Oh, the irony…to find myself preparing to write about adaptations just months after the release of a motion picture based on a board game. A graduate student never had it so good: Battleship may not be a critical reflection of the delicate process of creating an adapted work, nor does it allow for the discussion of nuance and variation in the product of the adaptation process. But it is a rather wonderful example of the kind of derisive talk that swirls around them. Adaptations are spin-offs. Remakes.
Rehashed and retold, adaptations carry a stigma: the unoriginal story, not so much created as concocted. They are cobbled together from the source text – the original work, the one that was inspired by some spark of creative genius – and they can never be ‘as good as’ the story that came first.
To me, the adapted text is one that emerges out of an older, more established work. In the case of writing, it’s often a book that’s been made into a film, but it’s also novels that are based on older, more classic works. There is the original story – the source text. And there is the adaptation. Adaptations open up the original in a new way. A really good adaptation makes me read or watch the story with an awareness of the original source – it hangs in the back of my mind, and I compare what I know to be familiar or the same, and I am fascinated by what is different. Battleship aside, adaptations are original works of art – the same way a song that samples another is still music. But not everybody sees it this way…and so the debates go on, about what is art and what is not art, what is original and what is second-hand, and whether adaptations can stand on their own merits. (more…)