From a producer’s perspective, adaptations can be a very tricky form of media. Time after time, Hollywood releases a film based on something that pre-exists in another format, with the end result either received very well, or very poorly. Film fans are often known for jumping from one end of the scale to the other very quickly, by saying that the adaptation either “didn’t stay faithful to the original story enough” or “didn’t stray far enough from the original story to make the film an original take”.

‘Batman Begins’ opened a whole new chapter for Batman films. After the horrid backlash that Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman and Robin’ received in 1997 – which then continued on when it became internet infamous, people were at first weary of Hollywood giving it another go. However, with thanks to the brilliant casting and a superb script from Christopher Nolan, this new, modern, grounded take on a once very questionable character had the mainstream audience amazed and developed into one of the most successful trilogies in cinema history.

Christopher Nolan managed to make a new Batman universe in his interpretation that was entirely his own, enabling himself to craft the story the way that he wanted, not necessarily how the comic book origins played out. Nolan did not just reproduce what materials, events and characters he was given. He shifted and crafted them into his own newly created world of Gotham – into something where the end result is clearly related to the Batman franchise but also distinguishably and undeniably his own. Part of this process was adding in his own new character of ‘Rachel’, played by Katie Holmes. The audience reaction to this was actually incredibly positive and due to the heightened maturity of the overall film in comparison to its predecessors, it made the general public perception even better. People were tired of seeing the campy, very cheesy Batman and Robin, and so this new and exciting change of pace appeared to be what everyone was looking for.

What is somewhat interesting is that in the officially released ‘Batman Begins: The Shooting Script’ the storyboards show Nolan’s intended early vision. In these, Batman is drawn in the exact same design as the original comics and TV show (Grey bodysuit, yellow logo) which makes for an interesting thought. Did Nolan draft up this new, more practical approach to Batman, all using the original design? It is unknown whether this cliché look of Batman will have affected the film experience, because certainly now if we try and picture that aesthetic in the world we know as ‘Nolan’s Universe’, it doesn’t match the atmosphere of the film like the modernised suit does. In this instance for this particular Hollywood adaptation, while it does form its own path off of the original media form, it was a successful adaptation in doing so.

Now obviously it’s not just comic books that can get a big screen adaptation. Novels are an extremely popular choice, just look at ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Harry Potter’, both immensely popular and hugely successful franchises in their own right, based upon the original readings of their literature. And sometimes after people watch the film adaptation, they become eager to pick up the book to see if it answers any unresolved questions, or just to get a deeper knowledge and understanding of the characters and narrative.

‘American Psycho’ is a book to film adaptation from 2000 starring Christian Bale. Key differences in the adaptation process for a novel in comparison to comic books, would be that there is no visual imagery to work with. With this, you might get some negative reactions from the audience where they pictured the characters appearance differently (if the book wasn’t too descriptive itself), or even pictured the flow of events to happen at a slower pace. It is most certainly a much harder media form to bring over into film. However, reception was mostly positive that even Bret Easton Ellis – the author of the original book, who are first thought there was no need for a film – said that the film was a very good adaptation of his story. One of the only faults he found in the film was in the scene depicting the murder of Jared Leto’s character. He thought it wasn’t right for Bateman’s personality to do the moonwalk before killing Paul Allen, which just happens to be a fan favourite scene and an iconic visual moment from the film. This isn’t the only difference to the original material, as the book does have a few very slight differences to its film counterpart, in that things were missing (such as the times when Ellis linked other characters to his previously written novels), some character names were changed (for example Paul Owen became Paul Allen) and that the time frame for the film differs to that of the book.

What we have here, as explored in Linda Hutcheon’s ‘A Theory of Adaptation’, is the transition from the telling to the showing mode. This is the much more common and familiar phenomenon of the adaptation process, and Hutcheon explains that one of the main reasons for this is because “Novels contain much information that can be rapidly translated into action or gesture on stage or screen”. However it is also known to work in reverse, from the showing to the telling mode. Take a look at the immensely popular Star Wars franchise, which alone has spurred on a plethora of film-to-novel adaptations and spin offs.

However, fiction is not the only material that adaptations can get inspiration from. Time and time again Hollywood have created films based on true stories and events, and this is where adaptations can become really tricky. Depicting someone’s life, or a specific someone, needs to be done carefully, with tact, ensuring the facts that they have are accurate and that they are portraying the person correctly and faithfully – there are real life families who can be affected from this if it’s vastly inaccurate.

‘The Fighter’ is 2010 biographical sports drama, that was praised for not only it’s excellent filmmaking but also for sticking to the source material of facts very well. In a sense ‘The Fighter’ was lucky in that there was plenty of footage of the main characters, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), from their Boxing matches for them to work with in their portrayal, and the ‘High on Crack Street’ documentary regarding Eklund’s downfall and transformation into a drug addict. Upon closer inspection the fights were recreated almost shot for shot, even the play-by-play commentaries are written the same. This not only helped to make the fights look real, but also paid much more purpose for the story in ways of progression, drama and homage to the real people. Of course though some slight changes in moments and shots occurred in order to enhance emotion in the dramatic side of the narrative, but it’s great that most of the fights sequences (more so the final against Neary) are so incredibly close in comparison of the real VS fictional depictions. Most people, when they read a tagline “Based on a true story” or “Based on true events”, are often left wondering just how true the film actually was. In this case, a very large portion of the film was true with only a few details, such as a boxer’s weight (most likely to more match the physical appearance of the actor’s cast), and other very minor things that were simply changed to enhance the drama of the film as a whole. The story itself was good enough to be adapted for the big screen, without much use of dramatic intensity. It was perfectly able to speak for itself.

While the story was great on its own, for a real-life adaptation the film needed to be an effective telling of the story, which is where the above-the-line talent come into play in helping drive success. Bale really stepped up and helped to create a genuine masterpiece of an adaptation. Due to Dicky Eklund being a crack addict, Bale lost weight to achieve a very thin frame similar to Eklund’s, and also spent hours with the man himself in order to learn how to emulate him, which paid off incredibly well for Bale and won him an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. He also reportedly watched the ‘High on Crack Street’ documentary, which is seen being ‘filmed’ in ‘The Fighter’, in order to gain a real life perspective of how a crack addict would act. It would be fair to assume that the casting of other fellow drug addicts too was most likely influenced by the documentary, having gained knowledge of how to get them to act/look, era and location appropriate, thus making the realistic nature of these scenes in particular much stronger, leaving an even bigger impact on the audience.

Put all this together and ‘The Fighter’ is most definitely one of the best true story adaptations there is. It already had everything an exciting story could need and director David O. Russell knew that what he had been given was more than enough to make a brilliant film.

This was a brief, yet thought provoking, insight into the world of Hollywood and their multitude of adaptations, how the process differs from one another depending on the original concept. You may have noticed that all three of my above examples featured Christian Bale. Well, this actually doesn’t mean anything important unfortunately, and was just for my own fun. The man likes adaptations.