Netflix reimagines book adaptations with new original releases


Images courtesy of IMDb.

Heather Fabritze, Former News Editor

With the upcoming release of Netflix’s original series, “Shadow and Bone,” it remains to be seen if they will maintain their recent surge in popularity for book-to-screen adaptations.

Adaptations of books into movies have, for a long time, been a hit-or-miss opportunity. Even in the golden era of adaptations — “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and “Divergent” — the actual quality of these series was a hot-button topic to debate. Disagreements on certain elements of an adaptation often led to wars between those who were exclusively fans of the movies and those who were book purists.

English teacher Diane DiDona, who has her own strong opinions on almost every adaptation of a Jane Austen work, is overall “pro-book adaptations.”

“I think that it’s a great way to get the book out there and maybe if you haven’t read the book, it might encourage a person to read the book,” DiDona says. “So, in that sense, I think they’re good.”

Unlike many other readers, DiDona has no issue with watching an adaptation without reading the book, and even views herself as being more lenient regarding changes. However, she agrees that there is a consistent, glaring problem with many of them — a lack of time. Only having two and a half hours at most to faithfully adapt a much longer book is an issue that led to the creation of the double part features that were “Mockingjay – Part 1 and 2” and “Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and 2,” which both have their own struggles with pacing.

Netflix, however, has near single handedly reinvented the reputation of book adaptations in the eyes of the public. While they have thrown their own hat in the ring regarding movie adaptations, as well — most notably with the “To All The Boys I Loved Before” trilogy — they have made the most revolutionary changes with their TV adaptations. With less network restraints and the possibility of multiple seasons, the longer length of Netflix series allows for adaptations such as “The Witcher” and “Bridgerton” to shine — and shine they have.

More than 82 million households watched the historical romance adaptation “Bridgerton,” which follows the members of the Bridgerton family in regency-era England, in the first month of its release, making it the most-watched series in the platform’s history. This was an upheaval of Netflix’s previous most-watched original series, “The Witcher,” which was based off the book and video game series of the same name; at the time, it broke the record with over 76 million viewers in its first 28 days.

While movie series adaptations like “The Hunger Games” proved to be a cultural success, there was, for a long time, much division regarding the actual quality of these movie adaptations when separated from their original source material. As a result, producers seemed to become more hesitant with taking on potentially ambitious projects that were unable to be properly translated to screen. Netflix’s original adaptations are less divisive, however, and seem to bring fans together in a way that they never have before. Their renewed popularity and success also opens possibilities for adaptations of books that networks have previously shied away from.

It remains to be seen if this success will continue as they prepare to release other book adaptations, including the highly-anticipated series “Shadow and Bone,” which is releasing April 23. But, for now, it’s undeniable that Netflix has temporarily mastered the art of book-to-TV adaptations.

“The Witcher” and “Bridgerton” are both currently available to watch on Netflix, and “Shadow and Bone” will be available on April 23.