The Dangers of Film and TV Adaptations According to George R.R. Martin

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George R.R. Martin recently called out film and TV adaptations of books for failing to live up to their source material. He expressed his concerns in a blog post, where he mentioned a panel with Neil Gaiman, the creator of the comic book series Sandman, which was turned into a Netflix series. While Gaiman was involved in developing the adaptation, Martin did not comment on the specific show. However, he noted that “very little has changed since” 2022 and even suggested that things have gotten worse. Martin criticized the trend of screenwriters and producers trying to “make stories their own” without considering the original source material.

Martin went on to cite famous authors like Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, and Jane Austen as examples of writers whose works have been adapted. He lamented that no matter how renowned the writer or great the book, there always seems to be someone eager to “improve” on the story. Despite this, Martin argued that most adaptations end up making the original work worse rather than enhancing it.

Despite his criticisms, Martin did acknowledge that there are occasional exceptions where a film or TV adaptation successfully captures the essence of a book. He mentioned the FX series Shogun as an example of a good adaptation, noting that he had read the original book by James Clavell when it was first released in 1975. Martin also praised the 1980 miniseries adaptation starring Richard Chamberlain, calling it a “landmark.” He was pleasantly surprised by the new adaptation of Shogun, deeming it superb.

Martin reflected on the differences between the old and new versions of Shogun, highlighting the subtitles that make Japanese dialogue intelligible to English-speaking viewers as a major change. Despite these differences, he believed that both adaptations remained faithful to Clavell’s novel in their own ways. Martin speculated that the author would have been pleased with how his work was translated to the screen, showcasing the complexities of adapting a beloved book.

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