‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Game Of Thrones’ Teach Valuable Lessons About Adaptations

With “The Hunger Games” dominating theaters last weekend and “Game of Thrones” heralding its highly-anticipated return to the small screen this weekend, we’re smack dab in the middle of some of the best adaptations we’ve had the pleasure to watch in recent years. The studios behind them — Lionsgate and HBO, respectively — clearly put a lot of thought and effort into translating the books to screen, and audiences have responded well to both.

In honor of both series’ successes, we’ve put together a handy dandy list of suggestions for other upcoming adaptations to pay attention to if they want to be as well-received as “The Hunger Games” and “Game of Thrones.” Hopefully these two franchises can herald a new generation of great adaptations, since Hollywood seems so hell-bent on making them.

Don’t cast a big star for your main character
Jennifer Lawrence and Emilia Clarke (or Kit Harington or Maisie Williams or Richard Madden) were far from household names before they were cast in “The Hunger Games” and “Game of Thrones,” respectively. But they’re strong actors who have become big since the movie/show began because of their talent, which is a sure sign that a lot of effort went into making sure the casting was correct. Instead of blowing giant paychecks for a big name star to draw an audience, make sure the talent is there and the audience will come to you.

If you deviate from the source material, do it well
Both “The Hunger Games” and “Game of Thrones” have changed and added to the story, and they’ve done so in a way that is organic to the source material. Every scene in the Game Room with Seneca Crane or meet up between Varys and Littlefinger feels like it’s something that could have come off the page, even though it didn’t. If every other adaptation took half as much care with the alterations it makes, then we wouldn’t have quite as many bad adaptations or complaining fans on our hands.

Don’t be afraid to kill a main character
Eddard Stark, we miss you so. But “Game of Thrones” showed its true colors by offing you, the show’s seeming main character, before the first season even ended. Anyone can die! As Arya says, no one is safe! “Hunger Games” isn’t quite as brutal, but the story is also never afraid to off someone who is an integral part of the series. By making an audience feel less safe liking a franchise’s main character, it makes the stakes seem much higher.

Don’t skimp on the budget, but don’t break the bank
Neither “Game of Thrones” nor “The Hunger Games” were particularly cheap to make, and that comes through in both franchises’ great sets and productions. By putting in the money to make both series look great, they also felt a lot more realistic and relatable. On the other hand, though, neither “Game of Thrones” nor “The Hunger Games” were so expensive that they put their respective studios out of business (or close to it) like other similar series’ “Rome” and “The Golden Compass” did.

Trust your audience
The most important thing that both “Game of Thrones” and “The Hunger Games” do is trust that their audiences aren’t idiots. Seriously. So many adaptations play down to their viewers, explaining every last tidbit of information to make sure that the people watching will keep up. Well, don’t. Trust that the audience will be able to follow your trail of breadcrumbs if you leave it out for them, and don’t insult their intelligence by thinking they aren’t clever enough to figure out what’s going on on the big (or small) screen.

Would you like to see more adaptations take pages out of “Hunger Games” and “Game of Thrones’s” book? Tell us in the comments section below or on Twitter!