When you think about a book adaptation, naturally most people think of a feature film as the obvious medium to transform a writer’s words and intricate worlds to the visual image. Films have bigger budgets, the pull of greater film stars and creative teams with a much larger scope working in the background. But yet in recent years television had increasingly become the medium of choice for high profile book adaptation. From cult vampire novels, like The Vampire Diaries and Trueblood to the epic fantasy Game of Thrones, it’s astonishing how many current television series are based on books. Did you know Dexter originated in Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsey, or that Gossip Girl was originally written by Cecily Von Zeigesar? I was surprised when researching how many current television shows are based on books now.
Its easy to see the benefits of a television adaptation – there is much more time allotted to a television series than to a film – even in a ten episode series a show still gets a minimum of seven and a half hours, as opposed to the three hour maximum time that a feature length film can afford (and even this length is pushing it for most audiences.) Although there is clear disparity between film and television budgets, the grandeur of Game of Thrones and it’s epic landscapes proves that television programmes can inspire the same awe that films can, just as Trueblood proves that realistic special effects are no longer solely restricted to film.
However some television adaptations inevitably turn out better than others, and it doesn’t necessarily come from the quality of the source material. Some responses to the outcomes are clearly a matter of taste, but in my opinion there are some adaptations that are not only faithful to the books they come from but also make more out of their source material, creating some very interesting and dramatic shows.
Game of Thrones
For me Game of Thrones is one of the best television adaptations made. The brilliance of George RR Martin’s novels are undoubtedly influential, with its engaging characters and truly epic landscapes, which provide a fertile base for a visual extravaganza. Casting makes or breaks any film or television show, but I think that Nina Gold and Robert Sterne have excelled in finding the actors who truly embody Martin’s larger than life characters. Peter Dinklage’s Golden Globe winning performance as the cunning Tyrion Lannister is nothing short of fantastic. I could wax lyrical all day about his stunningly nuanced performance, but that would take up far more space than anyone would read!
Other outstanding performances come from Sean Bean as the noble and ill fated Ned Stark, Maisie Williams as the fierce young Arya Stark, Emilia Clark as the beautiful dragon queen Daenerys Targaerean and Jack Gleeson as the truly reprehensible Jofferey Baratheon. The landscapes created are visually stunning, but at the end of the day the strength in the show comes from how dialogue and scenes are manipulated from its source material to create a well paced, engaging show that leaves you wanting more. The writers combine lifted from the page dialogue with original language, which creates a show which is simultaneously incredibly faithful to the source text and also an original in itself. With the third season of the show being broadcast on Sky in March this year, another three books published, and at least two more unpublished, there is a lot of material left for this incredibly successful show to carry on for some time, and I for one am more than happy with the prospect.