The ‘Flop’ of Book Film Adaptations

Emily Cooper-Smith

Why do book film adaptations flop?

We all get excited when we hear that one of our favourite novels will be adapted into a film, but how often do they actually meet your expectations? Let me guess – rarely.

When the screening of Cassandra Clare’s award-winning City of Bones was set to release in 2013, I almost squealed with excitement – a squeal that would be wasted. With an average rating of only 2-3 stars out of 5, it was indeed as shocking as it would seem. It was no surprise that the planned sequel was cancelled only a month later.
This is of course not the only adaptation that has flopped. It is safe to say that comments on the site Rotten Tomatoes ripped Artemis Fowl apart. One critic even described it as a ‘criminal waste of time’ and the Percy Jackson series didn’t receive a much better reception either. 

So why is it so difficult to capture an accurate vision of a novel?
Reading a book allows imagination to wander and personal creativity to flourish. The nature of a book means there is much more space and time for the explanation and understanding of events taking place, whereas films are usually limited to a maximum of 2-3 hours screen time. Less room for production of all those crucial moments readers are waiting for.

Literary leeway is a credit to the author, yet something ruined when it comes to production. Not only are films restricted by marketability and commercial viability, but also by the level of complexity that can be visualised without it being obvious that it is trying way too hard. 

Think about the advent of Harry Potter. Sure, the books were popular at first, but consider the enormous profits made and the expansion of JK Rowling’s fanbase due to the sheer success of the movies – not a single one of them flopped!
The case may be, then, that the potential of securing a much wider readership is worth the risk of disappointing the hardcore fans. This is perhaps a fatal flaw in the literary world.

Maybe some of us, as both readers and consumers, have the answer.
Picture this. You are the author of one bestseller (or a few! Be as ambitious as you like). Having already raked in a few coins, now you are facing the option of an adaptation deal that will expand your readership by an extortionate amount. And your income is set to follow. Would your decision risk the dreaded flop? I bet it’s predictable.

The trend continues. Delia Owens’ bestseller Where the Crawdads Sing was launched into the media after Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club chose it as one of her monthly selections. Predictably, this helped the novel to sell nearly 6 million copies. It is now set to be adapted into a film, and with fans already buzzing about the accuracy of Daisy Edgar-Jones being casted as Kya, excitement and expectations are already soaring. Will it be a success or a flop? Only time will tell.

Categories: Fiction, Film & TV, Literature