The Sure-Fire Formula for Success That Isn’t

Hollywood tries to minimize risks. That’s why they often turn to successful books, movies, and video games to turn into movies. Unfortunately, that’s about as successful as trying to turn the Mona Lisa into a movie just because it’s a famous painting that everyone wants to see.

The problem with most adaptations is that they fail to recognize the key difference between movies and other forms of entertainment such as plays and novels. Novels can be entertaining because they immerse you into another world so novels often lack story structure.

Read “Divergent”, “A Wrinkle in Time,” or “Mortal Engines,” all of which were popular novels and all were made into horrible movies that followed the novel closely.

The problem with “Divergent” is that like most Young Adult (YA) novels, it fails to end conclusively. Instead it ends without resolving anything, which forces you to read the next novel. No matter how you look at this, ending a story without a conclusive finale is poor story structure.

Imagine if “Star Wars” ended without showing us Luke blowing up the Death Star or if “Rocky” ended without Rocky fighting in the heavyweight championship on national TV. The whole story would feel like it lead us up to a conclusive battle only to let us down in the end.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is an odd novel that introduces unusual characters like “Alice in Wonderland.” From a novel’s perspective, this may be fine since readers are more apt to fall in love with eccentric characters and situations, but in a movie, this makes no sense to have odd characters pop up for no reason, help the hero for no reason, and then wander away without any clear motivation of their own. Once again, despite the awards it won as a novel, “A Wrinkle in Time” is just another example of poor story structure that barely works in a novel format but utterly fails as a movie.

“Mortal Engines” is another novel that simply introduces odd situations and characters without explaining anything. Instead of a tightly focused story, “Mortal Engines” gives us one unusual situation after another where the hero simply finds himself in strange situations without having much of a goal or taking action to get himself in and out of these odd situations. “Mortal Engines” is all about watching a passive hero being knocked around by others, which makes for a deathly dull and confusing movie.

“Cats” is the latest Hollywood failure because it takes a confusing musical stage play and converts it into a confusing musical movie. The stage musical makes little sense and gets by mostly on its unusual costumes and settings. The film version of “Cats” simply bombards viewers with computer-generated images of people as cats with the same lack of a strong story structure as the stage musical.

Hollywood thought that since “Cats” was a success as a stage musical, it would be a success as a a movie, which makes as much sense as saying the Mona Lisa is a success as a painting so it can also be made into a success as a movie too.

Read novels turned into bad movies or watch stage plays turned into bad movies, and you’ll find that the source material is usually at fault. Without proper story structure, novels, plays, and video games can succeed on their own, but can never succeed as a movie. Hollywood still fails to learn this lesson year after year, but they pour millions into chasing “sure-fire” best-selling novels and hit stage plays anyway.

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