is but a blueprint and source of inspiration for writers; they are not conflated though similar in that the goal is to create a story. Hence, the role and/or level of creativity of the screenwriter should not be judged on the source of inspiration alone.
Furthermore, just because a book is adapted into a film doesn’t mean the story isn’t new. Indeed many films are the reason certain books become popular; and even then, the two are different experiences. Of course, we all would like to see and experience new stories and more risks in Hollywood, but until that time comes, a good movie is a good movie. If you’re still unsatisfied, make your own. It could be the next big hit!