Cinema: Should Live-Action Adaptations Stick Around?

With the modern remake of The Lion King hitting theaters, we look back at the fails and successes Hollywood has given us.

Let’s face it: you’ve always wanted to see your favorite book, graphic novel, or cartoon in real life. With film technology becoming increasingly more advanced, we’ve seen the likes of Marvel, Disney, and others bring characters to the big screen. Although we like to think these portrayals may turn out to be intriguing, the reality is that no one will ever be truly satisfied.

Many live-action adaptations have proven to be successful, and some have even gone on to become franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, not every film makes it. We’ve seen some amazing depictions, but we’ve also seen things that are… not as great. Check out these handful of live-action adaptations and wonder if Hollywood should keep creating these movies or just leave the characters alone.

101 Dalmatians (1996)

Almost like inception, 101 Dalmatians is actually an adaptation of an adaptation. Starting off as a 1956 children’s novel by Dodie Smith, the movie was then taken by Disney and turned into an animated film in 1961. 35 years later, Disney recreated the animated film into one of their first live-action movies, kicking off a new era of movies.

Because the movie is decades old, nostalgia plays a big part in how we judge the character depictions and the recreation of the characters. However, to turn 101 Dalmatians and the main characters into a live-action film, there was not really much technology necessary. It made sense to turn this movie into something that was more realistic because it is something that people could visualize well.

Was it worth it? Yes. Alongside The Jungle Book (1994), they paved the way for Disney’s cinematic empire today

Aladdin (2019)

Here’s a stark contrast to Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, as Aladdin is filled with crazy imagery, unique characters, and an iconic genie that made kids and adults alike love the original movie. While I understand Disney’s desire to capitalize on their former animated movies, there are simply some that cannot be replicated. Aladdin is one of those films.

PHOTO VIA ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Now this is not to say that the casting was wrong or the visual effects were amiss, these added great value to the movie. However, I just cannot fathom Will Smith as the genie. Will Smith alone is talented and hilarious, but this role is simply not one that should’ve been touched. The magic within the animation is also not something that can be “realistic.” It is cool, in theory, to wonder what Aladdin would look like in real life. But this 2019 film was not it.

Was it worth it? No. Robin Williams is irreplaceable and the fact that there was an attempt, Disney should know better.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

Cartoons have had a great impact on childhoods. Dora the Explorer has been a Nickelodeon staple, with Dora prevailing in childhoods. As a character, she constantly broke the fourth wall and “interacted” with the audience by proposing questions and asking for help. It was a cool way to get children to pay attention to the TV show.

PHOTO VIA ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

One thing I never thought I would see is a live-action adaptation of Dora. Who even thought to themself that this would be a good idea? An animated movie wouldn’t be a bad idea, but Paramount wants to bring her to life. In fact, she’s not that bad of a portrayal to replicate, but the side characters, Boots, the Map, and others are not as easy to recreate. Adding a plot where she “looks for a city of lost gold” is also not the way to go. Maybe this movie surprises everyone and wins an Academy Award, but in reality, it will just be another movie that flops at the box office.

Was it worth it? Definitely not. Come on Paramount, do better. I’m not even sure a Dora movie is even necessary.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is based off of the video game of the same name, which includes Pikachu, a popular Pokémon character. This is one of the few movies that was adapted from a video game (and animated TV series).

Growing up, I loved playing Pokémon. Whether it was the card game or the ones for the handheld consoles, there was so much to do and explore. Every time I played, I always wondered to myself how it would feel like to own one of these creatures as if they were a dog or a cat. It’s not necessarily a crazy concept, especially since a lot of these characters were tiny creatures will seemingly harmless abilities.

The movie, on the other hand, did not live up to expectations. Even after multiple friends warned me (and critics alike), I wanted to see the movie. It is safe to say that it was not worth watching, as I don’t even remember what the plot was like. However, it was fascinating seeing how they brought these Pokémon to life. There’s potential with this franchise, if they continue it, but there needs to be more elements than simply “this looks cool.”

Was it worth it? Perhaps. Plot was forgettable, but it was a cool concept.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

There is no greater disappointment in life than watching one of your favorite animated characters get completely trashed for how he is depicted. Sonic the Hedgehog has always been such a unique, interesting character. He’s an animal, literally, that has super speed, and he’s a good guy. There’s nothing more wholesome than a nice animal saving the day.

However, Hollywood completely tarnished the design of the character. Instead of attempting to make the character into a lifelike version of him, they made him appear more human-like, giving him longer legs and a less exaggerated face. It kinda looks like there was someone wearing a Sonic costume. Even if the redesign of Sonic comes out looking cool, this initial mistake will not be forgotten.

Was it worth it? Well, Paramount was forced to recreate Sonic’s character due to public backlash so…

The Lion King (2019)

Simba and his story are known very well around the world. The story of The Lion King is essentially universal, and one that makes sense turning into a live-action adaptation. Rather than having people “act” as the characters from the movie, you have realistic portrayals voiced by actors. It helps keep the “real life” aspect within the adaptation, and it adds another layer of authenticity.

PHOTO VIA PEOPLE

Although the original will always be the best, this version of The Lion King has a star studded line up that includes some of the biggest name in music, comedy, and Hollywood. Disney did a phenomenal job casting people such as Seth Rogen for Pumbaa or John Oliver as Zazu; it’s almost like these actors were meant for the roles.

Was it worth it? With Donald Glover and Beyoncé as your main characters, always!

The Avengers (2012)

Comic books have been around for decades, especially the Marvel franchise. In the Marvel comics’ universe(s), there is so much going on. The outfits, the scenery, the powers, and the personas are all whimsical and very distinct. Because of the art style in comic books, it would be difficult to replicate every single detail. But that is not a challenge for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

PHOTO VIA MARVEL COMICS

There have been trial and error Marvel movies, especially those that came before the MCU. They have done pretty well on their own, but after Iron Man, Thor, and other movies culminated up to The Avengers, the movies have improved more and more. Even today’s Avengers: Endgame movie has seen significant growth from the initial movies. The live-action adaptations, especially the Avengers movies, show that these characters can be adapted in a proper way, especially with how far cinema technology has evolved.

Was it worth it? $22 Billion and counting for the MCU says yes!

Wonder Woman (2017)

Onto another comic-book adaptation, and in this case, direct competitors. Wonder Woman is one of DC Comics more iconic characters, especially with their stacked line-up that includes Superman and Batman. DC Comics are known for their darker take on superheroes and their backgrounds, like Batman, who was an orphan who witnessed his parents get murdered in front of him. With their other cinematic movies not being up to par, Wonder Woman definitely was a proper representation of the comic and a great addition to the film industry.

PHOTO VIA LA TIMES

Was it worth it? One of the only DCU movies worth watching, absolutely!

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have been adapted into movies multiple times. After Disney secured the film rights to the series, they have recreated it into a movie, both animated and live-action. Known for being very eccentric, Alice’s world would be very difficult to recreate to be more realistic. However, the people at Disney usually do a great job at what they do and they hired the best director they could for the role: Tim Burton. His films are known for being “weird” and his portrayals do a good job of capturing oddities with accuracy.

Was it worth it? Having Tim Burton as the director made sure it was.

The Hunger Games (2012)

There are a handful of people who’ve seen the Hunger Games movies and don’t know who Suzanne Collins is. That is great for the franchise, but not for the author. However, this is an interesting take on live-action adaptations, as there was not really any visual cues given to the directors when they filmed this movie. It was up to their interpretation to give viewers a proper depiction of the novels. With all four films having generally positive reviews, it’s safe to say this adaptation was successful.

Was it worth it? Yes, all four were pretty accurate to the books.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Hollywood has proved that they can master the ability to bring books to life on the big screen. Yet, there are times when the turnout is lackluster. Take Percy Jackson & The Olympians for example. The author of these Greek mythology-infused novels gave the green light to create movies after them. The books were extremely popular and well-received among readers all around, but the live-action adaptation completely tarnished any reputation the franchise had.

Rather than following what the novels do, the director of the film Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief left out a lot of major characters, plot details, and even changed important aspects of the series. He put his own twist on it, which is fine honestly, but it was poorly executed. There was so much potential in this series—and there still is—but for now, the damage has been done.

Was it worth it? It’s like the directors don’t know what a book is or bother to read the original—they even tried to remake it and failed again.

It (2017)

Horror is an interesting genre, mostly because you go in expecting to be scared. In 2017, the film It, a live-action adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, sparked massive interest. There is much difficulty in transmitting the suspense and fear you garner from a novel into a full-fledged movie. Yet, with many positive reviews, this live-action adaptation was pretty well done. It also sparked a lot of clown sightings around the country, which was almost as scary as the movie itself.

Was it worth it? It garnered a lot of positive responses and a sequel, so yes. Horror adaptations are also an underrepresented genre.

There is no definite answer as to whether or not live-action adaptations should keep being made. It all comes down to personal preference and understanding the fact that the outcomes could either be amazing or disastrous. I personally vouch for more live-action adaptations with a few restrictions: don’t touch movies that aren’t replicable, hire good directors, and make sure to honor the source of it as much as possible, even if it is a loose interpretation. With the technology available for cinema, live-action adaptations can be much better and more realistic. They just have to be done right.

Oscar Moguel

Oscar is a current undergraduate student at The Wharton School studying marketing.

July 24, 2019

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